The Indian Army has inducted the first batch of 10 K9 VAJRA-T 155mm/ 52 Cal. tracked self-propelled howitzers (SPH) on Nov. 9.
The induction was officially conducted by Nirmala Sitharaman, India’s Minister of Defence, in the presence of Subhash Bhamare, the Minister of State for Defence; General Bipin Rawat, the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS); and Lt Gen S. K. Saini, the GOC-in-C Southern Command at the Devlali FF Ranges in the state of Maharashtra. During the ceremony, the Army also inducted first batch of three BAE Systems M777 155mm ultra lightweight howitzers procured from the U.S. through Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route.
The K9 VAJRA-T is a variant of the K9 Thunder, a South Korean self-propelled 155 mm howitzer developed by Samsung Techwin for the Republic of Korea Armed Forces and now manufactured by Hanwha Land Systems. The SPHs are being assembled (10)/built (90) in India for the Indian Army by Indian engineering conglomerate, Larsen & Toubro (L&T) under transfer of technology from South Korea.
The contract between L&T and South Korea’s Hanwha Techwin (HTW), formerly Samsung Techwin, for the supply 100 SPHs to India was signed on April 21, 2017. The contract was a result of nearly a decade long joint effort of the two companies followed by contract negotiations with the Indian Ministry of Defence.
According to the contract, the first 10 K9 VAJRA-T guns was directly imported from South Korea and then locally assembled in India and the remaining 90 SPHs is being completely manufactured by L&T at their Strategic Systems Complex at Talegaon near Pune in Maharashtra with technology transfer from Hanwha.
According to the manufacturer, the K9 Thunder has established its superiority through demonstrations and, extensive user evaluation and field trials at various proving grounds in India under extreme weather conditions – jungles, barren deserts and severely cold areas. By demonstrating its ability to handle Indian as well as all NATO standard ammunition, K9 VAJRA-T has proven its excellent conformability to any field artillery unit, it added.
K9 VAJRA-T is specially designed for operation in India’s desert areas bordering Pakistan. India has not had any new artillery pieces since the 1980s and several rounds of modernization plans since 1999 had failed to select a gun. India has been at a distinct disadvantage against Pakistan regarding self propelled artillery since the United States supplied them with 115 M109A5 cannon in 2009.
Specs of K9 Thunder:
K9 is an indigenous system of an all-welded steel armour construction which is rated to withstand 14.5 mm armour piercing rounds, 152 mm shell fragments, and anti-personnel mines.
The main armament consists of a 155 mm/52 caliber ordnance with a maximum firing range of 40 km; the K307 BB-HE projectile propelled by the K676 top charge has a muzzle velocity of 928 m/s (3,040 ft/s).
State-of-the-art mobility subsystems include a 1,000 horsepower (750 kW) engine with potential for growth and hydro-pneumatic suspension unit, a requirement for Korea’s rugged mountainous terrain.
The company claims K9 Thunder to be the world’s best performing 155mm/52 Cal.self-propelled howitzer with over 1,000 numbers built. Currently, K9 Thunder is serving as one of the main conventional deterrent forces for a number of armies including the Korean Army.