Categories
Modern Indian Armor

Tata MBPV

India (2012)
Armored Anti-Terrorist Vehicle – 1 Prototype Built

Few armored vehicles are as unique or captivating as the Mini Bullet Proof Vehicle [MBPV] announced by the Indian automotive manufacturer Tata in 2012. Described as an anti-terrorist vehicle fit for indoor use, the Tata MBPV formed a unique class in the ever growing field of commercial armored vehicles. Just a quick glance at the vehicle can leave one wondering whether this kind of vehicle has any potential of operational success, or if it is not more than a joke. However, a more detailed understanding of the vehicle makes it clear that it came about as a thoughtful solution to a genuine threat. Indeed, the broader Indian Anti-Terrorist Vehicle [ATV] program, in which the MBVP was developed, eventually introduced a similar, but larger and tracked vehicle into service with Indian security forces.

The Tata MBPV seen at DefExpo 2012, held between 29th March and 1st April, in New Delhi. Source: jjamwal.in

The 26/11 Mumbai Attacks

On 26th November 2008, India was shook by a brutal terrorist attacks in Mumbai performed by ten Pakistani members of the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba terrorist group. They had infiltrated the city first by hijacking a fishing boat, killing the crew, and separated into groups utilizing hijacked cars. After multiple attacks at public places, the terrorists attacked and infiltrated a Jewish community center, and two hotels. The following siege of these places lasted three to four days. The aftermath of the attacks was devastating. In total, 166 people were killed, including 20 security force personnel and 26 foreign nationals. Of the ten gunmen, nine were killed as well, while the other was later sentenced to death. More than 300 people were wounded.

The 26/11 attacks immediately led to a significant increase in tensions between India and Pakistan, while the Indian government set a series of safety measurements into motion. Furthermore, the Indian government and security forces began to analyze the unfolded events and identify mistakes, also seeking improvements not only in training and tactics, but in equipment too. One asset which the Indian special forces strongly desired was a mobile protective solution that could assist in indoor combat against insurgents. At the time, nothing like this was available, either from the military or the international commercial market.

During the siege of the Taj Mahal Palace luxury hotel, which began after terrorists took it on 26th November 2008, a fire broke out which was battled by firefighters while special forces provided cover. On the 29th, Indian Commandos managed to eliminate the terrorists, who had killed at least 31 people who were staying in the hotel. Source: ABP Live

The ATV Program

To meet the new requirement, an Anti-Terrorist Vehicle [ATV] development program was set up by the Vehicles Research Development Establishment of the Defense Research and Development Organization [VRDE-DRDO]. The VRDE was assisted by several commercial companies. Three designs were pursued, namely the ATV Tracked, the ATV Wheeled, and the ATV Wheeled Electrical. The latter was developed in cooperation with Tata Motors Defense, which referred to the vehicle as Mini Bullet Proof Vehicle [MBVP].

The vehicles had to be as small as possible in order to allow operations inside buildings with narrow corridors and gullies. They had to be able to take stairs, and provide protection to two or three occupants. This was formulated as follows:

Terrorist strikes in Urban areas have brought a new challenge before security forces. The aftermath of 26/11/2008 terrorist attack on Taj hotel and other places in Mumbai, dictated the need for an agile, compact weight and dimensional profile, highly maneuverable armored envelope adequately protected to carry 2/3 persons in hostile environments, especially in the corridors of buildings, small gullies, constrained spaces of hideouts, etc. for Anti-Terrorist operations.

In cooperation with commercial Indian manufacturers, three vehicles were designed and built, separated into a tracked, a wheeled, and an electrical wheeled vehicle, the latter in cooperation with Tata. Outside this official program, the Indian company Metaltech Motor Bodies Pvt Ltd launched the A-TAC, the Anti-Terrorist Assault Cart, in 2010. It was very similar to the requirements laid out in the ATV program, but seems to have been developed on private initiative and was not adopted.

In 2012, Tata was ready to show its prototype.

The entire ATV program. The ATV [Tracked] was developed in cooperation with Jeet & Jeet and further developed, while the other two-wheeled vehicles were canceled. Source: VRDE

Design

Thanks to its small size, the design was kept very simple. Essentially, it was not more than an armored cabin on four independently suspended wheels. Each wheel, shod with pneumatic tires, was sprung by a coil spring, mounted to brackets extruding from the side armor. This type of suspension also allowed the vehicle to drive up stairs. To ensure a small turning circle, all four wheels were steered, which is quite essential in confined spaces with tight corners. However, as a drawback, the vehicle became relatively wide.

This was all powered by a small electrical engine, which gave the vehicle the slow maximum speed of 20 km/h, but this was sufficient for the intended use. An important feature was that an electrical engine is much quieter than a conventional combustion engine, which could enhance its tactical operations. The engine was coupled to lithium-ion batteries, enabling intermittent use of 6 hours. These batteries could be charged via a connector mounted in the frontal armor plate, next to a ventilation grille.

Design drawing of the MBVP, showing the armor in blue, hatch in beige, firing port covers in purple, and the structural elements in light gray. There are several differences with the prototype, such as the size and placement of the front window, and the armored cover for the headlight. Source: Tata
The prototype during its construction. The grille, fire port covers, and socket were yet to be fitted. Before it was shown in 2012, the windows and the upper frontal plate were redesigned. Source: DRDO Newsletter Vol.34 No.6 June 2014

The vehicle was just big enough to accommodate two people, a driver seated at the front and a gunner seated or standing behind the driver. The entry point was a large door in the rear. Steering was done with a single joystick, centrally mounted at the front. It was complemented by a small control panel on the right. For vision, a large bulletproof window was installed in the front, two smaller ones on each side, and another small one in the rear door. Despite this, the driver still had some major blind spots to either side.

A hatch was installed on the roof, which could serve several purposes, such as a fighting position, an observation post, or potentially even to throw grenades out of.

Close-up view on the driver’s position. Like the exterior, the interior stands out in its simplicity and, in places, even looks rudimentary. Note how light seeps through both the firing port and the headlight in the bottom right. Source: cartoq.com

Firepower and Protection

Although without any fixed armament or weapon station, the MBPV had six firing ports, two in each side, one below the front window, and one in the rear entry door. They had external round covers that could be swiveled open from the inside. The occupants could fire through these with any of their light personal weapons.

The armored plates were bolted to an internal structure and partially welded together. A thickness was never specified, but the plates were claimed to be bulletproof against small arms fire and small blasts. This was a realistic approach, as the vehicle would likely not face any terrorists with larger weapons. To slightly increase the effectiveness, the plates were angled, while the angle on the roof assured no explosives would keep laying there when thrown on top of it. The floor plates were also slightly angled in order to deflect the blast from an explosion underneath.

A look at the rear of the vehicle. It looks like the door handle was bought from the local hardware store, but this can hopefully be attributed to the experimental nature of the design. Source: Kunal Biswas

Introduced to the World

The vehicle was presented to India and the world at DefExpo 2012, a biannual defense exhibition held in New Delhi. At the event, the managing director of the India Operations of Tata Motors, mr. P.M. Telang, stated:

The launch of our new combat and tactical vehicles and equipment, leveraged from our strength in design and development of a wide range of commercial vehicles, now enables us to cover the entire defense mobility spectrum. Tata Motors Defense Solutions already covers the complete range of logistics and armored vehicles that have also been popular in supporting the police and paramilitary forces in counter insurgency operations.

Unfortunately for Tata, the MBPV was not chosen for the ATV program, and India’s Security Forces opted for the tracked variant instead. What happened to the MBPV prototype is unknown. The likely option is that it was scrapped since the design was never publicly offered commercially by Tata, but chances are it may have survived in a storage depot.

The MBPV seen on its right side. Some interior details can be seen through the windows; the rear left corner and the top hatch. Source: Defense Update / Binny Winson

Assessment

The entire vehicle concept, as well as the vehicle in itself, have been doubted by many for having little to no merit. To an optimist, this kind of vehicle would form a valuable asset in anti-terrorist units, thanks to the added operational protection in confined spaces, such as shopping malls or train stations. To a pessimist, this vehicle is absolutely useless, providing little more additional protection than, for example, a simple bulletproof vest or shield. Either way, the vehicle was certainly great for the average armor humorist, and it has been the subject of scrutiny, jokes, and sarcasm.

As a concept, the Anti-Terrorist Vehicle certainly has merit. Against lightly armed terrorists, lightly armored vehicles provide needed protection for security forces. This cannot be delivered by conventional armored vehicles, which would not be able to operate indoors or in public spaces, which are just the places where terrorists are to be expected. However, although sounding good in concept, such a vehicle has many drawbacks in practice, and several of these can be applied to the MBPV too.

Within a confined space, it is key to properly be able to see and analyze the surroundings. For the crew of the MBPV, this must have been difficult, as the windows left some major blindspots. This problem would be less significant if the vehicle was supported by special forces advancing behind the vehicle, using it as an armored shield. But this raises the question of whether a simple and much cheaper movable armored shield would suffice too.

The MBPV at DefExpo 2012. Source: Kunal Biswas

Anyone familiar with the British TV-series of Top Gear will probably recall the time that one of the former hosts, Jeremy Clarkson, built and drove the smallest legal car possible. While it worked and was legal to go on the road, it could barely be considered a functional vehicle. To all intents and purposes, the MBPV gives off a similar sentiment. It conforms to the request and may be somewhat useful in specific instances, but is hugely outplayed in other instances, while even in areas it would be useful in, it could easily be replaced by a cheaper or more versatile solution.

The Top Gear Technology Center P45, as driven by the car show’s former host, Jeremy Clarkson. Despite technically being a car, and being able to perform maneuvers other cars cannot, anyone familiar with the British show will recall plenty of reasons why this concept was a failure. Source: Ellis O’Brien / BBC Worldwide 2013

For example, a somewhat similar vehicle is The Rook, made by the US Company Ring Power Tactical Solutions. In essence, this is an armored Bobcat, which can be adapted to a large variety of protected emergency roles with mission-specific attachments. Another option would be a remotely controlled vehicle. By 2012, these were already wide in development.

The US-made The Rook, which not only offers an armored shield for protection, but can also elevate this shield to a better tactical height. Source: Ring Power
Frontal view, showing the single headlight, an air grille, and the charging socket. Source: Defense Update / Binny Winson

Conclusion

The 26/11 attacks shook India, possibly as much as 9/11 shook the United States. The ATV program was one of many new developments that directly originated from the gruesome experience gained in the attacks. The MBPV was one of the three submissions to this program, as the wheeled electrical variant, but the tracked variant was favored over it. Whether this decision was made on the basis that the MBPV performed badly, or if the tracked version was simply better, is unknown. However, Tata never added the vehicle to their catalog, suggesting the vehicle itself was a failure. Indeed, without taking the ATV program into account at all, the whole vehicle is quite useless, and even within the set boundaries, the MBPVs effectiveness was limited. Although it probably is not worth all the scrutiny it has received, the MBPV cannot be considered a successful vehicle in any regards.

The Tata MBPV illustrated by Pavel Alexe.

Tata MBPV [ATV Wheeled, Electrical] specifications

Total Weight, Battle Ready 1.1 tonnes
Payload 0.2 tonnes
Crew 2 (driver and commander/gunner)
Propulsion Electrical Tata Engine
Speed 20 km/h
Operational capability ~6 hours
Gradeability 20 degrees
Armament 6 firing ports
Armor bulletproof level
Total Production 1

Sources

Aroor, Shiv. Coming soon: Bomb-proof Anti-Terrorist Vehicles that also climb stairs, indiatoday.in, 2nd June 2014.
Eshel, Tamir. ‘Micro Protected Vehicle’ Supporting Indoor Assault Operations, defense-update.com, 30th March 2012.
Made-in-Jaipur armoured anti-terrorist vehicle to guard Parliament, The Economic Times, 23rd September 2015.
Meet the terrorist-fighting Nano (Don’t laugh), cartoq.com, 2nd September 2015.
Tata Motors showcases Anti-Terrorist Indoor Combat Vehicle concept at DEFEXPO India 2012, tatamotors.com, 29th March 2012.
Technology Focus, Volume 27, Issue 3, May-June 2019. drdo.gov.in.
DRDO Newsletter, Volume 34, Issue 6, June 2014. dokumen.tips.
DRDO. Appendix ‘A’: The detail information of Technology :“Anti-Terrorist Vehicle (ATV)-Tracked”, drdo.gov.in.

One reply on “Tata MBPV”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.