Shown above is a K9 Thunder SPH developed by South Korea’s Hanwha Defense. The firm has signed a contract to supply 212 units of K9 howitzers to Poland, which is valued at around $2.4 billion. Photo courtesy of Hanwha Defense

Korean defense giant exporting K9 SPHs to Europe

South Korea’s Hanwha Defense announced on Aug. 29 that the company had agreed to supply hundreds of K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers (SPHs) to Poland.

Valued at some $2.4 billion, the deal is the first phase of the framework agreement, signed in late July between South Korea and Poland, according to Hanwha Defense.

To strengthen the defense capabilities of its Armed Forces amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Poland agreed to procure a total of 648 K9 howitzers of Hanwha Defense, together with other Korean weapons like tanks and fighter jets.

Under the latest contract, Hanwha Defense will supply 212 units of K9 SPHs and 155mm artillery ammunition, along with training and logistics support, between 2022 and 2026,

Hanwha Defense expected that a follow-up execution contract would be sealed later this year, at the earliest.

The contract is the largest in the history of K9 SPH’s global exports, as nine countries _ South Korea, Turkey, Poland, India, Finland, Norway, Estonia, Australia, and Egypt _ have ordered the K9 since 2001.

A signing ceremony was held at a military base in the northern Poland town of Morag, attended by distinguished guests from the two countries.

“Today’s signing of the execution contract with Poland is a significant milestone in advancing the long-standing partnership between Hanwha Defense and Poland,” Hanwha Defense CEO Son Jae-il said.

“Hanwha Defense will be the most reliable partner for Poland and is fully committed to contributing to Poland’s military modernization and the growth of the local defense industry.”

The bilateral partnership has grown with the successful AHS Krab SPH development project under which Hanwha Defense supplied the K9 chassis to help the local industry manufacture the Krab self-propelled gun for the Polish military.

Hanwha Defense is scheduled to open a Polish business office by the year’s end in an effort to expand its footprint in the European market, as well as solidify the partnership further with Warsaw.

“Poland will be a hub base for Hanwha’s global expansion, especially in Europe,” Hanwha Defense Executive Vice President Lee Boo-hwan said.

“Our goal is to establish stronger partnerships with NATO members and local businesses in Europe based on trust and cooperation.”

Hanwha Defense has signed contracts with four NATO member countries _ Turkey, Poland, Norway, and Estonia _ to supply the K9 artillery systems and is set to bid for the UK Mobile Fires Platform program.

Developed by the South Korean state-funded Agency for Defense Development and Hanwha Defense in 1998, the K9 Thunder is regarded as the most technologically proven SPH solution, with a global market share of 52 percent.

Over 1,700 K9 units are currently in service in seven countries. Australia, Egypt, and Poland are to operate hundreds of more K9s in the coming years.

Meanwhile, Hyundai Rotem also announced that it had signed a deal with Poland to export 180 K2 tanks between 2022 and 2025. The execution contract of fighter jet exports is expected to be struck next month.