The Abhay is currently serving as a developmental vehicle program designed to test out various technologies, mechanics and weaponry for their use in a future Indian Army Infantry Combat Vehicle (ICV) which itself will someday replace the aging Soviet-era BMP-2 fighting vehicles currently in service with the Indian Army. Design of the Abhay is being handled by the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) of New Delhi with production of several known prototypes being handled by the Heavy Industries Factory of Avadi. The name "Abhay" translates to "Fearless" in Sanskrit.
Origins of the Abhay lay in a new Indian armored vehicle initiative begun in the latter part of the 1990s. India had long been supplied with military equipment from the Soviet Union and Russia and has since grown their indigenous defense industry to become a major global player in the realm of small arms, aircraft (including helicopters) and military vehicles. The Abhay underwent work throughout the decade and its design was largely based on the BMP series of vehicles. The BMP was a Soviet-era design that evolved into three major successful variants and would have played a major role in Europe should the Cold War had gone "hot". India operated the BMP in some numbers prior and had garnered significant experience in their operation, maintenance and capabilities. Coupling the best qualities of that machine with the best available technologies originating from the West, the Abhay was born as an indigenous attempt to vastly upgrade the existing BMP fleet. Trials involving the Abhay began in 2000 with major manufacture of needed components underway by 2004. Delays were encountered through the US-sponsored sanctions related to the 1998 nuclear tests at the Pokharan test range so indigenous avenues were fully explored and ultimately instituted into the development of the Abhay - in effect making the Indian defense industry ever-more self-sufficient.
The Abhay is classified as an "Infantry Combat Vehicle", a military vehicle class located somewhere between an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) and Main Battle Tank (MBT). Unlike armored personnel carriers, ICVs fit offensive-minded firepower greater than that of general purpose machine guns though are overly armed with less capabilities that that of main battle tanks and their powerful main guns. The automatic self-loading cannon is usually the weapon of choice for such systems and this can be backed by the use of anti-tank missile launchers as well as grenade launchers and heavy machine guns. ICVs vehicles allow for the safe transport of a combat-ready infantry force while supplying their own fire support in a given engagement. Upon releasing their passengers - usually from rear-fitted doors or powered ramps - the infantry combat vehicle can then take part in a given battle by utilizing its collection of weaponry. The Israeli Merkava Main Battle Tank is somewhat unique in its role as a combat tank in that it can also house infantry within its rear-mounted fighting compartment thanks to its front-mounted engine arrangement.
Externally, the Abhay's design shares many similarities to the Soviet BMP series, of which the Indian Army has much experience with. The vehicle sports six double-wheeled road wheels to a track side with the drive sprocket at the front of the hull and the track idler at the rear. The vehicle is suspended by an indigenously-designed hydro-pneumatic suspension system allowing for good cross-country performance. The upper portions of the track are covered over in side skirt armor for some limited protection. The glacis plate is gently sloped upwards towards the hull roof line and meets at a point at the forward hull, similar to the BMP. The hull sides are slightly sloped inwards towards the hull roof line. The turret is fitted atop the hull roof and slightly set to the rear of the vehicle. There is access to the passenger cabin through the rear facing. The turret features full 360-degree traversal and is given sloped sides for basic ballistics protection. The main gun protrudes from the front facing and is capped by a conical muzzle brake. Armor, at this point in development, features a mix of composites, titanium and hardened steel armor for maximum effectiveness within the given weight requirement. Overall, the Abhay is very similar in form and function to existing infantry fighting vehicles currently in service worldwide.
The operational crew will consist of three standard personnel made up of the driver, commander and gunner. There will be a compartment for up to seven combat-ready troops with a rear-fitted access door. The occupants will be protected by armor (known by the name of "Kanchan") known to be similar to the armor showcased in the Arjun Main Battle Tank of the Indian Army. As with most operational IFVs today, Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) will be optional and available for the Abhay for additional point defense. Six smoke grenade dischargers are available (in banks of three per turret side according to available imagery) for self-defense or to create tactical smoke screens. NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) protection will be standard and integrated laser warning receivers will alert the operating crew as necessary.
Primary armament of the Abhay centers around a turret-mounted Bofors 40mm L70 high-velocity autocannon system. The turret is electrically-driven and allows for a full 360-degree traversal. Ammunition types will include APFSDS and High-Explosive (HE) versions to help deal with both "hard" and "soft" targets as required. Some 210 projectiles of 40mm ammunition will be available. The crew will be assisted by the integrated Fire Control System (FCS) as well as thermal sights. Another potent offensive addition to the Abhay design will be its inclusion of anti-tank missile launchers for defeating the armor of enemy main battle tanks. It is believed that two such launchers will be available to the crew with possibly four missile reloads aboard. Secondary armament will be the installation of a 30mm Automatic Grenade Launcher (AGL) in the turret. This will be further backed by a coaxial 7.62mm PKT series general purpose machine gun. Both of these armament options will help to combat enemy infantry concentrations - dislodging such foes with fragmentation grenades or suppressing their movement with the machine gun.
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June 2005 - The first Abhay prototype (preproduction form) vehicle was debuted.
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