Hazira (Gujarat): India’s Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh today flagged off the 51st K9 VAJRA-T howitzers for the Indian Army manufactured by Larsen & Toubro (L&T) at its facility here, marking a success in the ‘make in India’ project for the South Korean-origin weapon system.
At the ceremony, Rajnath Singh called for active participation of the private sector in defence manufacturing, reaffirming the Narendra Modi government’s commitment to make India an arms manufacturing hub and Net defence exporter.
While Rajnath Singh acknowledged the increasing participation of the private industry in defence production, he stressed that a lot still needs to be done to make India a global defence manufacturing hub.
“Our government is open to new ideas and is determined to use the energy, entrepreneurship spirit and enterprise of the private industry in the defence sector,” he said.
He assured that the government will make all efforts to remove any roadblocks and work together to achieve the goal of indigenisation and self-reliance in the defence sector.
Rajnath Singh also listed out various far reaching reforms introduced by the government under the ‘Make in India‘ initiative to achieve a $26-billion defence industry by 2025 and provide employment to two to three million people.
“We wish to create an ecosystem that provides a platform to both public sector and private sector to work together and contribute to nation building through their strengths and experiences,” he added.
Some of the reforms highlighted by the minister include setting up of Defence Industrial Corridors in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu; simplification of industry licensing process; increase in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) cap; steps to promote defence exports; streamlining of defence offsets policy; establishing Defence Investor Cell; providing government-owned trial and testing facility to the private sector and schemes for startups and small and medium enterprises to promote innovation.
He also mentioned that the Strategic Partnership (SP) model has been introduced in the Defence Production Policy under which private sector will be able to manufacture fighter aircraft, helicopters, submarines and armoured vehicles, and emerge as global giants. Rajnath Singh commended L&T for ensuring their participation under the SP model of defence production.
Rajnath Singh expressed the satisfaction on his visit to the Armoured System Complex (ASC), saying that the facility is a strong example of ‘Naye Bharat ki Nayi Soch‘. He added that the goal of modernisation and indigenisation in defence under ‘Make in India’, conceptualised by Modi, has started to take shape.
The minister termed K9 VAJRA-T gun as the best example of ‘Make in India’ in defence. “I have been told that more than 75 per cent of K9 Vajra has been manufactured in India. Over 5,000 people have got direct employment and more than 12,500 indirect employment through this complex. It is a matter of great pride,” he said. He also congratulated L&T for delivering 51 of the 100-gun order it received for K9 Vajra ahead of schedule.
L&T Defence is currently executing the ‘K9 VAJRA-T’ 155mm 52calibre self-propelled tracked guns programme for which the contract was awarded to the company by the Ministry of Defence in May 2017 through a global competitive bidding. Worth Rs 5,000 crore ($705 million, at today’s value), this is the largest contract to an Indian private sector from the Indian defence ministry till date.
The programme involves the delivery of entire lot of the howitzers within 42 months with an associated Engineering Support Package (ESP) covering spares, documentation and training and Maintenance Transfer of Technology (MToT) to the Army Base Workshop to support the howitzer regiments throughout their life cycle.
L&T, as winner of the globally tendered project, converted it to ‘Make in India’ mode and established a new green-field manufacturing, integration and testing complex at Hazira in the state of Gujarat.
“Our defence team has once again demonstrated L&T’s engineering and execution prowess in building this most advanced weapon system to the exacting levels of quality while ensuring on time delivery. The Hazira Manufacturing Complex has set various international technology and manufacturing benchmarks and the K9 Vajra is certainly one of them,” L&T Group Chairman A. M. Naik said on the occasion.
The K9 VAJRA-T systems are being delivered with 50 per cent indigenous content by value, which includes 75 per cent indigenous work packages at the programme level and involves local production of over 13,000 components for every gun system through a supply chain of about 500 Indian Tier-1 manufacturers, with over 100 of them from the MSME segment.
“Building platform programmes like the K9 Vajra contribute to the economy with a large multiplier effect and have a significant role in building a national defence industrial base. With the experience, track record, capability and infrastructure we have built at the Armoured Systems Complex, we are ready to take on development and build India’s future armoured platforms,” L&T Board Member and Senior Executive Vice President (Defence and Smart Technologies) J. D. Patil said.
“Traction on the Strategic Partnership model is what we look forward to for building diverse and advanced weapon platforms, thereby strengthening the defence industrial ecosystem and enhancing self-reliance in national security. With delivery of the 51st Vajra howitzer today we have created industry benchmark by delivering first of class armoured systems ahead of schedule and are on track to deliver the entire 100 howitzers ahead of schedule,” he said,
L&T has put in sustained efforts and innovation in indigenising the howitzer, right from the prototype built for user evaluation trials by indigenously developing 14 critical systems, including the Fire Control System, Direct Fire System, and the Ammunition Handling System. The Gun is also equipped with other India-specific modifications for desert conditions such as Auxiliary Power Pack, Air-conditioning Systems, Fire Fighting Systems, and NBC Protection Systems, which are being indigenously produced.
L&T partnered with South Korea’s largest defence company Hanwha Corporation to adapt the K9 Thunder to realise the ‘Vajra’ variant and enable indigenous manufacturing by training a team of engineers and integration specialists at Hanwha facilities. Subsequently, this team trained the supply chain partners as well as L&T’s extended teams.
The ASC is a state-of-the-art facility to manufacture and integrate advanced armoured platforms such as Self-Propelled Artillery Howitzers, Future Infantry Combat Vehicles (FICV), Future Ready Combat Vehicles (FRCV) or Future Main Battle Tanks.
Spread over 40 acres, within L&T’s sprawling 755-acre Hazira Manufacturing Complex, the ASC comprises of high-end machinery and automation aids, feeder shops, and a full-fledged mobility Test Tracks for acceptance and qualification of armoured vehicles.