|Place of origin||South Korea|
|In service||1999 – present|
|Used by||See Operators|
|Designer||Samsung Techwin, Agency for Defense Development|
|Manufacturer||Hanwha Techwin (formerly Samsung Techwin)|
|Unit cost||$3.9 million|
|Weight||47 tonnes (K9)|
|Crew||5 (Commander, Driver, Gunner, 2 Loaders)|
|Maximum firing range||30,000 m (HE)
38,000 m (DP-ICM base bleed)
41,600 m (Extended range full-bore-base)
52–56,000 m (BB+RAP extended range)
|52 cal (155mm howitzer)|
|12.7 mm (.50 caliber) K6 HMG|
|Engine||MTU MT 881 Ka-500 8-cylinder water-cooled diesel
|Transmission||S&T Dynamics X1100-5A3|
The K9 Thunder is a South Korean self-propelled 155 mm howitzer developed by Samsung Techwin for the Republic of Korea Armed Forces. It was developed to supplement and then replace the K55 self-propelled howitzers in South Korean service. K9 howitzers operate in groups with the K10 automatic ammunition resupply vehicle.
The development program of this 155 mm/52-caliber self-propelled howitzer has been underway since 1989. In 1996, the first prototype of this new artillery system was tested. The contract for the new K9 artillery system was awarded to Samsung Aerospace Industries (SSA) by the Korean Government on 22 December 1998. The Republic of Korea Army received its first batch of K9 in 1999.
The K9 Thunder saw the first combat during the Bombardment of Yeonpyeong on November 23, 2010. Six ROKMC howitzers engaged against the surprise attack from the North Korean artillery. Prior to the battle, the howitzers returned from a scheduled firing exercise, using most of the shells stored within the howitzer. In addition, one howitzer experienced a problem during the exercise that a shell became stuck in the barrel, disabling it. Two units received slight damage to their firing control systems during the initial North Korean attack, meaning only three out of the six units were able to counterattack. Eventually, the howitzer that had barrel problems joined the second counterattack after receiving field repairs. The K9s fought back in the ratio of shooting one shell every one minute and 30 seconds, because the marines had to carry the shells from the armory and manually load the howitzer under heavy fire after exhausting B/L rounds.
K9 is an indigenous system of an all-welded steel armour construction which is rated to withstand 14.5 mm armour piercing rounds, 152 mm shell fragments, and anti-personnel mines. The main armament consists of a 155 mm/52 caliber ordnance with a maximum firing range of 40 km; the K307 BB-HE projectile propelled by the K676 top charge has a muzzle velocity of 928 m/s (3,040 ft/s). State-of-the-art mobility subsystems include a 1,000 horsepower (750 kW) engine with potential for growth and hydropneumatic suspension unit, a requirement for Korea's rugged mountainous terrain.
It was designed to give the artillery arm of the Republic of Korea Army a significant improvement in capability. With a claimed range of 75 km, it offers greater mobility, longer range, higher rate of fire, and increased battlefield survivability, as it can quickly be brought into action, open fire, and come out of action. It is less likely to be engaged by counter-battery fire, by relying on shoot-and-scoot. The unit also supports full CBRN protection.
In June 2016, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) revealed they were designing a new fully automatic projectile-and-charge loading system that will be retrofitted to the K9, essentially giving it a robotic turret. The purpose is to reduce the crew needed to operate the vehicle to two in order to mitigate personnel losses expected to be suffered during North Korean attacks.
The K9 has the ability to fire its shells in MRSI mode (Multiple Rounds Simultaneous Impact). In the MRSI mode, the K9 is able to fire three shells in under 15 seconds—1 shell every 5 seconds—each in different trajectories so that all of the shells will arrive on their target at the same time.
K10 Ammunition Resupply Vehicle (ARV)
The K10 is an automatic ammunition resupply vehicle built on the K9 platform, part of the K9 Thunder system. It shares the same chassis as K9, preserving K9's mobility, and can follow the main artillery battery without lagging behind. Maximum transfer rate of shells is 12 rounds per minute, and maximum load of shells is 104 rounds.
The reloading process is fully automated. The reloading is done through a munition bridge on the K10 that extends out to lock itself into a reception hole located at the rear of the K9. This allows the unit to rearm itself under harsh combat conditions without the crew having to expose themselves to the combat environment.
Samsung Techwin sold the K9 subsystems to Turkey. Turkey received its first batch of the K9 subsytems and the license to domestically produce the subsystems in 2004, in a deal that amounted to $1 billion. The domestic Turkish self-propelled howitzer was named as T-155 Firtina. Turkey is expected to field a force of 300 Firtinas by 2011. Samsung Techwin has also formed a venture on 29 March 2012 with Indian conglomerate Larsen and Toubro to supply the K9 for the Indian Army Howitzer competition.
The K9 was a contender for Phase 1C of Australia's Land 17 Artillery Replacement Program prior to that phase of the project being cancelled in May 2012.
In September 2015, Larsen and Toubro emerged as the finalist for a US$800million contract to supply 100 self-propelled howitzers to the Indian Army. The vehicle is the K9 VAJRA-T, a variant of the K9 specially designed for operation in the desert areas bordering Pakistan. India has not had any new artillery pieces since the 1980s and several rounds of modernization plans since 1999 had failed to select a gun. India has been at a distinct disadvantage against Pakistan in SPGs since the United States supplied them with 115 M109A5 cannon in 2009. The final process to sign the contract could take up to six more months.
In July 2016, the Finnish Ministry of Defence announced that an undisclosed number of used K9s have been selected to be acquired from the Republic of Korea. The acquisition is claimed to be biggest of the decade for the Land Forces, whose both mobile and towed artillery face mass outdating in the 2020s.
On August 24, 2016 the Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency published their intention to continue negotiations with Hanwha Techwin and Swiss RUAG, which has offered their M109 KRAIT upgrade. At the same time, the NDMA said that negotiations concerning the KMW made Panzerhaubitze 2000 and the Nexter Caesar had been put "on hold". Unnamed sources in the Norwegian Army had previously stated that the K9 was a leading candidate in the competition. A contract is expected to be awarded in the middle of 2017.
Variants and upgrades
- XK9: Experimental prototype.
- K9: First-production variant.
- K10: Ammunition resupply vehicle using K9 chassis.
A total of 1,136 K9s and 179 K10s will be produced.
A total of 100 will be produced by L&T for the Indian Army.
The K9 Thunder is being considered to replace Denmark's M109A3 howitzers
Norway has shortlisted the K9 Thunder in its bid to replace their current M109A3GNM dating from the 1960s.
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