Rolling out big guns: Two big shows for ‘Make in India’Sep 10,2018 SOURCE: The Economic Times
With elections fast approaching and questions being raised on the success of the ‘Make in India’ initiative, at least two major induction ceremonies are planned over the next month to roll in the big guns for the Army. One function is planned in Gujarat, where the K 9 ‘Vajra’ self-propelled artillery guns are being made while talks are on for a possible joint firing exercise with the M 777 ultra-light howitz ers at a range in Maharashtra, sources familiar with developments told ET. The ‘Vajra’, a 155 mm howitzer ordered by the Indian Army in April 2017 after a global competition that was won by Larsen and Toubro, is likely to be handed over at a formal ceremony at the new Hazira facility over the next few weeks. The guns are being made in India with a partnership with Hanwha Techwin of South Korea with an initial order of 100 that is valued at Rs 4500 cr. The ‘shoot and scoot’ gun, will be deployed along the western border to take on a Pakistani battlefield edge in mobile artillery. In 2009, Pakistan had acquired 115 of the US supplied M 109A5 cannons as a ‘reward’ for its assistance on the war on the Afghanistan border which will be countered by the Vajra. While it is of South Korean origin, the gun would have over 50% indigenous content and could be ordered in much larger number by the Army, besides being a competitive export option as well. The order is special as it was won by L&T in a global competition against a Russian company where no special concessions were given to the Indian corporate. Another function likely within the next month is the handing over of the M 777 howitzers that were ordered under a government-to-government deal with the US. The $700 m mountain gun deal was signed in November 2016. One of the lightest guns that has seen active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, the M 777 will be deployed on the high altitude borders with China and Pakistan and is especially useful with the Chinook helicopters that can transport them quickly. Sources said that one of the plans being discussed is for a joint firing of the M 777 and the Vajra at a function at the Deolali range that could symbolise the induction of the guns into the Indian Army.