As the India-China disengagement process is yet to be completed and the threat of war still looms large, South Korean firm Hanwha Defense has offered its K21-105 to the Indian Army, with lucrative partnership options including indigenous production, according to reports.
During the standoff with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in Ladakh last year, the Indian Army had deployed its vast armored fleet in the region comprising T-90 and T-72 CIA (Combat Improved Ajeya) tanks.
These heavy tanks had to be airlifted to the forward locations by Indian Air Force aircraft. In contrast, the PLA mobilized its Type 15/ VT-5 light tanks in the area, which provided better mobility and maneuverability in the complex terrain.
However, the VT-5’s lighter 105mm main cannon could do less damage to a modern Main Battle Tank and could be easily outpowered by the Indian T-90s and T-72CIAs in a head-on firefight.
The VT-5s were designed with the assumption that they are less likely to encounter heavy Indian tanks at such high altitudes but the Indian Army surprised the PLA.
Still, employing these costly assets to the frontline posed several logistical issues. Thus, the need for a lighter tank was acutely felt. The Indian Army thus floated a Request for Information (RFI) in April to acquire 350 light tanks for deployment in assorted terrain.
Amid speculations that the service will procure Russian Sprut Light Tanks, the South Korean defense manufacturer Hanwha told Janes about their proposal to the Indian Army. Notably, Hanwha is already in collaboration with the Indian company Larsen & Toubro to manufacture K-9 Vajra self-propelled howitzer artillery pieces.
A spokesperson from Hanwha Defense said, “Hanwha Defense is willing to offer its K21-105 Light Tank solution for Indian Army requirement, and we would also be pleased to offer K21-105 Light Tank to Indian Army as ‘Make in India’ product,” Janes reported.
Hanwha’s K21-105 Tanks
Developed originally from the K21 infantry fighting vehicle, the K21-105 is armed with a 105mm rifled cannon turret capable of firing standard NATO ammunition and newly developed smart ammunition with a max direct fire range of 4 km.
Its gun can also fire the Ukrainian-designed laser-guided Falarick 105 GLATGM, which has a range of 5 km (3.1 mi) and a tandem warhead capable of penetrating 550 mm (22 in) of armor behind ERA.
The vehicle weighs around 25 tons and is cheaper and easier to produce than most conventional main battle tanks with the advantage of superior maneuverability. K21-105 is also amphibious, a requirement the Indian Army seems to prefer, making it easier for the armored columns to cover natural barriers like rivers or lakes, improving the overall combat effectiveness.