Romania has signed a contract to procure the K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers from South Korea’s Hanwha Aerospace in a significant move.

This development expands Hanwha’s presence in the European defence market. Army Technology sat down with Paul (Sungwook) Huh, Manager of the Overseas Business Team in the Land Systems Business Group at Hanwha Aerospace, to discuss the implications of this deal and the recent Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Kongsberg at Eurosatory 2024.

Harry McNeil (HM): Can you tell us about the recent acquisition of K9 Thunder howitzers by Romania?

Paul (Sungwook) Huh (PSH): You probably know that we have just won the contract for the Romanian K9 programme. The news has just been released today, just 30 minutes ago. Romania is now the tenth user of the K9 self-propelled howitzer.

(HM): Despite the UK rejecting the K9 Thunder, how does Hanwha Aerospace plan to continue promoting the K9 in other European markets?

(PSH): We really wanted to see the UK join our K9 community as well, but unfortunately, it’s the UK Government’s decision. We respect that. However, we will continue to promote the K9 to potential customers in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere around the world.

K9 introduction in Romania to expand Hanwha Aerospace in Europe

This decision by Romania, worth $920m, is Romania’s largest arms import project over the past seven years. It follows the momentum from the summit meeting between South Korea and Romania last April. The introduction of the K9 in Romania will serve as an opportunity to expand the reach of K-defence in Europe further, following its success in Poland.

On May 22, 2024, Hanwha Aerospace signed a research and development contract with Romania’s Elie Carafoli National Institute for Aerospace Research (INCAS). As Romania modernises its military, this collaboration will facilitate knowledge transfer and local production, similar to Korean partnerships in Poland.

This arms sale will include joint production, cross-training between operating units, and personnel exchanges.

HM: How does the recent MoU with Kongsberg fit into Hanwha’s strategic plans?

PSH: The MoU pertains to the continued cooperation between Kongsberg and Hanwha, especially in fire control systems and other integrated combat systems. By expanding our work, scope, and collaboration, we plan to apply Kongsberg products to most of our capabilities when we promote our capabilities to potential customers worldwide. We know that they’re very capable, very reliable, and very professional. We look forward to continuing to work with them.

HM: How will this expanded cooperation with Kongsberg enhance Hanwha’s market presence in Europe?

PSH: Having European partner company components within our platforms is a plus, especially in the European market, as it increasingly restricts access for non-European companies. Incorporating Kongsberg’s components into our platforms speaks more to our potential customers in Europe, tells them how committed we are, and how open we are to adopting European-made products and components to our platforms.

That will encourage other European customers and companies to consider working with Hanwha in the future.

HM: What are Hanwha Aerospace’s future plans regarding the K9 Thunder and other defence products?

PSH: Besides the K9, we have also been suggesting and offering other defence capabilities, such as the Redback Infantry Fighting Vehicle, not just for the UK but potential customers around the world. We’re always open to making improvements on our platforms based on user feedback, which we have done so continually with the K9, which has been enhanced through feedback from more than six nations, five of which are NATO members.

HM: Can you share more about Hanwha’s strategy for the Redback IFV in the context of recent developments?

PSH: The delivery schedule for the Australian Land 400 Phase 3 programme is ongoing, and our cooperation with partner companies in Australia is progressing well. The Korean Army is also looking to procure the Redback for their combat engineering or reconnaissance units. This platform will be used in both Australia and Korea.

We look forward to strengthening our relationships with Australia.

HM: Thank you for your time, Paul.