India is set to carry out trials for US-made Stryker combat vehicles in Ladakh and deserts. The trials are part of India's plan to reequip its forces with Strykers, which will be customized and technologically configured for Indian terrain, including high-altitude areas like eastern Ladakh and Sikkim.

The proposed plan involves a limited purchase of the vehicles directly from the US through its Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. The Stryker project aims to enhance India's ground forces amid a tense border dispute between India and China. Sources in the defence establishment said the Army is looking to procure about 530 infantry combat vehicles (ICVs).

The Stryker armoured fighting vehicles will be used to replace aging Russian BMPs (infantry combat vehicles) and will be equipped with anti-tank weapons, as well as tasked with reconnaissance and command roles. The vehicles come in over two dozen variants, including infantry carriers and medical and engineering support vehicles.

One reason the Stryker is under consideration, according to sources, is that Indian vendors are unable to meet the qualitative requirements (QR). However, the Stryker also has its limitations.

In case India zeroes in on the Strykers, there will be limited off-the-shelf purchase under the US’s foreign military sales (FMS) initiative. It will then be followed by joint production in India by means of a joint venture, reported ThePrint.

If the Stryker vehicle is finalised, sources said its capabilities will have to be altered to suit high-altitude areas such as eastern Ladakh, where tensions along the Line of Actual Control have been ongoing between India and China for the past four years. 

One of the big drawbacks of the Stryker is that it’s not an amphibious vehicle. Another source said that each vehicle will have to be terrain- and weather- specific. 

Sources said the decision will be taken progressively after a “holistic analysis”, which will include an evaluation of the technical capabilities such as mobility, terrain negotiation in various conditions, protection to troops as well as lethality parameters. 

One of India’s conditions is co-development of Stryker with an infused Indian defence ecosystem. India is also looking at the transfer of critical technologies like the Javelin anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) that are integrated with the Stryker. 

Asked about the wheeled armoured platforms (WhAP) developed by Tata and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), sources said these serve different purposes.

They explained that the WhAP cannot be compared to ICVs. They claimed that the product does not offer firepower, a sight system or even a fire-control system. However, it should be noted that the WhAP has several versions added and has showcased its capabilities with multiple turrets, sight system and a fire control system.

In addition to this, the Army is also looking to procure 105 wheeled armoured personnel carriers (APCs) for recce and support. The Request for Information (RFI) for this is under formulation.

The need for such vehicles was felt during the military standoff with China in Ladakh in the summer of 2020. The Indian Army had already started trials for the Infantry Protected Mobility Vehicle, an armoured personnel carrier that can be used for swift patrols and quick induction of troops for various missions like reconnaissance and offensive operations.

India and the US are in advanced negotiations to co-produce the latest generation of Stryker armoured infantry combat vehicles. This three-phase project includes initial purchases, joint production in India, and co-development of future versions, supporting India's "Atmanirbhar Bharat" mission.

The Indian Army is also considering other options for armoured infantry combat vehicles, including the indigenous Tata Wheeled Armoured Protection (WhAP) and the American Humvee.

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