Prime Minister Narendra Modi on board a K9 self-propelled howitzer

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday inaugurated a unit of Larsen & Toubro (L&T) at Hazira in Surat that will manufacture the K9 Vajra 155mm self-propelled howitzer (SPH) for the Indian Army.

Modi also climbed atop a K9 vehicle, which appears similar to a tank, as it was being driven at the plant. Modi tweeted a short video of his ride, writing “Checking out the tanks at L&T’s Armoured Systems Complex in Hazira.” Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was also present with Modi at the inauguration of the new L&T unit.

The K9 Vajra is a derivative of the South Korean-designed 'Thunder' SPH. In 2017, L&T, in cooperation with South Korean company Hanwha Land Systems, won a contract valued at Rs 4,500 crore to supply K9 guns to the Indian Army. The Indian Army had struggled to buy howitzers for decades, as a result of the experience with the Bofors scam. The Indian Army had evaluated weapons from across the world including South Africa, Israel and various European countries before selecting the K9 SPH.

The K9 Vajra is expected to play a major role in boosting the punch of the Indian Army's artillery capabilities as SPHs are capable of moving in step with armoured formations.

In November last year, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman inducted the K9 Vajra and the US-built M777 155mm towed gun system into Indian Army service. The M777 will be built by Mahindra, in partnership with BAE Systems.

The Armoured Systems Complex that will manufacture the K9 in Hazira has been described by officials as being the first such facility built by the country's private sector.