Representatives from six of the countries operating the Hanwha Defense K9 Thunder 155 mm/52-calibre self-propelled howitzer (SPH) gathered in Narvik, Norway, on 6 February 2023 to attend the second meeting of the K9 User Club. The meeting will be held until 9 February.
The K9 User Club was initiated with a meeting in April 2022 in Changwon – the K9 manufacturing hub in South Korea – to share experience, knowledge, and know-how on the operation, maintenance and training of the K9 SPH, which is in service with seven countries: South Korea, Norway, Estonia, Finland, Poland, India and Turkey. Australia and Egypt also have K9s on order.
For this year’s meeting – the first to take place in Europe and among NATO countries – military representatives from South Korea, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Poland and Australia gathered to share the status of their programmes and plans for operating their K9 systems, while Canada joined the meeting as an observer.
Defence companies such as Norway’s Kongsberg and CBG from Australia also attended to present technologies relevant to the K9 and collaboration in operating and developing it. Hanwha is looking to establish a supply chain for its European K9 customers to support their self-reliance and sovereign capabilities.
Pasi Pasivirta, director of European business development for parent company Hanwha Aerospace, was quoted in a company press release as saying: “The K9 users can learn from each other and share experience and know-how of operating the K9 self-propelled howitzer to get the best out of the equipment. In this regard the K9 User Club serves as the venue to find the most optimised operation and sustainment doctrine of the K9 system.”
On the second day of the user club meeting the participants joined working group sessions to discuss how to get the best out of their K9 systems with regard to maintenance, tactics and training. On the third day the user group is scheduled to visit the Centre of Excellence at Norway’s Bjerkvik Technical Workshop and the Setermoen training area to observe manoeuvres and live firing using the Norwegian K9 Versatile Indirect Artillery (VIDAR) system.
Norway operates 24 K9s and 10 K10 ammunition resupply vehicles, with an additional contract signed in 2022 to procure four more K9s and 10 more K10s. Colonel Kjartan Søyland, head of the Norwegian School of Artillery and Army Air Defence, was quoted by Hanwha as saying: “Compared to the old guns we had, now we increase or double the range of our artillery systems. The K9 is easy to use and easy to educate and train [on], which is the key strength of the K9 self-propelled howitzer. It also works well in snowy winter conditions.”
The K9 Thunder is now the world’s most popular SPH, with over 2,000 units already in service around the globe. The tracked howitzer can deliver consistent, accurate, rapid effects at ranges of more than 40 km range with high rates and volumes of fire.
The K9 is particularly optimised to be able to ‘shoot and scoot’, firing multiple rounds and immediately moving to a different location to avoid potential counter-battery fire.
A Finnish K9 conducting a live-fire demonstration at the Rovaniemi training area in November 2016. The system is currently operated by seven countries and has been ordered by two more.
Credit: Peter Felstead