Production of the future infantry combat vehicle will start six years from now, says VS Nornoha, Head Defence, Tata Motors. In an interview with ET NOW, Nornoha says when defence opened up to the private sector, Tata Motors took a strategic decision to move from logistics to combat support vehicles.

Edited Excerpts:

ET Now: Give us some background on your defence journey so far. Also, how it will be a departure from here on in terms of scaling up your exposure to the sector?

VS Nornoha: The background is that Tata Motors has been supplying logistics vehicles to the Indian army for about 50 years till now. When defence opened up to the private sector in 2005-2006, Tata Motors took a strategic decision to move from logistics to combat support vehicles. Thus, we went into multi axle vehicles.

The traditional supplier of multi vehicle axles to the Indian army was a Czech manufacturer called Tatra and they were assembling the Tatra vehicles in a public sector undertaking in South India. When we presented our case to the government that Tata Motors would also like to supply the multi axle vehicles to the Indian army, the Ministry of Defence accepted our proposal and there was a tender issued for the supply of 1239 multi axle vehicles.

ET Now: Tell us more about your defence partnership with Bharat Forge and General Dynamics. What is the scope of work for Tata Motors?

VS Nornoha: Currently we do about 1000 crore business a year for all our specialist vehicles to the defence and security forces. We have back orders in hand for about 900 crores. Volumes from the Kestrel--the wheeled amphibious platform, will start kicking in another two and a half years, because the vehicle will go for user trial this summer. So, from in three years time we will start getting revenues from the wheeled armoured platform - the Kestrel.

As far as future infantry combat vehicle (FICV) is concerned, in about 9 to 12 months they will decide who is the selected development agency. One must understand that the FICV is a government funded program. There will be revenue from day one as soon as we keep on developing the vehicles and start crossing certain gateways, the government will pay us for 80% of the development cost.

The prototype should be ready in four years from now. The testing of the prototype will be done in two years. Therefore, we should be into production of FICV six years from now. This is apart from our steady state logistic combat support vehicles and revenues we are getting from the Kestrel.