K9 Vajra v/s. T-90 MBT:-Can the K9 Vajra be compared to a tank like T-90 or any MBT?
It’s like comparing a Javelin thrower with a long distance runner . The K9 Vajra is an SPG or Self propelled gun which is mounted on an armoured Chassis nothing more, while T-90 S is a “hunter killer” tank designed to go over long distances ( 550 km and more with the fuel drums ) to destroy enemy tanks and secure objectives in a Battle . If you compare one Javelin thrower with one long distance runner , then you will see that both the individuals have a strong and a fit body , but they have very different roles to perform . Similarly the K9 Vajra is supposed to punish the enemy’s positions by firing artillery shells and rounds , while the T-90 S goes inside the enemy territory and destroys his tanks and other assets . I think that this question has been asked due to the tank like chasis of the K9 this is due to the fact that the K9 Vajra has been designed to keep up with the Armoured Formations and provide them mobile artillery support , unlike the heavy artillery guns which need to be constantly moved from one place to another via trucks , the K9 on the other hand is completely mobile and does not require a truck to pull it to the position and then again pull it back . So you see “mobility” and the ability to keep pace with the T-90 S Bhisma that’s what is comming with the K9 Vajra SPG .
● K9 Vajra SPG
There are several advantages to the Indian Army which will come with the K9 . Firstly the K9 Vajra is going to replace the old Soviet origin Gozdvika SPG presently being used by India . There are 20 K9 Vajra SPGs in the Army’s service already with another 40-50 slated to be made in India by the year 2020, the biggest thing to celebrate with the K9 is that the Indian Company Larsen and Tubro (LsT) won the Global tender floated by the South Korean firm Hanwah Techwin to manufacture these SPGs . South Korea was initially unwilling and reluctant to grant India the full transfer of technology regarding the K9 SPG , they were also not ready to agree that the Indian Army’s K9s get to fire Indian made rounds and shells . But after a series of dialogues between the two parties the desscion finally came in India’s favour .
Larsen and Tubro LsT , is to make around more than a 100 units of the K9 Vajra SPG for the Indian Army and then also export them outside to other countries as well
● Combat capabilities of the K9 Vajra
The first capability of the K9, lies in it’s mobility which I have said above, that unlike the rest of the artillery guns in currently use the K9 does not need to be towed by a truck to the frontline the K9 itself is capable of travelling to the position , firing it’s shells and then again changing it’s postion and strike the enemy from somewhere else . The second capability lies in it’s ability to fire 7 rounds in one go or MRSI ie “Multiple round simultaneous impact” the Bofors gun is capable of firing 1 round at a time , bring in the K9 and now the Army has got the capability to punish an enemy postion with 7 rounds in one go , so now just imagine the amount of firepower that a full Batallion of these guns can deliver in the field. A good part of India’s land borders are located up in the high Himalayas and artillery guns like the Bofors and the upcomming Dhanush and ATAGS cannot always be transported to those remote places , here the K9 and the new M777 come into play . The K9 is also fully capable of keeping up with Indian Army’s tank formations and will be amongst one of the key components of the IBGs or integrated battle groups . The K9 Vajra is the first major defence deal between India and South Korea with another such latest major deal being the K-30 BIHO flying tiger air defence system to replace the Soviet era Tunghuska and this India South Korea defence relationship is just warming up now and if all goes well then personally I see the K2 Black Panther tank replacing the old but reliable T-72 Ajeya currently being used by the Indian Army high up in the Himalayas Under the Army’s FRCV ( Futuristic Combat Vehicle Project) but the competition is going to be tough as the Indian Army is also very impressed by the new Russian T-14 Armata and intends to make it the replacement for the T-72 Ajeya.
● T-90 S
The Russian T-90 S is a modern version of the old Soviet era T-72 and it is probably the most used MBT in the world .After seeing how the American Abrams decimated the Iraq Army’s T-72s in the first “Operation Desert Strom” and subsequently in “Operation Iraqi Freedom” . Russia realised that how hopelessly outgunned were their T-72s in front of Western MBTs , so work began to make a newer and a better version of the Russian tank and the result is the T-90 S , M and MS that we see in front of us today . The T-90 comes armed with a 125 mm smoothbore gun , the 1A45T fire control system , smoke grenade dischargers the protection systems include a blend of steel and composite armour and most visible are the ERA plates ( KONTAKT-5 explosive reactive armour ) on board the T-90 S .
The T-90 S also come with a unique “soft kill” option or the SHTORA inflared jamming system which was designed to deflect the American made TOW Anti tank missiles and the AGM Hellfire . The SHTORA jamming system is not there with the Indian T-90 S Bhisma rather the Indian T-90 S unlike it’s Russia cousin has a number of Western and Israeli components in it as well such as the French THALES Chaternie F-C thermal sights although the Indian Army’s T-90s don’t use the SHTORA APS ( active protection system ) they are equipped with SAAB’s LEDS-150 . The Bhisma uses KONTAKT-5 K-5 ERA and the tank’s armour consists of laminated plates and ceramic layers with high tensile properties , it also has a cryogenic internal cooling system .
There’s an interesting story behind the entry of the T-90 Bhisma into the Indian Army’s service in the 1980s Pakistan who was still a Major Non NATO ally wanted the American M1A1 Abrams tank for their Army this caused a lot of problem to India’s strategic planning as large numbers of Indian Army’s tank formations were made up of the T-72s . But fortunately for India the talks for the purchase of the Abrams between USA and Paksitan “broke down” as the Pakistanis wanted the Abrams at an almost “free of cost” price. Still the Pakistanis managed to get the Ukrainian built T-80 UD .
The dangerous possibility of the M1A1 Abrams tank entering into Pakistani service and the purchase of the T-80 UD by Pakistan made India deal with the problem by a twin pronged approach first , the development of a bigger and heavier version of the Arjun MK1 to stop the U.S. made Abrams and the purchase of a Main Battle tank which would be much more superior than the T-80 UD in Pakistani service , the end result as we can see is the Arjun MK2 / MK1A ( 200 on order ) and the 21 regiments of the T-90 S , M and MS Bhisma ( comming soon ) presently in Indian service .
● Combat capabilities of the T-90 S “Bhisma”
The T-90 can also wade through a degree of deep water due to it’s oxygen tube which can be mounted atop the tank.
As the name suggests the T-90 S “Bhisma” is an MBT “tailor made” for Indian specifications the Bhisma was made by improving upon the T-90 S with both Russian , Western and some Indian components, from 2009 onwards India began to make the “Bhisma” locally at the heavy vehicles factory , Avadi , Tamil Nadu . The Bhisma is as in the case of most Russian tanks is fast and swift , very suitable for a country which is the size and physical diversity of India , the tank is manned by a crew of 3 ( Driver , Commander , Gunner ) and makes use of an “Auto Loader” mechanism to fire it’s shells , the T-90 Bhisma can rapid fire 7 rounds per minute , comes with Night fighting capabilities and probably the most important thing which is required : “Air Conditioners”
The end result is that both the K9 Vajra SPG and the T-90 S Bhisma are strong machines and will be in future an important part of Indian Army’s Integrated Battle Groups or IBGs . Their roles are completely different but still in the right hands they’ll rain hell on the enemy .