Indian army to receive 100 more South Korean K9 Vajra self propelled howitzers

The Indian ministry of Defense has begun procurement of 100 more K9 Vajra tracked, self-propelled howitzers, Dinakar Peri reports in The Hindu. Contract negotiations will begin once Larsen & Toubro (L&T) responds to the ministry’s request for proposals issued last November to manufacture the South Korean 155 mm gun domestically. All the deliveries will be completed before 2028. Until last year, the Indian Army had planned to order only one more K9 regiment.
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The Indian Minister for Defence, Shri Rajnath Singh in the K9 VAJRA 155mm self-propelled howitzer at L&T Armoured System Complex, at Hazira, Gujarat on January 16, 2020. (Picture source: Wikimedia)

The repeat order could not be more than the volume of the original order, so the number was fixed at 100 howitzers. The development comes nearly two years after L&T delivered the last 100 K9s to the Indian Army as part of a 2017 order, using technology transferred from South Korean defence major Hanwha Defense.

The K9 Vajra was mainly bought for use in deserts, but, in 2020, the standoff between Indian and Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh prompted them to be deployed in the mountains as well. To ensure that these systems performed optimally in the extremely cold weather conditions of the mountains, the Army also procured winterisation kits for the regiment deployed. There are 9 items including batteries, oils and lubricants which need to be insulated from extreme temperatures and don’t freeze at -20 degrees celsius, which the kits cater for.

In September 2015, the Indian Ministry of Defense selected Hanwha Techwin and Larsen & Toubro (L&T) as preferred bidders to supply 100 K9 Vajra-T SPHs to the Indian Army. On 6 July 2016, India agreed in purchasing 100 K9 Vajra-T for $750 million. On 29 March 2017, the Indian government approved a budget of $646 million for purchasing 100 K9 Vajra-T SPHs. A formal contract of $310 million was signed between Hanwha Techwin and Larsen & Toubro at New Deli on 21 April. Hanwha Techwin would supply the first 10 K9 Vajra-Ts, and 90 would be license-produced in India by Larsen & Toubro.

The K-9 Vajra is an Indian version of the South Korean K9 Thunder 155mm self-propelled howitzer produced under license in India by the company Larsen &Toubro. The Indian version is fitted with indigenous components including a fire control system, direct fire system, and ammunition handling systems developed and manufactured by the company L&T.

The K-9 Vajra is armed with a 155mm/52 caliber gun which has a firing of three rounds per 15 seconds and a maximum rate of fire of 6 to 8 rounds a minute for 3 minutes. With HE (High Explosive) projectiles, it has a maximum firing range of 30 km but it can also fire K307 Base Bleed HE ammunition to reach a maximum firing range of 40 km.

The turret and the hull of the K-9 Vajra are made of welded steel construction providing ballistic protection against 14.5mm armor-piercing ammunition and 155mm artillery shell splinters. the vehicle has a crew of five including a driver, commander, gunner, and two loaders.

The K-9 Vajra is motorized with an MTU MT 881 Ka-500 8-cylinder water-cooled diesel engine developing 1,000 hp coupled to the Allison ATDX1100-5A3 transmission. It can reach a maximum road speed of 67 km/h with a maximum cruising range of 360 km.