The Indian Ministry of Defense is ordering 200 155 mm self-propelled, tracked K9 Vajra howitzers for the army this year, India Today revealed.
The outlet added that the $1.3 billion defense order will be the largest ever domestically, potentially marking the beginnings of a domestic defense industrial base.
The guns will begin rolling out of the factory by 2023, with the last delivered by 2028.
The revelation comes less than a year after the manufacturer, Larsen & Toubro (L&T), handed over the last 100 K9s to the Indian Army as part of a 2017 order.
I congratulate the entire team of Larsen & Toubro for building the state-of-the-art K-9 Vajra Self Propelled Howitzer.
This is a significant contribution towards India’s defence sector and protecting the country. pic.twitter.com/9YLRjHYdFE
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 19, 2019
The army initially intended to order only one more K9 regiment (consisting of 18 guns and two spares) for the country’s plains and desert regions. However, the standoff with China led to greater demand to counter its armored divisions along the Himalayan border in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh.
The army seemed to have been enthused by the performance of the three 50-ton guns, which drove up on their own to forward areas of eastern Ladakh from Leh for trial deployment last year, India Today wrote. The platform demonstrated the independence of movement of a tank rather than requiring a vehicle and trailer for transport like similar guns, the outlet added.
L&T began manufacturing the gun — which has a range of around 50 km (31 miles) — after receiving technology from South Korea’s Hanwha Corporation.
According to the outlet, the gun was originally developed for the rugged South Korean mountains, similar to the Himalayas. However, the Indian manufacturer still had to add a “special low-temperature kit” and modify its “range tables and the software that guided the guns,” resulting in it performing “exceedingly well” in trials.