In this article, we will explain why the South Korean K9 155mm self-propelled howitzer has become so popular around the world and the success story of this new modern artillery system after the latest contracts that were announced for Australia and Egypt.
According to Army Recognition, the K9 Thunder is a South Korean 155 mm tracked self-propelled howitzer designed and developed by the Agency for Defense Development and Samsung Aerospace Industries for the Republic of Korea Armed Forces and is now manufactured by Hanwha Defense.
Currently, the K9 is the latest generation of 155mm self-propelled howitzer based on tracked armored chassis. In fact, only Russia has developed a new howitzer in the 2000s, called the 2S35 but using a 1522mm cannon. In Europe, defense companies have chosen to develop howitzers based on truck chassis according to the needs of European armies.
In the United States, the M109 is one of the most popular tracked howitzer in service in the world and was introduced in the 60s. Of course, during these last few years, it was modernized to the M109A7 version which is in service with the American army.
The K9 entered in service with the South Korean armed forces in 1999, so it is the newest howitzer in its class. Today, the K9 represents 50% of the global tracked howitzer military market and is now in service with seven countries including South Korea, Turkey, Poland, India, Finland, Norway, and Estonia. In December 2021, Hanwha Defense has announced a contract for the delivery of K9 howitzer to Australia. And in early February of this year, Hanwha Defense has signed a very important deal to export its K9 self-propelled howitzers and other artillery support vehicles to Egypt.
According to Hanwha Defense, the K9 was developed and designed based on the latest South Korean defense technologies, and today, the K9 Thunder is the world’s most advanced self-propelled howitzer. it is equipped with a Modular Azimuth Position System (MAPS), an automatic fire-control system (AFCS), a powered gun elevation/depression and a turret traverse system.
The K9 is armed with one 155mm / 52 caliber gun which has a burst rate of fire of three rounds per 15 seconds and a maximum rate of fire of six to eight rounds per minute during three minutes. The gun’s firing is controlled by onboard fire-control equipment. The information can be transmitted through a data digital radio link or voice communications. The automatic loading system places the projectiles onto the ammunition tray ready for the fire. The K9 Thunder can open fire within 30 seconds at stand-out position or within 60 seconds during movement.
The K9 is able to fire all the standard 155mm ammunition with a maximum firing range of 30 km and can destroy land targets at a maximum range of 40 km using extended range ammunition.
The K9 Thunder has an all-welded steel hull and turret with a maximum thickness of 19 mm. It provides protection from the firing of small arms and artillery shell fragments.
Hanwha defense continues to develop and modernize the K9 with now the A1 and A2 versions. The K9A1 has many improvements including an automatic fire control system, driver’s night periscope, and auxiliary power system for enhanced efficiency. The improved K9A1 provides increased range, fast fire rate, and higher mobility during day and night times.
Hanwha Defense has also developed the K9A2 which is an advanced version of the K9 specially designed for the British army Mobile Fire Platform program to replace the old AS90 155mm howitzer that was first deployed by the British Army in 1993.