Korean mishap raises doubts over reliability of Indian Army’s future artillery gun

Local media questioned the reliability of the K-9 howitzer, a gun meant for firing shells on high trajectories, after two South Korean soldiers died in an explosion during an artillery training session in Gangwon province on Friday.

india Updated: Aug 22, 2017 22:56 IST
Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
K-9 howitzer,South Korea,Indian Army
The 155mm/52-calibre tracked self-propelled K-9 howitzer has a range of 40 km. (AP/ Pic for representational purposes only)

The death of two South Korean soldiers in a K-9 howitzer explosion three days ago has raised doubts about the performance of a Korea-origin artillery gun set to be built in India on the same platform.

The Korean media questioned the reliability of the self-propelled howitzer, a gun meant for firing shells on high trajectories, after the incident occurred during an artillery training session in Gangwon province on Friday. Five others were also injured in the explosion.

Private sector defence major Larsen & Toubro and South Korean firm Hanwha Techwin are in the process of executing a $720-million contract for supplying 100 K9 VAJRA-T guns to the Indian Army. The contract was signed on April 21, and the weaponry will be produced at Talegaon near Pune in Maharashtra. The guns are expected to be delivered in three years.

The Korea Herald reported on Monday that the Army has decided to halt training sessions with K-9 artillery until the exact cause of the explosion is identified. “According to a parliamentary inquiry in 2016, there were more than 1,700 reports of K-9 artillery malfunctioning over the past five years,” the news report said.

The 155mm/52-calibre tracked self-propelled K-9 gun has a range of 40 km.

A report in the Korea Times said securities firms were rushing to downgrade their outlook for Hanwha Techwin in the aftermath of the explosion. India is the fourth country to opt for the artillery gun, after Turkey, Poland and Finland.

“There may be something wrong with the K-9 howitzer. Regardless of the findings, the incident will certainly dampen Hanwha’s campaign to sell the weapon to foreign countries,” the Korea Times quoted an analyst as saying.

Former Army chief General Deepak Kapoor said the K-9 explosion was a cause of concern because the weaponry meant for the Indian Army would be built on the same platform. “But let’s be clear: We induct weapons only after rigorous testing in all types of conditions,” Kapoor, a former artillery officer, said.

Another Army officer said the K-9 cannot be dismissed as a “useless weapon” because of a single mishap. He added that the K9 VAJRA-T artillery guns are an improved version of the K-9 howitzer, and have been tailored to meet the Indian Army’s requirements.

First Published: Aug 22, 2017 16:04 IST