The Indian Army has deployed the first K9 Vajra self-propelled howitzer regiment in the forward areas in Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control (LoAC) with China.
In the following video, the K9 Vajra are seen navigating the mountainous terrain in Ladakh with ease and at high speed.
The gun can strike enemy targets at around 50 km.
The howitzers are among a large number of military equipment dedicated by the union government to the service of the nation 2018.
K9 Vajra self-propelled howitzer procured by Indian Army
- The Armoured Systems Complex of Larsen and Toubro (L&T) in Gujarat is making the 155 mm/52 calibre guns under the Narendra Modi government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative.
- L&T had in 2017 won the Rs 4,500-crore contract from the defence ministry to supply 100 units of K9-Vajra. The company has set up the facility in Hazira, around 30km from Surat.
- The defence ministry contract involves delivery of 100 such systems in 42 months.
- India had imported the first 10 of these guns from Hanwha Techwin of South Korea in semi knocked down state (or incompletely disassembled kit) and were assembled by L&T in India.
- The gun weighs 50 tonnes and can fire 47 kg bombs.
- These howitzers can also turn around at zero radius, basically at the same place where they are standing.
- India has added the fire technology system and major electronics and enhancements in the guns.
- Their induction will give a huge fillip to the firepower capability of the Indian Army on the country’s western borders.
History of K9 Vajra procurement, indigenous development
On 25 March 2012, then South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had signed an MoU to strengthen the economy and military exchanges. Four days later at the DEFEXPO, Samsung Techwin and Larsen & Toubro announced their partnership to produce the K9 Thunder in India.
Samsung Techwin agreed to transfer key technologies and permit the vehicle manufacture under license in India using 50% of the domestic content such as FCS and communication system.
Two units of K9 were sent to the Thar Desert of Rajasthan for firing and mobility tests. They competed against Russian 2S19. Operated by Indian Army personnel, the K9 fired 587 Indian ammunitions including NUB round and drove a total distance of 1,000 km.
The maintenance test was conducted in Pune, the EMI (electromagnetic interference) test in Chennai and the technical environment test was held in Bengaluru until March 2014.
K9 Thunder achieved all ROC set by the Indian Army while the Russian counterpart failed to do so. Hanwha Techwin (previously Samsung Techwin) later said in an interview that the Russian engine performance had dropped when the air density was low and also at a high temperature; the placement of the engine resulted in the location of the centre of mass at the rear, making the Russian vehicle difficult to climb high angles.
On the other hand, K9 benefitted from the automatic control system of the engine, providing the optimum performance based on given conditions automatically — this was one of the decisive reasons that India selected K9 over 2S19.
In September 2015, the Indian Ministry of Defense selected Hanwha Techwin and Larsen & Toubro as the preferred bidders to supply 100 K9 Vajra-T to the Indian Army after K9 outperformed 2S19 Msta-S and passed a two-year trial.
On 6 July 2016, India agreed to purchase 100 K9 Vajra-T for $ 750 million.
On 29 March 2017, the union government approved a budget of $ 646 million for purchasing 100 K9 Vajra-T. A formal contract of $310 million was signed between Hanwha Techwin and Larsen & Toubro at New Deli on 21 April. Hanwha Techwin supplied the first 10 K9 Vajra-T and Larsen & Toubro began producing the rest of the 90 under the South Korean licence in India.
K9 Vajra-T consists of 14 major Indian manufactured systems, 50 % of the components by value, which include NUB ammunition capable FCS and its storage, communication system, and environment control and NBC protection system.
Following the requirement of the Indian Army, additional systems were installed such as GPS (Gunner’s Primary Sight) for direct firing capability, and South African APU, which was proven for desert operation — as the Korean APU was under development phase during the Indian trial.
L&T modified the vehicle’s overall design to suit operations in deserts and high-temperature conditions. The Indian company changed the firing rate to three rounds in 30 seconds.
The 100th vehicle was delivered to the Indian Army on 18 February 2021, completing the contract ahead of schedule.
In May 2021, it was reported that the Defence Research and Development Organisation was working with Larsen and Toubro on a light tank using the K9 chassis with a 105 mm or 120 mm gun system to counter China’s Type 15 tank. The light tank variant was opted out as the estimated vehicle weight exceeded 30 tonnes, limiting the places to operate.
After completion of high altitude trials in Ladakh under cold climatic conditions, the Indian Army is planning to order an additional 40 K9 Vajra-T from Larsen and Toubro as of 2021.