Polish and South Korean industry leaders met in Warsaw on 10 May 2024 to sign a Letter of Intent that will define the scope of future co-operation between Hanwha Aerospace and Huta Stalowa Wola, a company in Poland’s state-owned defence conglomerate PGZ.

The document will serve as the basis to export components used in the Korean K9 Thunder and Polish Krab howitzers.

“The Krab chassis and the K9 howitzer have the same origins,” PGZ suggested in a statement before it revealed that the new agreement will assess the possibility of using the Krab chassis for the Korean K9A2 and K9A3 gun howitzers.

“It is worth mentioning that in the past, the Korean chassis was successfully adapted to the Polish Krab turret system,” the group added.

Krab and K9

K9 Thunder is a 155mm and 52-calibre self-propelled howitzer that provides effective and deep fire support in all kinds of theatres. Built on a mobile platform, the K9 delivers a high rate of fire at long range.

K9A2 will integrate a fully automated turret, delivering enhanced levels of automation, lethality, survivability, and digitalisation. The latest K9A3 variant is set to feature extended range through the integration of a 58-calibre barrel, alongside the inclusion of further automation and artificial intelligence capabilities, and is due to enter the market in the early 2030s.

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Meanwhile, the Krab is also a 155mm mobile howitzer system; the Polish Army initially procured a total of 72 vehicles. It features an all-welded steel hull offering protection from small arms fire and shell splinters. The vehicle houses five crew members.

K9 standing in Europe and the world

Hanwha has an established presence in the Polish defence market more than any other European nation as the country currently has an order for 1,000 K2 tanks, more than 600 K9 howitzers and three FA-50 fighter aircraft from the Korean supplier.

The defence group also has eight other global K9 consumers, including Australia, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, India, Norway, South Korea, and Türkiye – three of which are European.

However, this latest agreement comes just off the back of the British Army’s rejection of the K9 for the German Remote-Controlled Howitzer-155 toward the end of April 2024. A week later, a Hanwha Aerospace UK spokesperson pointed out the lack of comparative competition before the decision was announced, noting “It’s been difficult to really view it as a way where everyone has been considered in equal fashion.”

Undeterred, Hanwha Aerospace look to consolidate their strongest foothold in Europe as they look for future opportunities to tap into the European defence market:

“The concluded agreement extends the scope of cooperation between Huta Stalowa Wola and Hanwha Aerospace in the production of the Homar-K launcher, including the transfer of technology, its further Polonisation, as well as adaptation to the 122mm unguided missiles.

“Additionally, the agreement opens the way for co-operation between the parties in offering the Homar-K launcher to other markets on Nato’s eastern flank.”