The mechanized forces of the Indian army have a reason to cheer. MoD is gearing up to ink a major deal for acquiring self propelled howitzers. The artillery is the fortitude of any armed forces and is crucial for close fire support, when the infantry is mounting a deep thrust assault into the enemy territory. The infamous ‘Bofors Scam’ has haunted the Indian Army acquisition programs for decades; not even a single piece of artillery has been acquired since the late 1980’s. India lost the battlefield edge in artillery to Pakistan soon after America transferred the deadly M 109 howitzer to Pakistan as a reward to its co-operation in ‘war on terrorism’. This move raised alarms in the power corridors of Delhi. India had to acquire the latest artillery pieces. Back in the South Block, tenders were fast tracked to acquire the latest possible pieces of machinery. The process has finally yielded with major deals coming to a near conclusion and the army setting sight towards induction of completed products.
India’s leading military hardware manufacturer Larsen & Turbo (L&T), a private entity, has virtually outperformed global players by bagging a major deal worth US $800 million to supply the Indian Army with tracked self propelled howitzers. The K-9 Vajra, a variant of the Samsung Techwin (STW) manufactured ‘K-9 Thunder’, has outperformed the Russian fielded 155mm 2S19 MSTA-S howitzer. The ‘K-9 Vajra’ was retrofitted specially for Indian needs and had successfully cleared the high altitude and desert trials. Vajra had also made it with flying colours during the maintenance acceptability trials. L&T in collaboration with the Korean giant Samsung Techwin (STW) will now manufacture the howitzer at its facilities in Pune, Powai and Talegaon.
Vajra is a 155mm 52-caliber self propelled howitzer and is evolved from the ‘K-9 Thunder’, which was designed by Samsung Techwin for the Republic of Korea Armed Forces and introduced to service in 1999. Vajra can fire six to eight rounds in less than a minute. The vehicle is capable of attaining speeds up to 70 kilometres thanks to its 8-cyclinder MTU manufactured diesel engine which churns out a whopping 1000 hp. Vajra is commanded by a crew of 5 and offers the best in class armour suite for the protecting the commanding personnel. Equipped with steel armour, the vehicle can withstand armour piercing rounds and shells. The vehicle also incorporates an indigenously developed Nuclear Biological Chemical (NBC) suite which allows the crew to function even under the harshest conditions.
The 155 mm 52-caliber gun can strike targets up to 42 kilometres away with pin-point accuracy. The deal is being concluded under the ‘Buy Global’ category and will be the first piece of artillery machinery being manufactured in India since 1980’s. The deal is a major step forward for the government’s coveted ‘Make in India’ campaign. L&T aims to manufacture 13 major sub-systems in India including the complex fire control and ammunition handling systems. L&T is gearing up its manufacturing facilities at Pune, Talegaon and Powai to fast track the order. There is an acute need for artillery pieces and L&T expects the army to place follow-on orders for Vajra. Indian Army will also acquire the indigenously manufactured Dhanush 155 mm towed howitzers. Negotiations for acquiring and indigenously manufacturing M777 howitzers are afloat and will serve as crucial force filler for the mechanized forces of the army.