Defence News: Indian Army recently placed an order for 3192 TATA Safari GS800, which is a specific version for the Indian Army. The TATA Safari GS800 (General Service 800) is a 4X4 version with power of 156 PS & 400 Nm torque derived from the current Storme 400 (available to consumers only in Vx and Vx 4X4 models). The 4X4 variant also features ESOF (electronic shift-on-fly) technology, enabling engagement of the 4X4 or 4X2 mode on the move.
Image: TATA motors
History about the Army Safari order:
The Indian Ministry of Defence (MOD) had floated an RFP for vehicles with three basic criteria: minimum payload capacity of 800 kgs; hard roofs and air conditioning. They put the vehicles in total trial duration of fifteen months in various terrains across the country in the most demanding conditions with capabilities of coping with extreme on or off-road terrains. Scorpio was also evaluated but there is not much information on how the story went along. One can still spot some Scorpios in airforce duties. The CAG has rapped IAF for buying expensive SUVs when not required! Anyhow, Now coming back to the safari and here is what we think it can offer our beloved Army:
- : Crew comfort: I still remember my old gypsy from the 80s, while it was fun to drive and a lovely off roader, it was no way comfortable to drive for long runs. The back ached, there was not enough space and the ride quality was pathetic. While I personally have owned a gypsy and loved it, I now also own a brand new Safari 400 Vx 4X4, just like the army! Now that I am a little older than when i drove the gypsy, I cannot imagine stepping down the safari and riding the Gypsy again! That’s how comfortable the beast is. The 2.2 liter engine may not sound much on paper, but trust me, it beats many 3 liter engines with its amazing 400nm torque. Although it’s heavy and it needs better off road wheels if put in pure 4X4 duty, nothing beats it’s long range comfort. This is what our soldiers need more, as units travel far and wide. Sending a soldier well rested at the place of action is very important.
- Weather protection: Soft top Gypsy fails to keep a cool head in summers and warm in winters. The weather rushes inside, India is a land of all weathers and hard topped Safari clearly wins the case.
- Cheap Parts and easy service: Among Suvs, Safari has one of the cheapest and widely available spare parts and TATA service network with it’s army experience on Trucks is among the most efficient.
- Tough Body: This car is sure heavy, heavier than more expensive SUVs in the same class, although seen as a disadvantage in civil use, tough body with new Aria chassis (hydroformed) and thicker gauge steel sheets used, turn it into a car-tank hybrid! This is what the Army would love, to torture it to deliver in tough conditions and still stay firm.
- Low cost: The Safari has been ordered at less than 14 lakhs per unit, the most cost effective 4X4 of its class.
- Made in India: Not just made in India, but made by an Indian company fits it perfectly under “make in India” category.
Although the Scorpio is also a great vehicle, but where it lacks is in the rear seat department and comfort in long range driving. Also it appears that Mahindra was not able to beat the Safari in price quotation, despite the Scorpio having better price range in consumer segment.
What about scouting and serious off road needs?
The Gypsy was a serious offroad vehicle due to its light weight, but that’s the end of its USP. It was not good for anything else. One can say the Army does not need tens of thousands of serious “bare bones” machines. For serious off road applications like mountains and forests with slopes full of trees and rocks, even the Gypsy is no good, this is where vehicles like ATV can do the job. The army can fill up ATVs for scout duties and this should take care of that area. After all, every soldier required more than one type of gun.
Note: This article is not endorsed or sponsored by TATA in any way.
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