Engineering conglomerate Larsen and Toubro inked a deal with South Korean defence major Hanwha Techwin (HTW) on Friday to jointly manufacture over 100 self- propelled howitzers for Indian Army at a cost of nearly Rs 4,500 crore. The first batch of the 155mm/52 Cal Tracked Self Propelled (SP) gun -- K9 VAJRA-T -- will be delivered later this year and the entire supply will be made within a span of 42 months. While 10 guns will be directly brought from South Korea, 90 will be manufactured in L&T's Strategic Systems Complex in Talegaon near Pune. The K9 VAJRA-T gun is an enhanced version of HTW's K9 Thunder which is known as one of the best performing self- propelled howitzers in the world. At a function to sign the deal, South Korea's Minister for Defence Acquisition Chang Myoung Jin said his country would like to significantly expand defence ties with India as envisaged during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Seoul in 2015. "Today, we have taken our defence partnership to a new high," he said. Jayant Patil, Head of Defence and Aerospace at L&T, said the programme has set a new benchmark in co-development and co-production of defence systems by Indian private sector defence players and foreign majors. "This contract marks an important milestone in L&T's defence business journey and in our relationship with Hanwha Techwin.
It will create synergies not only for this programme but also for upcoming Indian and global programmes," said Patil. He did not rule out exporting K9 VAJRA-T to other countries. L&T also has initiated the process for setting up a greenfield manufacturing line at Gujrat's Hazira to produce K9 VAJRA-T guns. Patil said L&T will not only manufacture K9 VAJRA-T in India, with over 50 per cent indigenous content, but also provide life support to the army with the weapon. L&T said the contract is a result of nearly a decade long close relationship and joint efforts of the two companies on the programme, through extensive user evaluation and field trials followed by contract negotiations with the Ministry of Defence. Addressing the gathering, South Korean envoy Cho Hyun said a new government will assume charge in South Korea by early May and hoped defence ties between India and his country will deepen further. He also referred to the latest nuclear test by North Korea, saying his country has a troubled neighbour due to which South Korea has to focus majorly on defence preparedness.