L&T to build guns in Hazira, partnering Korean company, Hanwha Techwin
By Ajai Shukla
On Friday, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) cleared the Rs 4,500 crore acquisition of 100 tracked, self-propelled guns that will be manufactured in India by Larsen & Toubro (L&T), in partnership with South Korea’s Hanwha Techwin (formerly Samsung Techwin).
This acquisition proposal, which the army regards as crucial for equipping its strike corps with tracked guns that can keep pace with fast armoured spearheads, had already come up before the CCS on Wednesday. However, the matter was postponed because of a lack of quorum --- the minimum required five ministers were not present at the meeting.
Now, with the CCS sanction accorded today, L&T executives tell Business Standard they expect the contract to be signed within a fortnight.
L&T and Hanwha Techwin will gain approximately 50 per cent each of the contract. The guns are required to be delivered in 42 months from the contract, which includes an options clause for an additional 50 guns.
To build the guns, L&T plans to set up a new manufacturing line at its major unit in Hazira. However, until that gears up for production, the L&T facility at Talegaon, outside Pune, will build the gun.
The K-9 Vajra, as the gun is called, consists of a 155-millimetre, 52 calibre gun, mounted on a tracked vehicle. A five-person crew drives and fires the K-9, shooting projectiles out to ranges up to 42 kilometres. The gun system has an automatic loader and a computerized fire control system.
The armoured chassis, on which the gun is mounted, protects the crew from shrapnel and small arms fire. It is powered by the reliable German MTU 1,000 Horse Power engine, which carries the vehicle cross country at speeds up to 45 kilometres per hour.
Modern artillery has long been a key equipment weakness in the army. While L&T builds the K-9 Vajra under the “Buy Global” category of the Defence Procurement Procedure; a separate project --- headed by the Defence R&D Organisation, with leading roles played by Bharat Forge and Tata Power (SED) --- is building the so-called Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS), which is designed to meet the firepower requirement of infantry formations.
In addition, the Ordnance Factory Board is likely to build 114 Dhanush guns, which are smaller, 155 millimetre, 45 calibre weapons. These are an upgunned version of the FH-77 Bofors 155 millimetre, 39 calibre howitzers.
A separate contract was signed last year with BAE Incorporated, USA for the supply of 145 ultralight howitzers. That will be assembled in India by the Mahindra Group, from components sources from mainly US suppliers.