South Korea scores major land systems export win in Poland

K9A1 Thunder 155mm/52 caliber Self-Propelled Howitzer system
Hanwha Defense exhibited its K9A1 Thunder 155mm/52 caliber Self-Propelled Howitzer system at DSEI.

South Korea’s Hanwha Defense and Hyundai Rotem have been awarded contracts for their K9 Thunder 155 mm calibre self-propelled howitzers (SPHs) and K2 Black Panther main battle tanks (MBTs).

The contracts were announced by Polish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defence Mariusz Błaszczak in late July. Significant technology transfer as well as technical support and training are also understood to have been included as part of the deals, with an eventual aim to localise production in Poland.

“Our armed forces receive modern weapons, and industry gets a chance for further development,” said Błaszczak in a social media post. “Deliveries will start as early as 2022 and will allow for the building of a strong army of at least 300,000.”

Poland is understood to have committed to procuring up to 1,000 K2 MBTs, with the first 180 tanks – manufactured by Hyundai Rotem in South Korea – scheduled to for delivery from late 2022 through 2025. Subsequent tranches of tanks are expected to be customised for the Polish Army’s specific requirements under the K2PL designation and locally produced in Poland, with delivery from 2026. The first 180 South Korean-built K2 MBTs will also be upgraded to the K2PL standard.

Meanwhile, Hanwha Defense will deliver the first batch of 48 K9A1 SPHs between 2022 and 2023, with the customised K9PL variants first entering production in South Korea from 2024 before production relocates to Poland from 2026. Poland will also receive K10 armoured resupply vehicles and K11 command vehicle from Hanwha Defense.

The K9PL will be derived from the latest K9A2 SPH being developed by Hanwha Defense, featuring an automatic loading system that boosts its rate of fire to 9-10 rounds per minute as opposed to the baseline K9A1’s 6-8 rounds per minute. The crew complement has also been reduced from five to three.

The first 48 South Korean-built K9A1s will also be upgraded to the K9PL standard, both of which will be equipped with Polish communication systems and WB Group’s Topaz integrated combat management system.

In the longer term, Poland and South Korea plan to co-develop a next-generation MBT and SPH.

Besides Poland, South Korea is also actively pushing its K2 MBT to other European countries. It is presently a finalist in the Norway’s next-generation tank programme alongside Germany’s Leopard 2A7 entry.

by Jr Ng