NEW DELHI: The Indian Army has decided to procure thousands of Gypsy vehicles even though manufacturer Maruti Suzuki has stopped their production, after obtaining a special waiver from the Ministry of Defence on safety and emission norms. Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. had announced in October 2018 that it was stopping production of the Gypsy in April 2019. But, due to operational and logistics compulsions, the Army has placed an order for 3,051 Gypsy vehicles.
An Army officer said, “The Army is using the vehicle in the tough mountainous terrains of Kashmir and the northeast. Initially, the company had expressed its inability as the vehicle does not meet new safety and emission norms. We convinced the ministry about the requirement and it gave us the requisite waiver.”
The Army has already selected Safari Storme, manufactured by Tata Motors, as the replacement for the Gypsy. Trials for the replacement had been on for almost five years. The Safari Storme and Scorpio from Mahindra were found to meet the Army’s requirements. Finally, Safari Storme was selected as Tata Motors had made the lowest bid. The Army placed an order for 3,192 Safari Stormes, of which about 90 per cent have been delivered. But there were some compulsions for placing the fresh order for the Gypsy vehicles.
The officer said, “Safari Storme is a little larger vehicle, and the roads in the mountains are narrow, for which we require the Gypsy.”
Another reason is that the Safari Stormes procured by the Army are all hardtop models. “The Gypsy has the options of hard top and soft top. We can place our rifles, fully armed soldiers of the Quick Reaction Teams can stand, and recoilless guns can also be mounted.” Tata Motors had refused to modify the Safari Storme.
The process for procuring a new model would have taken five to six years, so the Gypsy was chosen to fulfil the immediate requirement. The Army uses about 30,000 vehicles of this category and the old ones are being retired in phases. There is a need for about 8,000 such vehicles at present, and the Safari Storme and Gypsy cars will meet the immediate requirement. The Gypsy has been serving the Indian armed forces since 1991. More than 35,000 Gypsy cars have been delivered to the Army alone.
Why the Gypsy?
The Army uses the Gypsy in the tough mountainous terrains of Kashmir and the northeast. The Safari Storme, chosen by the Army as the replacement for the Gypsy, is a little larger vehicle, and the roads in the mountains are narrow and better navigated by the Gypsy, said an Army officer. Also, the Gypsy comes with a soft top option, which allows the Army to mount rifles and recoilless guns on it. Fully armed soldiers can also stand at the back. The Safari Storme, which comes only with a hard top, does not allow such use.