Indigenous K-9 Vajra, India’s answer to Pakistan’s M109A5

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Credits to Owners

During the 1980’s, one single scam caused a slowdown in Indian Army’s modernization that it dragged back the army of the necessary boost. The ‘Bofors Scandal‘ did something to the circle which encircled the whole of defence industry so much damage, no major artillery system procurement was done for three decades. Yes, you read that right for three decades our army was fighting the wars with outdated equipment.

Indian Army is finally recovering from the slowdown, with the recent induction and trials of American made M777 Ultra Light-Howitzer (ULH) happening in full swing. These advanced ULHs are particularly for deployment along regions bordering the Chinese. With a maximum range of 30km, these howitzers are towed to the firing site and quickly readied for fast firing.

M777 howitzers in action, Credits to Owners

The M777s being very light can be easily transported and quickly deployed giving an upper hand over the enemy while carrying out defensive strategies. But when you need to quickly change positions after delivering few rounds, it gets pretty sluggish for the M777 or any other conventional howitzers. The howitzer must be configured back to its tow position, attached to a truck or airlifted to a new position. If the new firing position is very treacherous for the towed ones. Airlifts are the only option but during a war, logistics could be unavailable at the very right moment.

So, engineers thought, if these howitzers could move. And came an entirely new class of howitzers, -‘Self Propelled Howitzers’ or SPHs. These are basically heavy artillery mounted on a high mobility chassis usually cat-tracked to move swiftly across the battlefield.

K-9 ‘Vajra’: After decades-long requests and pressurising the Government, Indian Army is taking delivery of its first ‘SPHs’, the ‘K-9 VAJRA’. The call for new artillery was in cards since Kargil War and escalated when the Americans gifted Pakistan 115 of the very famous M 109A5 SPHs for its assistance in the war on the Afghanistan border. Since then, Indian Army was sure to get their hands on some serious firepower. Finally, during 2015, after years-long tests and trials, the competition to supply the Indian Army with 100 SPHs was narrowed down to just two.

K-9 Vajra at production line in L&T’s Hazira Factory, Gujarat. Source: L&T Defence

Larsen&Toubro with Hanwha Techwin (formerly Samsung Techwin) fielded the ‘K-9 Thunder’ and the Russian Uraltransmash fielding its ‘2S19 Msta’. After rigorous firing trials and eval, the lot went to the ‘K-9’. The decision wasn’t very surprising as the K-9 nearly dominated over the Russian in many parameters tested out like firing rate, range, support systems etc.

MORE ABOUT THE K-9

The K9 Thunder is a 155mm / 52 calibre self-propelled howitzer developed by Hanwha Techwin. It would be built in India under license by L&T. The system provides rapid firing coupled with high mobility in all kinds of theatres.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

  • Manufacturer: Hanwha Techwin formerly Samsung Techwin
Weight 47 tonnes (K9)
Length 12 m
Width 3.4 m
Height 2.73 m
Crew 5 (Commander, Driver, Gunner, 2 Loaders)
  • Design features: The platform is composed of all-welded steel armour protection material. Incorporating Modular Azimuth Position System (MAPS), an automatic fire-control system (AFCS), a powered gun elevation/depression and a turret traverse system. The mobility and high ground clearance are provided by the hydro-pneumatic suspension system.
  • Armament: The system supports standard 155mm rounds.

MAIN ARMAMENT: 52 cal (155mm howitzer).

With maximum firing range varying from

  1. 30,000m (HE-High Explosive)
  2. 38,000 m (DP-ICM base-bleed)
  3. 41,600 m (K307 Drag reduction. Extended range full-bore base-bleed)
  4. 52–56,000 m (K315. BB+RAP{Rocket Assisted Projectile }extended range)

SECONDARY ARMAMENT: 12.7 mm (.50 calibre) K6 HMG

  • Fire Control: The gun’s firing is controlled by onboard fire-control equipment. The loading is completely automated and it can fire rounds at about three rounds per 15 seconds and a maximum rate of fire of six to eight rounds a minute for three minutes. It can open fire within 30 seconds at stand out position or within 60 seconds during movement
  • Armour: its welded steel construction protects crew and on-board equipment against the 155mm shell fragments, 14.5mm armour piercing shells and anti-personnel mines. There is onboard air purification system and gas masks are provided for NBC warfare.
K10 Ammunition Resupply Vehile
  • Support vehicle: The K-9 is supported by K-10 automatic ammunition re-supply vehicle (ARV) built on the K9 platform. The K10 ARV can automatically transfer 12 rounds per minute through a conveyor belt and each K-10 unit can support two K-9 units and can carry 109 rounds of ammunition.
  • Powerplant: Powered by a MTU MT 881 Ka-500 8-cylinder water cooled diesel engine coupled to the Allison ATDX1100-5A3 transmission which develops a power output of 1,000HP with a power-to-weight ratio of 21.6hp/t. The system is capable of acheiving top sppeds of 67kmph and an operational range of over 400km.

In all K-9 is huge boost to the under powered artillery support of Indian Army. With the addition of K-9, Indian Army is hopeful of acheiving supremacy in against the Pakistani side as initial info suggests that the K-9 would be fielded in the North Western regions bordering Pakistan.