In a major boost to India’s military preparedness the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by the Prime Minister has cleared a multi-million dollar proposal to acquire at least 100 Self Propelled (SP) tracked Howitzers. The Indian Army’s mechanised forces will now be acquiring at least 100 ‘K-9 Vajra’ 155mm/52-calibre SP tracked howitzers. The procurement program comes as a major boost to the Indian Army which was gradually being eroded off its battlefield supremacy.
The self propelled tracked guns offer better speeds and rapid mobility to the mechanised forces and are thus critical for mounting operations in semi-desert terrains. These guns when procured will form an integral part of the army’s strike corps which are tasked with inflicting punitive strikes deep inside enemy territory.
Even though the contract is being concluded under the ‘Buy Global’ category of the DPP (Defence Procurement Procedure), the deal will witness the highly capable weapon system being locally built in India. With the conclusion of this deal, the NDA government has successfully engaged India’s untapped private sector in one of the biggest deals signed so far.
For the execution of the project which is pegged at around INR 4,500 crores, Indian giant Larsen and Toubro (L&T) has partnered with South Korean based Hanwa Techwin and will be manufacturing K-9 Vajra Howitzers at its Talegaon facility. The deal is also a major step forward for the government’s coveted ‘Make in India’ campaign. L&T aims to manufacture at least 13 major sub-systems in India, including the complex fire control and ammunition handling systems.
The conclusion of the deal has helped army’s decades old Field Artillery Rationalisation Program (FARP) gain some solid ground. Indian Army ever since the infamous Bofors scam, had failed to induct even a single piece of artillery which is crucial for providing close fire support, when the infantry is mounting a deep thrust assault into enemy territory.
A formal deal is expected to be signed between L&T and Hanwa Techwin later this month. The companies are required to supply first of the ten guns within 18 months and the rest are to be delivered in batches within 42 months. MoD (Ministry of Defence) had concluded cost negotiations last July with the companies.
Vajra, a variant of the Samsung Techwin (STW) manufactured ‘K-9 Thunder’, had successfully cleared the rigorous and demanding high altitude and desert trials before being selected by the Indian Army. Vajra had also made it through the maintenance acceptability trials with flying colours against the Russian origin 155-mm 2S19 MSTA-S howitzer.
The ‘K-9 Vajra’, which has been retrofitted specially for Indian needs, was designed by Samsung Techwin for the Republic of Korea Armed Forces and was introduced to service in 1999. It is capable of firing six to eight rounds in less than a minute and the 155-mm 52-cal gun can strike targets up to 42 kilometres away with pin-point accuracy.
The vehicle is powered by a single 8-cyclinder MTU manufactured diesel engine which churns out 1,000 hp of power and this enables it to attain speeds up to 70 kilometres. Vajra is commanded by a crew of 5 and offers the best in class armour suite for protecting the commanding personnel. Equipped with steel armour, the vehicle can withstand hits from armour piercing rounds and shells.
There is a need for at least 200 of these SP tracked howitzers and L&T foresees a tender for at least 50 additional gun systems in the near future. The induction of the ‘K-9 Vajra’ is a shot in the arm for the army’s mechanised forces and further to the strike corps.
© Karthik Kakoor