Militaries around the world are heavily dependent on vehicles for movement. Without proper vehicles no armed force can expect to defend their land effectively from the enemy. Vehicles provide mobility, security and, often, a sense of pride for the armed force. Vehicles in the Indian armed forces can be classified into broadly two categories – armored personnel vehicles and non-armored vehicles. The non-armored vehicles include the trucks and cars used for troop transportation mostly within non-hostile areas.
The Indian Army is one of the largest users of both armored and non-armored vehicles.
Being the third largest military in the world, the Indian Army utilizes some of the world’s most efficient, cost-effective, durable and multi-utility vehicles.
So if we have one of the world’s best tanks in T-90 Bhishma, we also have a very trustworthy VFJ or Ashok Leyland trucks for troop transportation. And then we have the Gypsy.
In fact the gypsy is a ubiquitous vehicle of the Indian Army. You get to see them almost everywhere if you visit cantonments or other service areas.
They can be spotted on the deserts of Rajasthan and on the snowy regions of Kashmir. They can be seen in the jungles of northeast and the plains of central and south India.
But why does the Indian Army extensively use a gypsy than any of the other SUVs which are taking on the roads of the country?
A similar question was asked on Quora: “Why does the Indian Army use Maruti Gypsy despite knowing that it is very much vulnerable to IEDs, grenades and other lethal weapons?” The responses pointed out a host of factors.
Reason 1: The weight of the Maruti Gypsy as compared to other SUVs is lower.
A gypsy is lighter than all other SUVs making it suitable for the sandy terrains of the desert and the snow-capped roads. Being light weight, it is easier to be airlifted around the country.
Reason 2: It has less chances of getting stuck on the terrains because of its wheel base and a 4×4 drive but even if it does its weight makes it easier to pull out.
Reason 3: Gypsy has the additional advantage of being a petrol-engine SUV which makes it suitable for colder climates.
Reason 4: The vehicle requires less maintenance and can run for a much longer.
Reason 5: One major advantage which was pointed out in an ET report in 2015 is that the Gypsy has the monopoly of being the only vehicle which fulfils the Army’s GS 500 requirement, which is simply a requirement of 500 kg payload.
Reason 6: The Maruti Gypsy is better maneuverable on the hilly roads than other SUVs again because of the wheel.
Reason 7: The Gypsy can be modified to fit the accessories that the Indian Army requires, such as a machine guns.
Reason 8: It is cheaper than other SUVs.
It is not that the Indian Army doesn’t use other SUVs. The most notable names are the Mitsubishi Pajero and soon-to-arrive Tata Safri Storme. It should be noted that the purpose of other SUVs is different from the purpose of a Maruti Gypsy and the Indian Army takes the decisions based on its operational requirements.
Reason 9: Simply put, the Maruti Gypsy offers ease of boarding and de-boarding (in an open-top) besides a whole host of features which the Army requires.
But why use a Gypsy in areas where the threat from IEDs or other explosives are very much present?
To this Lakshya Tyagi answered:
“What you must understand is that normally Indian army doesn’t come across IEDs. There is no particular reason for this. But in Kashmir and North east, danger from IEDs is comparatively low. A possible reason could be that most operations are in populated urban and/or rural areas, where you can’t plant bombs without people noticing and since the people of Kashmir are now increasingly helping the army counter terrorism, the IED would be reported and diffused.
But still, on need basis, the Indian Army possesses some armored vehicles that often lead a convoy. Also, there are jammers mounted on vehicles that almost always lead convoys, these jammers prevent exchange of any kind of signals in the area covered, thus the IED that might be planted would become unresponsive to any commands.”
But there is one other factor: Indian Army has a host of armored vehicles for areas in J&K and in the northeast. In those areas, the army uses mine-protected vehicles such as the Casspir and Aditya. The Army takes other measures such as restricted movement of traffic if the convoy consists of Gypsys.
It should also be noted that the Maruti Gypsy is not used by Indian Army alone but also by Indian Navy and India Air Force for utility purposes. And the elite National Security Guards, too, uses it as a tactical vehicle.
The Gypsy was introduced in the Indian Army in 1991 and has remained a steady companion of the forces. Today the number of Gypsy in uses hovers at around 35,000.