New Delhi: With China being the new focus of the Indian defence establishment, the Army is looking at ordering another 40 of the K9 Vajra Tracked Self-Propelled Howitzers for mountainous terrain.
Sources in the defence and security establishment said the trials of three K9 Vajra, which were sent to Ladakh earlier this year, have been successful.
Plans are now being finalised to order at least two more regiments of the 155mm/52 calibre howitzers that would be deployed in the mountains.
The Army had initially ordered 100 (five regiments) of the gun system under a Rs 4,500 crore contract in 2017.
The order for the initial 100 guns, basically meant for the deserts, was placed with leading Indian private defence major Larsen and Toubro (L&T). The company had successfully completed the order in February this year.
L&T has signed a transfer of technology contract with the South Korean firm, Hanwha Corporation, which is the original manufacturer of the gun system known as K9 Thunder.
“Vajra is a beautiful and formidable gun system. It has a high range and because it is tracked, the movement in the mountains becomes easier,” a source said. “With its range and motion capability, the system can be deployed strategically.”
Sources said that a cost criteria for the next 40 Vajras is yet to be worked out but the process is on.
Tensions with China pave way for more Vajras
Though there was no initial plan for more orders, tensions with China have meant that more focus is now being given to the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The Army has already ordered for the M-777 lightweight howitzers, delivery of which is currently on.
These lightweight howitzers can be picked up by helicopters and taken to forward locations.
These guns have a maximum range of about 40 km with specialised munitions. In comparison, the Vajra has a range of over 50 km depending on the munition used.
“Both gun systems cannot be compared with each other. Both have their own unique ability,” a second source said. “The M-777 can reach places where the Vajra can’t. Similarly, Vajra has its own unique capabilities. A combination of these two systems along with those already in service and the ones that will come in future will add to the lethality of Indian firepower.”
According to L&T, K9 Vajra are delivered with more than 80 per cent indigenous work packages and above 50 per cent indigenisation (by value) at the programme level.
L&T says it had started indigenisation, right from the inception of the programme, by replacing 14 critical systems in the Korean ‘K9 Thunder’ with indigenously developed and produced systems for the trial gun fielded for user evaluation trials.
Incidentally, L&T and the DRDO are working on a ‘Vajra tank’, which would be a light tank.
The idea is to replace the heavy 155 mm gun with a 105 mm or 120 mm gun.
The chassis or the hull remains the same but a lighter gun would mean that the weight would be drastically reduced as the design of the turret also changes.