Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh at the Armoured Systems Complex, L&T Hazira in Surat, on Thursday. (Express photo by Hanif Malek)
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday said the government has set a target of achieving a turnover of USD 26 billion by 2025 in defence production as India cannot remain dependent on arms import forever.
The government has taken several steps to support the private sector to boost indigenous defence manufacturing, Singh said after flagging off the 51st K-9 Vajra-T gun at the Larsen and Toubro’s (L&T) Armoured Systems Complex at Hazira here in Gujarat.
Addressing the gathering, the Defence Minister said, “India cannot remain dependent on arms import. We have set a target of achieving a turnover of USD 26 billion by 2025 in the defence production. This involves an investment of USD 10 billion in this sector and generation of 2-3 million employment opportunities.”
L&T Defence is executing the ‘K9 VAJRA-T’ 155mm/52 calibre-tracked, self-propelled, howitzer guns programme. The engineering conglomerate, which had won the contract to deliver 100 such howitzer guns, has already delivered 50 units to the Indian Army ahead of deadline, while on Thursday it handed over the 51st gun, the company said in a release.
“The country is becoming self-dependent in defence manufacturing with Make in India taking shape. This is the best example of new India’s new thought... India will become an arms manufacturing hub in the coming days. The K9 VAJRA -T guns had been inducted into the Indian Army. A few days ago, the successful test trial fire demonstrations of K9 VAJRA-T guns was done at Rajasthan. This is the best example in defence manufacturing in the private sector. Earlier, nobody had imagined of such a possibility in the private sector and even permission and motivation was not given to those who thought about it. As a result, defence sector was not able to work on it,” he added.
Listing various steps taken by the Modi government to boost indigenous defence manufacturing, Singh said, “Our government has taken several steps to change this scenario and make India not only self-reliant, but also a net exporter. We have streamlined the defence offset policy and we will make more improvements in it.”
Before the launch ceremony, Singh sat in the vehicle on which the gun was mounted and was driven around the Hazira complex. He witnessed a demonstration of the weapon in the testing area. The K9 VAJRA-T gun was unveiled at Independence Day parade in New Delhi in 2019. “Over 80% of the parts used in K9 VAJRA are made in India and over 12,000 people are directly employed. A lot of hard work is needed to make India a defence manufacturing hub. All the obstacles on the way will be removed...” Singh said.
Claiming that the target of USD 26 billion till 2025 employ two lakh people, the Minister said both the government and private sector will work together on it. “We have made defence licence simplified...Two defence corridors have been formed with a target of manufacturing 5,000 components till 2024. A defence investors’ cell has also been set up.”
The L&T company had in 2007, bagged the contract of Rs 4,500 crore, from the defence ministry for the manufacture of 100 units if K9 VAJRA-T howitzer guns. L&T signed a contract with South Korean company Hanwha Corporation for transfer of technology. L&T group chairman A M Naik said, “The Hazira L&T complex has set international manufacturing benchmarks, and K9 Vajra is one of them.”
L&T board member and senior EVP JD Patil (Defence & Smart Technologies) said, “With the delivery of 51st howitzer, we have created a benchmark by delivering first of class armoured systems ahead of schedule. We are also on track to deliver the entire 100 howitzers ahead of schedule.”
The hi-tech gun is also equipped with other India specific modifications for desert conditions such as an auxiliary power pack, air-conditioning systems, fire fighting systems, and NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) protection systems, an L&T release said.