Maruti Gypsy replaced ageing 4×4 vehicles in the Indian Army like Nissan Jonga, and later Mahindra MM540 and MM550
Maruti Gypsy is an iconic vehicle ever since it was first introduced in the country back in 1984. Its compact dimensions and excellent off-roading capabilities, helped it become a favourite of millions over the years. Unfortunately, Maruti had to discontinue Gypsy, due to revised safety norms.
Such is its craze that Gypsy is still a hot seller in the used car market. It has also been a favourite for all three wings of the Indian armed force- Army, Navy and Air Force for more than three decades. Though Gypsy was discontinued for civilans, Maruti continued to supply Gypsy to the armed and paramilitary forces of India as special orders.
Maruti Gypsy replacement in Indian Army
However, it seems that too will come to an end soon. Indian Army along with Navy and Air Force, are looking to replace the Gypsy with a new 4×4. Reports claim that a Request for Proposal (RFP) is set to be placed to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in coming few months for procurement of new 4×4 vehicles with a soft-top for the Indian army.
Currently, there are 35,000 units of Gypsy in service. All are set to be sold and replaced with a new 4×4; in a phased manner. Last week, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by defence minister Rajnath Singh, cleared the Army’s proposal to acquire Light Vehicles GS 4X4.
Requirements of Army
Reports indicate that the Army has received clearance for purchase of 4,964 such vehicles and more would be bought in phases. After an RFP has been issued, a trial will be conducted to assess which vehicle best matches the needs. Further, DAC also tweaked a requirement for the minimum kerb weight of a vehicle from 500kg to 800kg.
The Army is looking for a soft-top 4×4 that can be used in various topographies like plains, deserts and rugged terrain like the mountains. A soft-top allows soldiers to place rifles, recoilless guns to be mounted besides allowing easy movement of Quick Reaction Teams. It also reduces overall weight of the vehicle significantly.
The Indian Army is expected to open a tender soon and companies can present a brand new vehicle based on an existing platform. It could be possible where the contract is split between the lowest and second-lowest bidder if both vehicles clear the stringent trials.
Other than Gypsy, Indian Army also employs services of Tata Safari Storme which has also been discontinued from the passenger vehicle market two years ago. In 2017, Army signed a contract with Tata Motors to supply over 3,000 Safari Storme SUVs which primarily have been used as a transport vehicle for senior officials. The hard-top Safari is expected to remain in service for a few more years.
Tata Motors also presented an Army-specific three-door, soft-top Safari Storme at the Defence Expo in Chennai in May 2018. Although this model did not reach production, it could be a possible replacement for the soft-top Maruti Gypsy in the near future. It will be interesting to see what other manufacturers with 4×4 expertise like Mahindra and Force have to offer.