K9 Vajra shows the way for Atmanirbharta

The induction started into the Indian Army in 2018. The 51st K9 was delivered in January 2019 & the 100th K9 on February 18, 2021, well before schedule.

Issue 2 - 2022 By Lt General Naresh Chand (Retd)Photo(s): By Larsen & Toubro
L&T-made 100th K9 VAJRA flagged off by India’s then Chief of the Army Staff General M.M. Naravane at L&T’s Armoured Systems Complex Hazira near Surat

Self-propelled artillery guns are a key requirement for supporting mechanised troops & fire support in difficult terrain conditions like the desert of Rajasthan & cold desert of Ladakh. The legacy system was Abbot self-propelled gun system, imported from UK during the early 70s. It became obsolete & as an interim measure Catapult system was assembled by integrating the Russian 130mm gun with the Indian origin Arjun tank but at the best it remained an interim arrangement. Thus, while formulating Field Artillery Rationalisation Plan (FARP) – 2000, requirement of 100 self-propelled howitzer (SPH) was included in it.

In 2015, L&T was shortlisted as the main vendor for the manufacture & supply of 100 K9 Vajra-T self-propelled howitzers which was jointly developed by Larsen and Toubro (L&T) and South Korean defence manufacturer Hanwha Defence. In December 2015 the MoD began price negotiations with L&T for 100 modified South Korean SPHs. The K9 Vajra-T was an L&T version of K9 Thunder 155mm/52 calibre gun customised for India’s 2012 SPH tender. It was shortlisted for acquisition in late September after undergoing trials along with Russia’s MSTA – self-propelled gun, which had been modified to 155mm/52 calibre standard and mounted on a T-72 tank chassis. Vajra was procured under the DPP-2012 ‘Buy Global’ category & was to be built at L&T’s Hazira facility near Surat. This classification permitted domestic companies to enter into tie-ups with OEMs to offer cooperatively developed equipment and platforms to the Indian military.

During 2017, India’s MoD signed 4,500 crore contract with L&T to procure the K9 Vajra-T. The deal included engineering, maintenance support and the necessary transfer of technology from Hanwha Defence. The first 10 guns were assembled in India by September 2019, with the rest to be delivered within the next couple of years. The overall contract was to be executed within 42 months from the date of signing the contract.

It was to be manufactured at the Armoured Systems Complex, a 40-acre industrial unit inside L&T’s Hazira Manufacturing Complex in Gujarat. The facility is also expected to manufacture and integrate armoured systems like tanks, armoured personnel carriers and other types of main and secondary armoured vehicles. The air-conditioning units, auxiliary power units, running gear, hydraulics, structural assemblies, ammunition handling equipment and 14 other key sub-systems have been developed in India by L&T. The programme involved local production of more than 13,000 types of components per gun system. The gun features up to 75 per cent indigenous content.

Brief Capabilities of K9 Vajra

Operational. The K9 has a range of about 38 km. The K9 uses ammunition of 155mm/52 calibre; can shoot, scoot & can come into action in a minute. It has a semiautomatic feeding system which assists in carrying out burst firing of three rounds in 30 seconds, intense rate of firing in 15 rounds in three minutes and sustained firing is 60 rounds in 60 minutes. It has a secondary armament of a 12.7mm machine gun with 500 rounds of ammunition. It can withstand 152mm artillery shell fragments and anti-personnel mines.

Fire Control System. The Vajra uses a state-of-the-art digital fire control system. In Multiple Round Simultaneous Impact (MRSI) mode, it can fire multiple rounds that can impact a given area simultaneously. It has a Gunner’s Primary Sight for direct firing capability, Night-vision is offered as standard in all variants of the K9. A thermal warning device is fitted which feeds the temperature of the barrel to the digital fire control system.

Crew. It has a crew of five which includes a commander, a driver, a gunner and two loaders.

Platform. The gun can elevate from +70 degrees to -2.5 degrees with 360-degree rotation through a hydraulically-powered turret. The K9 engine is an eight-cylinder water-cooled diesel unit built by MTU Friedrichshafen with 1,000-horsepower. The K9 can tackle a vertical obstacle 0.75m high, traverse a 2.8-m trench and ford a 1.8-m deep channel. It’s hydro pneumatic suspension system allows it to drive over a 30 per cent side slope, a 60 per cent gradient and turn in 360-degrees using brake-torquing similar to MBT & can operate in NBC environment.

Induction

The induction started into the Indian Army in 2018. The 51st K9 was delivered in January 2019 & the 100th K9 on February 18, 2021 well before schedule. There are talks about for an order of 250 additional K9s.

Employment

The Indian Army has deployed K9 Vajra in Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control with China successfully.