A K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer of Hanwha Defense is on the move in an event to mark the production of 24 K9 howitzers bound for Poland at the company’s factory in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province on Oct. 19. Photo courtesy of Hanwha Defense

Korea’s top defense company expanding partnership with Poland

South Korea’s Hanwha Defense announced on Oct. 19 that it had rolled out an initial batch of 24 K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers (SPHs) to be sent to Poland as part of the first executive contract signed in mid-August.

The roll-out ceremony was held at Hanwha Defense’s Factory 1 in Changwon, some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul.

Hanwha Defense noted that the production proved its robust capacity to supply customers with the best-quality products at the right time since the roll-out of 24 K9PL howitzers was taken just less than two months after signing the executive contract to provide hundreds of K9 SPHs by 2026.

Under the Framework Contract, hundreds of K9 SPHs will also be manufactured in Poland for years from 2026.

About 150 distinguished guests gathered at the ceremony with the attendance of high-ranking officials from the two countries, including Eom Dong-hwan, Minister of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration; Lieutenant General Eom Yong-jin, commander of the ROK Army Logistics Command; Major General Maciej Jabłoński, Polish Army Inspector of the Land Forces; and Piotr Ostaszewski, Polish Ambassador to South Korea.

During the event, all the 24 K9PL vehicles were lined up on the site, while a K9PL led the parade of advanced combat vehicles built by Hanwha Defense, including K10 Ammunition Resupply Vehicle; K77 Fire Direction Center Vehicle; K21 Infantry Fighting Vehicle; Korean Amphibious Assault Vehicle; and Arion-SMET Unmanned Ground Vehicle.

On top of these ground vehicles, Hanwha’s guided missiles and aerospace engines were on display, showcasing the company’s wider range of defense capabilities through the upcoming merger of defense and aerospace affiliates of Hanwha Group.

Commitment to meeting Poland’s requests

“Today’s roll-out of K9PL Self-Propelled Howitzers represents our firm commitment to satisfying the needs of Poland,” Hanwha Defense Executive Vice President Lee Boo-hwan said.

“We are very confident about our strong production capacity to deliver the best-quality products on time.”

The 155mm/52-calibre K9 Thunder is one of the world’s most popular tracked self-propelled guns with over 1,700 units are already in service with nine countries, according to Hanwha Defense.

The howitzer can deliver consistent, accurate, rapid effects at a +40km range with high rates and volumes of fire. In particular, the K9 is optimized for the “Shoot-and-Scoot” capability to fire multiple rounds and immediately move to a different location to avoid potential counter-fire.

The K9PL is based on the K9A1 variant that features improvements such as automatic fire control, driver night vision periscopes, and auxiliary power units.

Hanwha plans to upgrade the K9A1 to the A2 version equipped with a fully automatic ammunition handling system. The autoloading K9A2 can fire over nine rounds per minute with just three crewmembers.

“Hanwha will be the best and most reliable partner for Poland, contributing to the Polish defense capability and industry growth,” Hanwha Defense CEO Son Jaeil said.

“Moreover, we will take the lead in the globalization of South Korean weapons systems and continue efforts to develop global top-class defense products to meet the expectations of our customers around the globe.”

The publisher studied Korean history in Seoul and management of business administration in the United Kingdom. He has 20-year experiences in the media business. Kim can be reached at voc200@gmail.com or 82-2-6956-6698.