Indian Army Deploys K9 Vajra Self-propelled Howitzers in Ladakh for High Altitude Operations
Indian Army K9 Vajra Self-propelled Howitzer

Larsen and Toubro Awarded Contract to Supply Additional K9 Vajra Howitzers for Indian Army

The Indian Army is looking at ordering another 40 of the K9 Vajra 155 mm tracked self-propelled howitzer for mountainous terrain, after 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 with China being the new focus of the Indian defence establishment. 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.

On 29 March 2012 at DEFEXPO, Samsung Techwin and Larsen and Toubro announced their partnership to produce the K9 Thunder in India. As per agreement, Samsung Techwin will transfer key technologies, and the vehicle will be manufactured under license in India using 50 percent of the domestic content such as FCS and communication system. Two units of K9 were sent to Thar Desert, Rajasthan for firing and mobility test, and competed against Russian 2S19. Operated by Indian military personnel, the K9 fired 587 Indian ammunitions including NUB round, and drove a total distance of 1,000 km. Maintenance test was conducted at Pune, EMI (electromagnetic interference) test at Chennai, and technical environment test was held in Bengaluru until March 2014. K9 Thunder achieved all ROC set by Indian military while Russian counterpart failed to do so.

Indian Army K9 Vajra 155 mm tracked self-propelled howitzer

Hanwha Techwin (previously Samsung Techwin) later told in an interview that the Russian engine performance dropped when the air density is low and in high temperature; the placement of the engine also resulted the center of the mass located at the rear, making the vehicle extremely hard to climb high angles. On the other hand, K9 was benefitted from automatic control system of the engine, providing the optimum performance automatically based on given condition—this was one of the decisive reason why India selected K9 over 2S19. 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. By January 2020, more than half of K-9 Vajra guns had already been delivered to the Indian army ahead of schedule.

According to L&T, 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. 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.

Indian Army K9 Vajra 155 mm tracked self-propelled howitzer