K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer – origin, data, operators

PANAGYURISHTE — K9 Thunder is a 155mm South Korean self-propelled howitzer, designed and manufactured for the needs of the artillery and infantry of the Republic of South Korea. Today, the K9 Thunder is one of South Korea’s most popular artillery weapon systems available for trade-in international markets.

Egypt seeks howitzers, Korea's armored K9s 155mm are an option
Photo credit: Hanwha Defense

The design of the South Korean self-propelled howitzer lasted for a period of nine years: 1989 – 1998. The first version of the K9 Thunder entered combat service and duty in the Republic of South Korea in 1999. 19 years later, in 2018, the Republic of South Korea upgraded its self-propelled howitzer to the K9A1 Thunder level and the same year began replacing the existing K9 Thunder.

The base price of one K9 Thunder unit is approximately $ 3.3 million at today’s value [January 30, 2022, $ 1 = 0.00083 KRW].


From the beginning of production of K9 Thunder manufacturers are different. It all started with the serial production of the self-propelled howitzer in 1999 by Samsung Aerospace Industries. A year later, Samsung Techwin took over and produced the K9 Thunder by the end of 2015. After this long period, several companies but under the same parent company engaged in series production, while in 2019 to this day Hanwha Defense takes over the entire series production of the K9 Thunder, including its updated version K9A1 Thunder.

 K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer – origin, data, operators
Photo credit: Hanwha Defense

In addition to this howitzer model, Hanwha Defense manufactures several other models of armored and robotic artillery weapons systems, armored vehicles and armored personnel carriers, mobile anti-aircraft systems, and Unmanned Ground Systems.

Hanwha Defense is one of South Korea’s many high-tech companies, but one of the world’s leaders in defense, military, and security. Hanwha Defense exports most of its products to Europe [Norway, Estonia, Finland, Poland, Turkey] and Asia [India, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam].

Technical characteristics/data

South Korea says the K9 Thunder is the best self-propelled howitzer in the world. This is due to its mobility and ability to hit targets over long distances. The K9 Thunder can be deployed very quickly as an artillery cannon, then transformed into a vehicle and change position. The K9 Thunder can be customized to NATO standards, thus meeting the needs of NATO members.

How to shoot K9 Thunder?

K9 Thunder can shoot from a place and while driving. According to information provided by Hanwha Defense, the self-propelled howitzer fired the first shot 30 seconds after the command was issued. While driving, the K9 Thunder can fire one projectile every 60 seconds.

The graph below shows how the K9 Thunder takes a position, shoots, and repeats this action.

Egypt seeks howitzers, Korea's armored K9s 155mm are an option
Photo credit: Hanwha Defense

What ammunition does it use?

The K9 Thunder uses 155mm NATO standard ammunition. Depending on the type of ammunition, the South Korean self-propelled howitzer has a different range of impact. When K9 Thunder fires M107HE hits targets up to 18 km when using M549A1HE-RAP hits targets up to 30 km when 155mm cannon loaded ammunition KA307 BB/HE hits a target 40 km away, but when loaded ammunition K315HE-RAP is capable of hitting a target at a distance of 50 km.

When the K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer needs to fire from a stationary position within 15 seconds it can fire three projectiles at a maximum firing speed of 6 to 8 rounds in a minute.

K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer – origin, data, operators
Photo credit: Hanwha Defense

Armor and protection

According to the official technical specifications, K9 Thunder has armor that can protect both the crew and the internal onboard equipment from 155 mm projectile fragments, 14.5 mm armor-piercing cartridges/projectiles, and anti-personnel mines.

The armor that uses this self-propelled howitzer is POSCO. This armor is made in South Korea. POSCO is the name of a South Korean steel company based in Pohang, South Korea. The steel model that uses K9 Thunder covers the MIL-12560H armor steel standard.


K9 Thunder has an automatic fire control system that works under a text DOS system and graphical Windows. Additionally, there are integrated digital maps and a guide. This system is designed to interact with the electronic projectile loading system.

K9 Thunder is also equipped with an inertial navigation system (INS) + GPS, periscope designed for night vision, as well as sensors and displays for reverse movement.

K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer - origin, data, operators
Photo credit: Hanwha Defense


The engine that drives the K9 Gramotvica is the STX-MTU MT881Ka-500 from the German company MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH but already purchased under the management of the famous Rolls-Royce brand. The engine is an eight-cylinder, water-cooled diesel. Provides 735 kW at 2,700 rpm and 1,000 horsepower.

The transmission is SNT Dynamics X1100-5A3 with four front speeds and two rear with hydropneumatic suspension. With one charge of the tank, K9 Gramotevitsa can travel 360 km, and the maximum speed is 67 km / h.

K9 Thunder operators

Estonia – in 2018 Estonia decided to buy K9 Gramotevitsa. The choice, however, was on second-hand howitzers. The following year, Tallinn decided to buy six more.

Finland – This Scandinavian country decided in 2017 to increase the combat capability of its artillery and infantry and signed an agreement for 48 self-propelled howitzers K9 Gramotevitsa, reused.

India – South Korea and India have had different agreements over the years, but South Korea has agreed to support the Made in India program. In this way, they jointly developed the H9 Gramotevitsa, but under the name K9 Vajra-T. India has 100 units available, expecting another 200.

Norway – Oslo has decided to replace the obsolete M109A3GNM SPHs, which it has been operating for decades with an order for 48 K9 Gramotevitsa self-propelled howitzers, delivered in two 24 units.

Poland – like India, Poland and South Korea – have agreed on joint production in line with the requirements of the Polish artillery force. Thus, the self-propelled howitzer AHS Krab (K9 Gramotevitsa) was born, with 24 initially produced in South Korea and 96 started in Poland.

South Korea – logically, South Korea has the most howitzers – 1,300 K9A1 Thunderbolts are in service in South Korea, and a significant part of the K9 were upgraded to version K9A1

Turkey – the Balkan state, owns the T-155 Fırtına, a local variant of the K9 Gramotevica, with 280 units in service in Turkey and Ankara selling 70 on international markets.

K9 Thunder possible operators

Egypt – Egypt and South Korea are on the “final right” to negotiate the production of armored tracked K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers for the Egyptian army, BulgarianMilitary.com has learned.


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