India has moved a step closer in acquiring 100 new K-9 Vajra 155 mm/52 caliber self-propelled tracked howitzers for the Indian Army. A contract between the Indian Ministry of Defense and the howitzer’s maker, South Korea’s Samsung-Techwin (and its local Indian private-sector partner Larsen & Toubro (L&T), is expected to be signed within the next two months, an Indian defense official told Defense News.
The defense ministry and L&T have completed price negotiations at the beginning of July. The $750 million deal, however, has not yet been approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), a government body headed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The CCS’s approval is a prerequisite before the signing of any defense deal. IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly reported in early July that the contract is likely to be cleared by the CCS before the end of the current fiscal year which ends in March 2017.
The K-9 Vajra is a modified version of the Samsung-Techwin K-9 155 mm/52-caliber. A tender for the new howitzer gun was released in 2011. After extensive maintenance acceptability, high altitude, and desert trials in 2013 and 2014 respectively, the self-propelled tracked howitzer was selected over the Russian-made 2S19 Msta-S howitzer, which had been specifically modified with a 155mm/52 caliber gun to fit Indian Army requirements.
Around 50 percent of the K-9’s hardware will be indigenously made by L&T in India despite of the fact that the new howitzer gun will be acquired under the “Buy Global” category of the so-called Defense Procurement Procedure (DPP), which allows over-the-counter sales of military hardware. The Business Standard reported in October 2015:
L&T plans to build 13 [some sources indicate 14] 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.
As I noted elsewhere:
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. (…)
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 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.
However, budgetary constraints will limit the number of guns acquired by the Indian Army to 100 for now, according to defense analysts. The K-9 self-propelled tracked howitzer has an operational range of 450 kilometers (279 miles) and can engage enemy targets at a distance of up to 40 kilometers (24 miles).