The Indian Ministry of Defense has selected South Korea’s Samsung-Techwin and its local Indian private-sector partner Larsen & Toubro to supply the Indian Army with 100 K-9 Vajra 155 mm/52 caliber self-propelled tracked howitzers, IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly reports.
The selection came in late September after the completion of maintenance acceptability, high altitude, and desert trials, which took place in 2013 and 2014. A final contract is expected to be signed within the next six months. Total procurement costs for the 100 guns are estimated to be around $ 800 million.
During repeated army trials, the K-9 Vajra — a variant of the K-9 Thunder — outperformed its Russian competitor, the Russian self-propelled 2S19 Msta-S howitzer, which had been specifically modified with a 155mm/52 caliber gun to fit Indian Army requirements.
The K-9 Vajra is specially designed for arid lands such as the desert areas bordering Pakistan. Mounted on a tracked vehicle, the K-9 Vajra is ideally suited for mobile tank warfare. According to the Business Standard, the Indian Army wants to induct this new howitzer into its mechanized strike corps to offer close fire support during deep thrusts into enemy territory.
“The strike corps’ T-90S tanks currently outpace their artillery guns, which are towed by wheeled vehicles. This constrains the tank spearheads to fight without artillery support at key moments in the advance. With the K-9 Vajra mounted on a tracked vehicle that keeps up with tanks, the armor spearheads would be assured of heavy fire support,” the Business Standard notes.
The overall number of K-9 Vajra required by the Indian Army will be around 250. This is based on the creation of at least three K-9 Vajra regiments for each of the army’s three armored divisions, as well as another three regiments for the independent armored brigades within the army’s three strike corps.
Half of the parts for the guns will be built in India, despite the K-9 Vajra falling under the “Buy Global” procurement category, which allows over-the-counter sales of military hardware. The Business Standard explains:
L&T [Larsen & Toubro] plans to build 13 major sub-systems of the K-9 Vajra at its facilities in Pune, Talegaon, and Powai. This includes the fire control system, ammunition handling system, muzzle velocity radar, and the nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) system.
In addition to the K-9 Vajra, the Indian military is also expected to receive 114 out of a total of 414 Dhanush 155mm towed howitzers by 2017, which would be India’s first new artillery pieces since the 1980s. The military also plans to acquire 180 wheeled self-propelled howitzers over the next few years.
As I reported previously, the Indian army’s 1999 Field Artillery Rationalization Plan aimed to acquire 2,800-3,000 155 mm/52 caliber guns of all kinds and 155 mm/39 caliber lightweight howitzers by 2027.