The All India Defence Employees’ Federation (AIDEF) has written to the Defence Minister requesting the government to review its decision to buy substandard South Korean howitzer guns instead of indigenously manufactured howitzer guns.
The Ministry of Defence had decided to order ‘K-9 Thunder’ Howitzers from South Korea through L&T.
According to the AIDEF, the K-9 Thunder, developed by the South Korean company Hanwha Techwin (earlier named Samsung Techwin), is a "substandard" gun.
Two South Korean soldiers were killed recently during the trial of this gun, and the trust-worthiness of the gun has been questioned by many, including the South Korean media. A Parliamentary enquiry in 2016 said that there were over 1700 reports of malfunctioning of this gun over the previous five years.
The South Korean Army has decided to halt exercising with the K-9, pending an enquiry into the explosion of the self-propelled howitzer that killed two soldiers and injured five others.
“For reasons unknown, there was smoke inside the howitzer’s breach block assembly,” a South Korean army official told The Korea Herald. “According to our on-site investigation, three rounds of explosive were completely burned down without any trace.”
India's Ministry of Defence entered into a Rs 4,366 crore contract in April 2017 with L&T for the supply of 100 K-9 Howitzers in collaboration with Hanwha Techwin, the South Korean technology partner of L&T.
The AIDEF said in its letter to Arun Jaitley that it failed to understand why the Dhanush Gun, which was indigenously developed by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) was being sidelined by the Indian Army and the Ministry of Defence.
The Dhanush Gun has successfully completed 3700 rounds of firing in the trial. There was a recent incident of a shell heating the muzzle brake, but according to the Indian defence workforce, the defect can be rectified by minor changes in the design – by increasing the diameter of the muzzle, for instance, said the letter signed by C Srikumar, General Secretary of AIDEF.
The AIDEF said that the reliability of the Artillery Gun System has been thrown into doubt by the decision to induct K-9 howitzers.
"The Government of India which is very keen about "indigenisation", "Make in India", "Level Playing Field" etc. should have taken a positive approach towards the indigenously built Dhanush - the 155 mm Artillery Gun, rather than purchasing the substandard Korean K-9 Gun which the Korean Army itself has reported to have rejected and refused to carry out further trials after two of its Soldiers were killed.”
The letter requests the intervention of the Defence Minister to reconsider the order placed to procure the South Korean gun through L&T, and to procure the indigenously developed Dhanush Artillery Gun from the Ordinance Factory Board after making necessary changes in the design.