India Finally Ditches Russia’s T-90 Tanks, Opt-in For French Leclerc MBT

India plans to abandon the contract for the purchase of almost two thousand Russian T-72 and T-90 tanks, opting for the French Leclerc MBT. Delhi is actively negotiating with France regarding French-made main battle tanks.

In June last year, 12 companies supplying main battle tanks received requests for information (RFIs) from the Indian government. The RFIs related to the supply of about 1,770 new tanks for the Indian Army under a programme dubbed the Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV).

In the works for over a decade, the FRCV envisages the replacement of the Indian Army’s fleet of Soviet-era T-72 tanks. The first of the new tanks are intended to enter service by 2030 and will feature advanced networking capabilities to communicate with both land and air forces. The value of the FRCV contract was earlier estimated to be around $5 billion. France’s Nexter was one of the companies to receive the RFI, along with firms in Russia, Israel, Europe, Turkey and the US.

Last week, the French government informed the National Assembly, the country’s lower house of Parliament, it would support Nexter’s industrial proposal for India. The FRCV project envisions manufacturing of the selected tank in India with a ‘strategic partner’.

France intends to squeeze Russia out in the Indian arms market as part of the plan for the modernization of Indian military vehicles (FRCV). France sells main battle tanks to India. According to Hindustan Times, the French company Nexter intends to win a tender for the supply of new tanks to India to replace the T-90 and T-72 tanks.

The French will provide the Indians with their Leclerc main battle tank. France stressed that their tank has the “best chance” of winning as it outperforms all other models, including the Russian T-14.

The Indian government has contacted the French Nexter in preparation for participation in the Indian Army’s Future Combat Vehicle (FRCV) program and may propose the introduction of a modern Leclerc XLR main battle tank.

In a statement by the French authorities, it said France is ready to deliver 1770 tanks to India by 2030, this may be a decisive factor for India.

About Leclerc MBT

In his question, Dupont-Aignan noted, “The Leclerc tank with its mass of only 55 tons, its good mobility with its 1,500 hp engine and the excellence of its turret and firing system, is very well placed” to win the FRCV contract.

The Leclerc is lighter than most major Western tanks such as the US M1 Abrams, British Challenger and German Leopard 2, all of which weigh over 60 tonnes.

The Leclerc also has a three-man crew, unlike the other three Western designs, with the ‘loader’ absent. In place of the loader, a soldier who manually inserts rounds into the gun, the Leclerc has an ‘autoloader’ device for the purpose; Russian tanks such as the T-72 and T-90 also have auto-loaders. The Leclerc also has an advanced communications system to network with the ground and air units.

The Leclerc tanks of the French Army are currently being upgraded to the Leclerc XLR standard, which would feature a modular armour package, a new combat information system, radios, jammers and a remotely operated machine gun.

Next is working on a futuristic tank project with Germany’s Krauss Maffei Wegmann for a common tank to replace the Leclerc and Leopard 2, but the vehicles are unlikely to enter mass production by 2040. The French government’s response in the National Assembly did not specify what kind of tank Nexter would offer to India.

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