Korean Hanwha K9A3 cannon come with an increased 70 km range

SEOUL ($1=1,334.43 South Korean Wons) — One of the most important characteristics of modern artillery is its range. In Ukraine, in the last nine months, various weapons with a wide range of differences have been operating. The range of self-propelled howitzers is constantly increasing. The average range of modern artillery is within 50-54 km. Such is the range of the latest version of the Korean self-propelled artillery K9 Thunder.

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

However, 54 km is not achieved with standard projectiles. For example, 155mm Excalibur projectiles are preferred by the Ukrainian military precisely because of their increased range. Even operating with older artillery, such a projectile can produce a very accurate long-range hit.

South Korea follows modern trends in this field. Perhaps the war in Ukraine has shown today’s arms companies what the next war will need.

The K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer is considered by dozens of experts to be the best in the world. The South Korean government will apparently try to maintain this “expert assessment” in the future. That’s why Seoul has already signed an agreement with Hanwha Defense that the next K9 model will have an increased range.

This model is already being worked on and it bears the name K9A3, i.e. the third version of K9. According to South Korean sources, the K9A3 will have an increased range of 70 km. Currently, if the K9 fires specialized projectiles it can reach a maximum of 54 km. 70 km range is a really serious distance. This instance can be compared to the range of a short-range ballistic missile, or the maximum interception range of a missile fired by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system.

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

K9A3 is shrouded in mystery. There is no concrete information as to exactly what will be different [besides the scope of course]. The latest operational version, the K9A2, currently uses a gun with a barrel length of .52 caliber. Media claims that the K9A3 will have a barrel length of 58 calibers. It is because of this that it is assumed that the K9A3 will be able to achieve a range of 70 km not with special artillery shells, but with standard ones. This suggests that the use of specialized projectiles can increase the range even further.

K9A3 may be the beginning of the development of a new series of howitzers, South Korean experts believe. According to them, if the K9A3 shows accuracy during tests and achieves the desired range, this possibility is real, which could mean a new product in international markets. These are logical processes in the defense industry. We are witnessing modern products that have evolved from older developments.

K9 dominates

Even before the war in Ukraine, K9 began to gradually increase the speed of its marketing invasion around the world. On February 2, Egypt took a major step in its defense policy. Cairo and Seoul signed a deal for the sale of 200 self-propelled howitzers. Seoul called it the biggest deal in K9 history. Egypt was also pleased because the agreement involved the production of a large part of the howitzers in the country. BulgarianMilitary.com recalls that Egypt is still the only country in the world, apart from the USA, that can produce the Abrams A1 tanks and has a factory near Cairo. It is this plant that will be used for the production of the H9.

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

The biggest deal lasted only a few months when Poland decided to take the lead nearly a month ago. Warsaw ordered 672 K9 self-propelled howitzers. Here we can note that it is the war in Ukraine that is the reason for this order. But it was planned, and the war in Ukraine was perhaps the catalyst for Warsaw to become more active. Poland will also make its own K9, and even the industrial cooperation that has been agreed upon includes the use of a locally developed chassis.

That’s how K9 caught the attention of the US. Washington invited the Korean manufacturer to test new projectiles fired from the K9. This is great for the Korean company because their successful launch means that the K9 will be available with rounds that are in service in both the US and Europe. The tests were successful, and the projectiles that the K9 fired at 50 km were respectively XM1113 Rocket Assisted Projectiles [RAP], and Modular Artillery Charge System [MACS] charges. And what’s more, K9 blasted them away. It took only 16 seconds for the cannon to fire three shells in succession. Impressive, right?

Facts about K9 Thunder

The manufacturer of K9 Thunder is the South Korean company Hanwha Defense. The design of the first K9 was completed on the drawing board in 1989. One year later, the first serial production began. In 2018, Hanwha Defense makes a major update to the self-propelled howitzer to reach the current level.

K9 fires an artillery shell at a maximum distance of 50 km. Depending on the ammunition used, the range of shooting is different – from 18 to 50 km. The K9’s gun is 155 mm, and the self-propelled howitzer meets all requirements of NATO standards.

Ukraine gets 155mm M982 guided shells: PBX warhead, 23-70 km range
Photo credit: Naver

The howitzer can shoot from motion and at rest. It deploys extremely quickly, with the first shot reproduced 30 seconds after deployment. The howitzer has an extremely high level of armor and can guarantee the protection of the crew and equipment from 155 mm projectile fragments, 14.5 mm armor-piercing cartridges/projectiles, and anti-personnel mines. The steel from which the bumper is made is also a local development. K9 works are powered by a German engine STX-MTU MT881Ka-500, which provides 735 kW at 2,700 rpm and 1,000 horsepower.

To avoid hacking during operation, the fire control system works under text DOS commands and graphical Windows. K9 has all modern sensors and navigation tools.

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