K9 Thunder transformed: Polish Krab chassis secures new export deal

On May 10, 2024, industry leaders from Poland and South Korea gathered in Warsaw to sign a pivotal Letter of Intent. This document outlines future collaboration between Hanwha Aerospace and Huta Stalowa Wola, a part of Poland’s state-owned defense conglomerate PGZ. 

UK shuns competitiveness norms, picks RCH 155 over Hanwha K9
Photo credit: Reddit

This agreement will pave the way for exporting components crucial for the Korean K9 Thunder and the Polish Krab howitzers. According to PGZ, “The Krab chassis and the K9 howitzer share a common heritage.” The new agreement aims to explore the potential for utilizing the Krab chassis in the Korean K9A2 and K9A3 gun howitzers. PGZ also highlighted that “In the past, the Korean chassis was successfully integrated with the Polish Krab turret system.”

Krab and K9

The K9 Thunder, a 155mm, 52-caliber self-propelled howitzer, provides efficient and far-reaching fire support across all theaters of combat. Built on a versatile mobile platform, it boasts a high rate of fire and an impressive range. 

Looking toward the future, the K9A2 will feature a fully automated turret, enhancing its automation, lethality, survivability, and digital capabilities. The forthcoming K9A3 iteration is anticipated to offer an extended range with its 58-caliber barrel, incorporating even more automation and artificial intelligence, and is slated for market arrival in the early 2030s. 

On a similar note, the Krab, another 155mm mobile howitzer system, was initially procured by the Polish Army in a batch of 72 units. It sports an all-welded steel hull that provides protection against small arms fire and shell fragments, with a crew capacity of five members.

The Expanding Role of K9

100 K9 Vajra self-propelled howitzers to be acquired by India
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Hanwha is a big player in Poland’s defense market, more than in any other European country. Poland has ordered 1,000 K2 tanks, over 600 K9 howitzers, and three FA-50 fighter jets from this Korean company. This defense company also supplies eight other global K9 users, including Australia, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, India, Norway, South Korea, and Türkiye. Three of these countries are in Europe. 

Interestingly, this agreement came just after the British Army decided to choose the German Remote-Controlled Howitzer-155 over the K9 in late April 2024. A week later, a spokesperson from Hanwha Aerospace UK claimed the decision wasn’t fair, stating, “It’s been difficult to really view it as a way where everyone has been considered in equal fashion.” 

Still, Hanwha Aerospace is determined to strengthen its presence in Europe and is eager to explore future opportunities within the European defense market: “The agreement expands cooperation between Huta Stalowa Wola and Hanwha Aerospace to produce the Homar-K launcher. This includes technology transfer, making it more suitable for Polish use and adapting it for 122mm unguided missiles. Additionally, the deal allows both companies to work together on selling the Homar-K launcher to markets on NATO’s eastern flank.”

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