L&T, South Korean firm team up for artillery gun

New Delhi: Indian engineering major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and Hanwha Techwin (HTW) of South Korea on Friday signed a contract to provide the Indian Army with 155 mm mobile artillery guns.

After successful completion of the trials for 155mm/52 calibre Tracked Self-Propelled (SP) Gun programme by the Army, L&T was declared the sole qualified bidder based on the performance of its K9 VAJRA-T. The gun is an enhanced version of HTW’s K9 Thunder with modifications for desert operations.

Generally, artillery guns are towed by trucks but self-propelled guns are either mounted on a wheeled or tracked chasis, allowing them to move on their own. Jayant Patil, Head of Defence and Aerospace, L&T, said: “This contract marks an important milestone in L&T’s Defence Business journey and in our relationship with Hanwha Techwin.

“L&T plans to begin production of this vital weapon system at its Strategic Systems Complex at Talegaon near Pune and deliver the first batch of 10 guns. “L&T also has initiated setting up of a greenfield manufacturing line at Hazira, Gujarat, integral with a state-of-the-art test track, to produce, test and qualify the K9 VAJRA-T guns,” he added.

The Indian Army in 2011 came up with a Request for Proposal (RFP) under Buy (Global) category for 100 155mm/52 calibre Tracked Self Propelled (SP) Gun programme. The contract is expected to cost Rs 4,500 crore to government.

Speaking on the indigenous content in the gun system, Patil said, “Most of the system of this gun will be done here. But there are some parts that we will not even attempt. Hundred gun is too small a scale to do something phenomenal.” “The basic armament, the barrel, the beach, the muzzle will always be imported for all the guns. L&T has the ability to make that through the massive forging plant that we have at our own nuclear programme.”

The engine will be imported. “The hull, the turret, electronics, Fire control systems, auto loaders are indigenous. The human specific systems such as air conditioning, NBC systems and direct fire system among others are indigenous. The value is close to equitable,” he said discussing L&T contribution in the system.

In 2013, field trials for the guns were conducted at Pokhran. In September 2015, L&T was declared the only company to qualify in trials. First ten systems will be imported from South Korea and rest 90 will be manufactured in India at the Hazira facility. As per the contract requirements, the first gun is required to be delivered within 18 months, but L&T feels it can supply the first gun within this financial year.

Speaking on the special capability of this gun system, Patil said, “It is fitted out with a system that can see through night as well. What most artilleries in the world do not do is a direct line of sight, what a battle tank does.” “We can use this gun not only for indirect fire up to 43-44 km but for four km line of site to hit a bunker,” he added.

Addressing the event the South Korean Ambassador to India, Cho Hyun said, “In early May we will have a new government. Our economy is going to be stronger.”

Speaking on the threat from North Korea, he called for a deepening cooperation between the two nations using each others’ strength. The contract between the Indian Army and L&T is expected to be signed soon. The gun has 50 per cent Indian content.