Additional Vajra Self Propelled Howitzers for Indian Army

Vajra-T K-9
Vajra-T K-9

The fielding of the Vajra 155mm/52 calibre tracked self-propelled howitzers to the Indian Army could be considered one of its true acquisition success stories.

The program contract initiated in 2017 to the Indian firm Larsen and Toubro (L&T) comprised a collaboration with the Republic of Korea’s Hanwha Defence, first established in 2012, to supply its K-9 Thunder artillery system to the Army. The contract reflected the initial delivery of 100 K-9s in a variant which includes local Indian content and work share by L&T. Initiated under the Made in India program, the successful final delivery was made at the end of February 2021.

Defence ministry sources have suggested as is reflected in the Indian press that an order for an additional 100 systems is contemplated shortly. With government clearance in September a Request for Proposals will likely be issued to L&T in what is expected to be a fast-track process. The objective is to eventually have fielded up to 300 of the Vajra.

The effort has some urgency driven by the tensions in the north with China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA). In fact, the Indian Army has deployed a full regiment of Vajra guns to Eastern Ladakh in response. These guns required winterization kits suitable for the sub-zero environment expected as the Vajra had only been tested in the opposite desert high-temperatures. Reportedly these have been satisfactory with the Vajra performing well.

Vajra-T K-9 was selected following competitive trails against the Russian 2S19 MSTA-S. The first ten were provided by Hanwha with the remaining ninety by L&T under license.

The Vajra uses fourteen major systems of Indian origin including fire controls, communications, and environmental/NBC protection in addition to fabrication and machining of the hull and turret.

In addition, adaptions were introduced suited for desert operations with the projection that the Vajra would be facing Pakistan. The system has automatic loading, a range of 40 km, and a 1000 hp engine. Together it offers exceptional firepower and mobility in a reliable platform well suited to the modern battlefield.

With the situation on the border with China unresolved and the L&T production line essential idle it could be anticipated that a formal announcement of the new Vajra order would be anticipated soon.

by Stephen W. Miller