India’s Chief of Army Staff(CoAS) General MM Naravane, PVSM, AVSM, SM, VSM, ADC flagged-off the 100th K9 VAJRA 155mm/52 calibre Tracked SelfPropelled Howitzer from L&T’s Armoured System Complex (ASC) located at Hazira, near Surat, in the state of Gujurat, India. L&T Defence produced the ‘K9 VAJRA’ under the largest contract awarded to an Indian private company by the Ministry of Defence, through global competitive bidding. L&T was the prime bidder for the program, with South Korean defence major Hanwha Defense, the OEM of the world’s top rated Howitzer the ‘K9 Thunder‘, as its technology partner. The ‘K9 VAJRA’ howitzer program involved the delivery of 100 Howitzers with associated Engineering Support Package (ESP) covering spares, system documentation and training. It also involves Maintenance Transfer of Technology (MToT) to an army base workshop to support the Howitzers throughout their operational life cycle.
As a part of the ‘Make-in-India’ mission, the company established a green-field manufacturing cum integration and testing facility, the ‘Armoured Systems Complex’ (ASC) at L&T’s Hazira Manufacturing Complex near Surat. With flag-off of the 100th Howitzer, L&T has successfully completed delivery of all the howitzers under the current MoD contract awarded in May 2017 and has maintained its track record of ahead of time deliveries of complex platforms. This is a testimony to the program management capabilities, complex system integration skills, and company’s hi-tech manufacturing prowess and execution efficiency. The ‘K9 VAJRA’ systems are delivered with more than 80% indigenous work packages and above 50% indigenisation (by value) at the program level. This involves local production of over 13,000 components per system through a supply chain spread across the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
L&T had started the journey of indigenisation, right from the inception of the program, by replacing fourteen critical systems in the Korean ‘K9 Thunder’ with indigenously developed and produced systems for the trial gun fielded for user evaluation trials. The VAJRA variant developed by L&T with India specific features emerged fully compliant to Indian Army’s needs during the arduous and extended field trials. L&T exceeded the indigenous manufacturing content by grooming a young team of engineers and specialising them in manufacturing automation and integration with the help of its in-house team of experts as well as by training at Hanwha facilities in South Korea. Subsequently, this team trained the supply chain partners as well as teams from L&T’s five defence production units, that served as local centers for the nearly 1000 supply chain partners in a hub and spoke model.
The K9 Thunder is a South Korean self-propelled 155 mm howitzer designed and developed by the Agency for Defense Development and Samsung Aerospace Industries for the Republic of Korea Armed Forces, and is now manufactured by Hanwha Defense. K9 howitzers operate in groups with the K10 automatic ammunition resupply vehicle variant. The entire K9 fleet operated by the ROK Armed Forces is now undergoing upgrades to K9A1 standard, and a further development of a K9A2 variant is in process. Hanwha Techwin joined hand with Indian conglomerate Larsen and Toubro Limited to supply 100 K9-T guns (known in India as K-9 Vajra) for the Indian Army Howitzer competition. K9 Thunder overcame a sand storm to successfully become a part of the Indian Military. In September 2015, Larsen and Toubro emerged as the finalist for a US$800 million contract to supply 100 self-propelled howitzers to the Indian Army. The vehicle is the K9 VAJRA-T, a variant of the K9 specially designed for operation in the desert areas.