Polish Soldiers Conduct First Live Firing Exercise with New South Korean K9 Howitzers

Warsaw, Poland, September 21, 2023 - The Polish Ministry of Defense announced today that the first batch of soldiers from the Polish army have conducted their first live-fire exercises with the newly acquired K9 howitzer, a testament to the nation's rapidly advancing military capabilities.
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Polish soldiers conducted the first live firing with the South Korean K9A1 155mm tracked self-propelled howitzer. (Picture source Poland MoD)

This development follows a landmark $5.8 billion arms agreement signed with South Korea in Warsaw this past July. As part of this significant deal, Poland is set to receive a total of 672 K9A1 155mm self-propelled tracked howitzers from the South Korean defense firm, Hanwha Defense. The initial consignment included 24 of these state-of-the-art artillery units. This strategic acquisition is seen as a pivotal move, especially in light of the recent tensions post-Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The complete delivery of the howitzers is expected by 2026.

The defense ties between Poland and South Korea have evolved into a robust partnership, especially within the defense industry sector. This burgeoning relationship is underscored by the major arms deals that the two nations have entered into. Poland's landmark $5.8 billion contract with South Korea is a testament to this deepening bond. As part of this agreement, Poland has committed to purchasing K9 self-propelled howitzers, K2 Black Panther tanks, and FA-50 fighter jets. These acquisitions highlight Poland's intent to modernize its military capabilities and its trust in South Korean defense technology.

Furthermore, the collaboration isn't just transactional. The two countries have been engaging in joint exercises, training, and knowledge exchange, emphasizing a mutual commitment to defense and security. The backdrop of global geopolitical shifts, especially concerns arising from Russia's actions in Eastern Europe, has further cemented the need for such partnerships. For South Korea, these deals signify an expansion of its defense industry footprint in Europe and a recognition of its advanced military technology on the global stage. Overall, the defense industry framework between Poland and South Korea is shaping up to be a mutually beneficial and strategic alliance.

The K9 Thunder is a state-of-the-art 155 mm self-propelled howitzer developed and initially designed by Samsung Techwin, and now produced by Hanwha Aerospace in South Korea. This artillery piece was conceived to meet the modern demands of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces and has since seen widespread adoption by various countries due to its advanced capabilities. The development of the K9 Thunder began in 1989, and by 1999, the Republic of Korea Army received its first units. The howitzer is equipped with a 155 mm/52 caliber ordnance, capable of achieving a maximum firing range of 40 km. An automatic loading system is integrated, allowing for a rapid rate of fire, with the K9 Thunder boasting a maximum rate of six rounds per minute. The system can carry 48 projectiles and their associated charges for ready use. The howitzer's design emphasizes mobility, firepower, and rapid response, making it a formidable asset on the battlefield.

In terms of protection, the K9 Thunder is armored with POSCO MIL-12560H armor steel, ensuring resilience against various threats on the battlefield. The howitzer is powered by an STX Engine/MTU Friedrichshafen MT881Ka-500 8-cylinder water-cooled diesel engine, delivering 1,000 hp, allowing it to achieve a top speed of 67 km/h. The K9 Thunder's operational range stands at 360 km, ensuring it can be deployed rapidly across vast distances. The system also boasts a crew of five, including a Commander, Driver, Gunner, and two Loaders. Over the years, the K9 Thunder has undergone various upgrades, with the K9A1 being one of the latest variants in service since 2018.

Defense News September 2023