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Modi 3.0: Fortifying military edge with enhanced K9 Vajra

Reliable sources indicate that one of the major forthcoming initiatives is the expected finalisation of a deal by August to acquire 100 K9 Vajra-T artillery guns from Larsen & Toubro (L&T).

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Modi 3.0: Fortifying military edge with enhanced K9 Vajra
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As Prime Minister Narendra Modi starts his third term, the Defence Ministry is set to begin an ambitious modernization plan, representing a key change in India’s defence capabilities. In the first 100 days of the new government, one major goal is to enhance the Indian Army’s artillery by acquiring advanced weapons. 

Reliable sources indicate that one of the major forthcoming initiatives is the expected finalisation of a deal by August to acquire 100 K9 Vajra-T artillery guns from Larsen & Toubro (L&T). This strategic move aims to boost the Indian Army’s readiness and firepower. A second K9 consignment consisting of 100 howitzers will be upgraded for use in higher altitudes. 

The Indian Army is already familiar with the K9 Vajra-T, having added 100 of these self-propelled howitzers to its arsenal. Initially bought for desert operations, these artillery guns have proven their versatility by being used in high-altitude areas near the Line-of-Actual Control (LAC) due to rising military activities by China. To make sure these systems work well in the extreme cold of the mountains, the army bought winterization kits for the deployed regiment. These kits include nine items, such as batteries, oils and lubricants that need protection from freezing at temperatures as low as -20°C. 

L&T stated that the K9 Vajra-T systems was delivered with over 80% locally sourced work packages and more than 50% of their value coming from Indian-made parts, including indigenous production of more than 13,000 components per gun system. This involved a supply chain of around 1,000 industrial partners, mostly MSMEs. 

Understanding K9 Vajra 

1. Operational Stats 

The K9 Vajra-T is a tracked self-propelled howitzer capable of firing 155mm shells. Tracked self-propelled’ means that the vehicle moves on continuous tracks (like a tank) and can drive itself without needing to be towed or pushed by another vehicle. It features a long 52-calibre barrel and is capable of shooting at high angles, making it effective for hitting distant targets. 

It has a firing range of 38 kilometres. 

India’s L&T has developed the K9 Vajra using technology from South Korean defence company Hanwha Aerospace, based on their K9 Thunder platform. This collaboration brought the advanced self-propelled howitzer—a large gun with a short barrel that can be fired at high angles. It is designed to launch shells over long distances—to the Indian market. 

The K9—a weapon with a special system that helps it shoot quickly—has a semi-automatic loading system that helps it fire in quick bursts. It can shoot three rounds in 30 seconds, fire intensely with 15 rounds in 3 minutes and keep a steady rate of 60 rounds in an hour. The K9 can shoot three bullets in just 30 seconds when it is firing in short bursts. 

The K9 is fitted with a 12.7mm machine gun and 500 rounds of ammunition. It is tough enough to handle fragments from 155 mm artillery shells and can resist anti-personnel mines. It has a secondary 12.7mm machine gun and carries 500 bullets for this. The vehicle is built to withstand damage from large 155mm artillery shell fragments and small landmines. 

2. Fire Control Systems  

The Vajra has a state-of-the-art digital fire control system. In Multiple Round Simultaneous Impact (MRSI) mode, it can fire several rounds so that they all hit the target area at the same time. In MRSI mode, it can shoot multiple shells in such a way that they land on the target at the same moment. 

The K9 comes equipped with a Gunner’s Primary Sight—a tool that helps the gunner aim directly at their target. Each K9 version comes fitted with night-vision. It has a thermal warning device, which sends data to the digital fire control system to help prevent the barrel from getting too hot. 

3. Crew for the K9 

The crew consists of five members—a commander, a driver, a gunner and two loaders. 

4. Platform for the K9 

The gun can move up 70 degrees and down -2.5 degrees. It can also rotate a full 360 degrees thanks to its hydraulically powered turret. 

The K9 engine is a water-cooled diesel engine with eight cylinders, made by MTU Friedrichshafen and it produces 1,000 horsepower. 

The K9 can climb over obstacles 0.75 metres high, cross trenches 2.8 metres wide and move through water 1.8 metres deep. 

Its hydro-pneumatic suspension system lets it handle a 30% side slope, climb a 60% gradient and make 360-degree turns using brake-torquing, similar to main battle tanks. It can also counter nuclear, biological and chemical threats. 

5. Induction  

The Indian Army first used the K9 in 2018. The 51st K9 was delivered in January 2019 and the 100th K9 arrived ahead of schedule on February 18, 2021. The army is in talks to order 100 more of these. The K9 Vajra was successfully deployed in Ladakh along the LAC with China. 

(The author of this article is a Defence, Aerospace & Political Analyst based in Bengaluru. He is also Director of ADD Engineering Components, India, Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany. You can reach him at: girishlinganna@gmail.com) 

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author's own and do not reflect those of DNA.

 

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