Indian Army: Indian Army gets new teeth, K9 Vajra, M777 howitzers inducted


NEW DELHI: The Indian Army has received the first batch of its new artillery weapons, in the presence of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Army Chief Bipin Rawat, at Devlali Field Firing Ranges in Maharashtra on Friday. The artillery gun systems include the M777 American Ultra Light Howitzers, K9 Vajra, and a ‘Composite Gun Tractor’ for towing some existing guns in service.

The artillery modernisation plan has been moving at a slow pace since the last couple of decades but it picked up pace when the Indian Army issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for 100 155mm / 52-calibre SP gun programme in 2011. More than three decades have passed since a modern artillery system was inducted by the army, the last being the Bofors FH77B02 in 1987.

“The Indian Army is receiving an extremely reliable and battle-proven artillery platform,” Joe Senftle, vice president and general manager of BAE Systems’ weapon systems business , said while attending the event. “The M777 brings a new level of capability to the artillery unit by offering rapid deployment and extreme accuracy. It can operate in areas that are difficult to access and is also very easy to maintain.”

As reported by ET in June last year, the ministry of defence concluded negotiations with Larsen & Toubro for the new mobile artillery guns that will be deployed along the western border to take on a Pakistani battlefield edge on the back of artillery guns supplied by the US. In 2009, Pakistan had acquired 115 of the US supplied M 109A5 cannons as a ‘reward’ for its assistance on the war on the Afghanistan border.

K9 Vajra
The K9 VAJRA-T 155mm/ 52 is a tracked self-propelled howitzer, which has its roots in the K9 Thunder, the mainstay of the South Korean Army. The Vajra offers a high rate of fire at a long range and is compatible with Indian and standard NATO ammunition.

The K9 Thunder platform is made of all-welded steel armour protection material. The design incorporates a Modular Azimuth Position System (MAPS), an automatic fire-control system (AFCS), a powered gun elevation / depression and a turret traverse system. The hydro-pneumatic suspension system provides high-ground clearance and mobility across different terrains.

The primary weapon of the K9 Thunder platform is the 155mm / 52 calibre gun. While the weapon platform has the ability to fire a standard M107 high-explosive (HE) projectile, no word is out about India specific changes, or if any have been made.

L&T, supported by South Korean technology partner Hanwha Tech Win (HTW), had bid for this ‘Buy Global’ acquisition programme of the defence ministry in 2011. It beat three others to emerge as the sole qualified bidder after a series of user trials and evaluations, based on the performance of the K9 Vajra self-propelled howitzer.

The first ten K9 Vajra guns have been imported from Hanwha Techwin of South Korea in Semi Knocked Down state and have been assemble by L&T in India. The balance 90 guns will be largely manufactured in the country.


The M777 howitzers were ordered under a government-to-government deal with the US, and the $700 million mountain gun deal was signed in November 2016. One of the lightest guns that has seen active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, the M 777 will be deployed on the high altitude borders with China and Pakistan and is especially useful with the Chinook helicopters that can transport them quickly.

The 155mm, 39 Calibre Ultra light Howitzers have been procured from USA under Government to Government Foreign Military Sales and will be assembled in India by BAE Systems in partnership with Mahindra Defence.

“This is a landmark event with the first M777s being delivered to the Indian Army. It is a product of our long-standing business partnership with BAE Systems,” said SP Shukla, Group President – Aerospace & Defence Sector, Mahindra Group, and Chairman – Mahindra Defence Systems. “In this program each of the M777 howitzers have value addition from Mahindra Defence. I believe that this is the first step towards Make-in-India with much bigger programs to follow.”

“The M777 ULH is more than a very effective piece of artillery technology,” said Nik Khanna, managing director India, BAE Systems . “With the M777 program, BAE Systems has made the first step of our substantive Make-in-India commitment, which includes our pledge to develop a network of Indian suppliers for our global supply chain and deepen our relationship with industry in India. We are committed to a strong and collaborative working relationship between BAE Systems, the Indian Armed Forces and Indian industry.”

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