By Paolo Valpolini
The K9 Thunder self-propelled 155/52 mm howitzer developed by Hanwha in South Korea has definitely become a best seller in the SPH arena. Beside the national customer, it has been exported in 6 foreign countries, Turkey, Poland, Finland, India, Norway and Estonia, and three more potential customers are looking with interest at the South Korean product, Australia, the United Kingdom and Egypt.
The focus of the Hanwha interest in Egypt is clearly marked by the presence of a Thunder at its booth. According to information obtained by EDR On-Line, the company is in the final stage of negotiations with the Egyptian MoD, and should the contract be signed a good share of production will be carried out locally. This will include not only the assembly of the system, but also the production of some major elements. Egypt owns two production facilities capable to perform the manufacturing. At a later stage should Hanwha win other bids in the African continent, the howitzers and associated vehicles might well be produced in Egypt.
The SPH that might be provided to Egypt should be the K9A1, which is fitted with an APU, features an enhanced driver’s system, is fitted with a GPS as well as with an enhanced fire control system. The proposal to Egypt includes, beside the K9A1 self-propelled howitzer and the K10 ammunition resupply vehicle, also a third vehicle based on the K9 chassis, the K11 fire control centre. In the Republic of Korea Army the FCS role is K77 FDCV, Fire direction centre vehicle, based on the old K55 SPH chassis. For the time being the new FCS is still on computer screens, but its development should be a low risk programme as most of the components are available and well proven. Standardising all main systems of an artillery battalion on the same chassis would mean considerably reduce the logistic footprint as well as the training time of maintainers.
Hanwha is in the definition phase of the next step of the Thunder, which will bring the Korean SPH further ahead, with the introduction of a fully automated loading system, allowing to load the ammunition as well as the modular charges without human intervention, increasing the firing rate to 9-10 rounds per minute. This is a much needed move should the unmanned artillery system which programme was launched a few years ago definitely needs a full automatic loading capability.
Photo courtesy P. Valpolini