Larsen & Toubro will manufacture a version of the K9 Thunder for the Indian Army. Source: Samsung Techwin
India's Ministry of Defence (MoD) has shortlisted the Samsung Techwin K9 Thunder 155 mm/52-calibre self-propelled tracked (SPT) howitzer for the Indian Army's long-delayed USD800 million tender for 100 such guns.

Official sources said the selection in late September followed desert and high altitude trials in 2013 and early 2014, in which the K-9 bested Russia's MSTA-SP (2S19) gun modified to 155/52 standards and mounted on a T-72 tank chassis.

Senior artillery officers told IHS Jane's that the K9 outperformed the Russian gun in operational mobility, speed, accuracy, and overall rate of fire.

The guns endured a further round of maintenance acceptability trials in mid-2014 undertaken by the Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers and the Directorate General of Quality Assurance.

The MoD is now expected to open negotiations with the South Korean government in 2016 for Samsung-Techwin to supply kits to its local private-sector partner Larsen & Toubro (L&T) for assembly at its Pune facility.

The option of L&T licence building the K9s - to be acquired under the 'Buy and Make' category of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) - at a later stage is also under consideration.

Industry sources indicated that negotiations for the K9 could well be conducted under the forthcoming DPP, which is being prepared for publication.

The army's SPT howitzer programme suffered a major setback in 2005 when the MoD banned South Africa's Denel, which had successfully developed the Bhim SPT in the late 1990s by mating its T-6 155/52 turret to the chassis of a locally designed Arjun tank, over alleged wrongdoing in a separate contract to supply the Indian Army with 400 anti-materiel rifles.

The ban was lifted in 2014 after the Central Bureau of Investigation was unable to prove any wrongdoing, but it was too late to resurrect Bhim.

The Indian Army has outlined a SPT howitzer requirement for over two decades, aimed at countering the Pakistan Army's 150-odd US-supplied M109A2/3 self-propelled howitzers