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Hanwha Defense named preferred supplier of howitzers to Australia

Sep 03, 2020 (Gmt+09:00)

Hanwha Defense Co. has been named the preferred supplier of howitzers and associated support equipment to Australia, signaling the superiority of South Korean weaponry against global rivals.

The Australian government announced on September 3 that it has chosen the K9 self-propelled howitzers, nicknamed Thunder, as the solo candidate for the country’s Land 8116 Artillery Replacement project, one of the Australian Army's modernization programs.

Hanwha said it expects to sign a mass-production contract after a sale proposal review by the Australian government and price negotiations. The deal involves 30 K9 howitzers and associated support equipment, including 10 K10 ammunition resupply vehicles (ARVs). The Korean defense contractor has earmarked 1 trillion won ($843 million) for the project.

If the final deal is clinched, Hanwha plans to produce the K9 artillery guns in Australia by building production facilities in Geelong, a city southwest of Melbourne. The company will also provide after-sale maintenance and repair services through local companies.

The deal is the result of Hanwha’s second attempt at an Australian sale. Back in 2010, the K9 was a final contender for Australia’s Land 17 program, but the project was canceled in 2012.

Separately, Hanwha is currently competing with Germany’s Rheinmetall Defence Electronics GmbH. as the final contender for Australia’s 5-trillion won (US$4.2 billion) infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) project.


Hanwha Defense CEO Lee Sung-soo said Australia is an important market for the company as it is one of the Five Eyes, an intelligence alliance made up of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the US and the UK.

“This deal will enhance Hanwha’s reputation globally and expand exports of Korea’s weapons,” Lee said.

“After delivering the 30 K9 howitzers and 10 K10 ARVs, we’ll seek more contracts with Australia,” said An Byung-chul, Hanwha’s vice president in charge of business development in Europe and Australia.

K9 self-propelled howitzer, produced by Hanwha Defense Co.
K9 self-propelled howitzer, produced by Hanwha Defense Co.

Australia will be the seventh country that purchases Hanwha's K9 artillery guns, following Turkey, Poland, India, Finland, Norway and Estonia. The company began exporting the weapons in 2001 with a shipment of 280 K9 Thunder units to Turkey. The company is known to be in negotiations with Norway for exports of 24 K9 artillery guns. The UK is also said to be interested in the K9.

Separately, Australia is the second nation after Norway to purchase Hanwha’s K10 automatic ammunition resupply vehicles.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the K9 Thunder accounted for 48% of the global self-propelled howitzer market between 2000 and 2017.

Developed jointly with South Korea's Agency for Defense Development in 1998, the 155-mm K9 offers one of the world’s highest levels of performance with a maximum range of 40 km and maximum speed of 67 km per hour. It can fire within 30 seconds from a stationary position and within 60 seconds on the move. The K9 is capable of firing at a burst rate of 3 rounds in less than 15 seconds and a total of 18 rounds continuously for three minutes.


The K9 proved its combat prowess during an artillery engagement between the North Korean military and South Korean forces stationed on Yeonpyeong Island in November 2010.

Currently, as many as 1,100 K9 Thunder units are deployed to the Republic of Korea Armed Forces and are thus widely in use, making it easy for foreign buyers to secure components and parts in case of repair. Hanwha and the Agency for Defense Development are developing variants and upgraded K9 models to improve the howitzer’s performance and diversify export markets.

The K9 self-propelled howitzers are considered superior in shooting range to the UK’s AS90 (Braveheart) and Russia’s Msta-S howitzers. Compared to Germany’s PzH2000 self-propelled howitzer, which is regarded as the world’s strongest, the K9 offers a better cost-performance ratio and weighs less, facilitating easier transport for overseas dispatches.

The defense industry expects greater call for for self-propelled artillery guns going forward as they are primarily deployed for defense purposes, not for attack.

“We expect demand for the K9 to grow swiftly from countries that want to maintain deterrence against war,” said a defense industry official.

South Korea joined the ranks of defense exporting countries in 1975 by shipping M1 rifle ammunition to the Philippines. Korea has since expanded export items to include T-50 Golden Eagle trainer jets and submarines.

By Man-Su Choe

In-Soo Nam edited this article

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