CANBERRA, ($1=1.40 Australian Dollars) – The artillery capabilities of the Australian Army have so far been based exclusively on the M777 155 mm busier, a product of BAE Global Combat Systems, a subsidiary of the British group BAE Systems. To strengthen them, the LAND 8116 Phase 1 project “Protected Mobile Fires” was launched to acquire about 30 self-propelled guns. And as part of it, Canberra announced last year that South Korea’s Hanwha K-9 “Thunder” had been selected. Then the order remained to be confirmed.
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The acquisition of the new howitzers took place on December 13, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and South Korea, and the agreement was signed in Canberra by Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia, and Moon Jain, South Korean President, learned BulgarianMilitary.com. The contract provides for the delivery of 30 K-9 Thunder [or AS9 Huntsman according to the Australian nomenclature], as well as 15 armored vehicles for loading K-10 [or AS10] ammunition and anti-battery radars totaling A $ 1 billion [just over EUR 630 million – ed.].
In more detail, AS9 and AS10 will be assembled in Grand Geelong [Victoria] by Hanwha Defense Australia, the Australian subsidiary of the South Korean group. Their delivery will begin in 2025 and will end in 2027.
“With strong bilateral relations between Canberra and Seoul, Australia’s Hanwha will provide a critical and important secondary supply line from South Korea,” said Richard Cho, managing director of Hanwha Defense Australia. He also added that he would help enforce other contracts obtained by the South Korean industrialist in other countries.
As a reminder, the K-9 Thunder has been sold to Turkey [such as the T-155 Firtina], Norway, India, Finland, and, more recently, Estonia. Egypt plans to produce it under license to equip its armed forces, and the British military sees it as a replacement for its AS-90 howitzer.
In any case, Australian Secretary of Defense Peter Dutton stressed that these AS9 howitzers “will fire and move quickly, avoiding enemy counterattacks.” Also, their acquisition “will lead to a significant increase in the firepower and safety of Australian artillery.”
With a warhead of over 45 tons, the K-9 / AS9 is controlled by five gunners [1 commander, 1 leader, 1 gunner, and 2 shops]. Equipped with a 155 mm and 52 caliber pistol, it has the MRSI [Multiple Rounds Simultaneous Impact] capabilities, which allows it to fire three rounds in 15 seconds on different trajectories. Depending on the ammunition used, its range is from 30 to 40 km.
With this deal, Hanwha Defense is already in a good position for phase 3 of the Land 400 project, which aims to find a successor to the Australian Army’s M113 infantry fighting vehicle. The South Korean group is bidding for its K21 [renamed AS21 “Redback”] against KF-41 Lynx from Rheinmetall, Ajax from General Dynamics Land System, and CV-90 from BAE Systems Hägglunds.
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