Türkiye and India have opted not to participate in the annual ‘K9 User Club’ forum, a grouping of countries that operate the K9 tracked self-propelled 155mm/52-calibre howitzer system, which is manufactured by South Korean defence prime Hanwha.
According to a Hanwha release, about 50 military delegates from six K9 user nations – Australia, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Poland and South Korea – attended the meeting, while the US has joined the meeting as observer.
The K9 artillery is in active service with seven countries including Estonia, Finland, India, Norway, Poland, South Korea, and Türkiye, while Australia and Egypt will field the artillery systems in the coming years.
Although an operator, Türkiye has been embroiled in controversy with newly joined Nato ally Finland after Ankara objected to Helsinki’s application to join the Nato alliance in 2022, following Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine that year. Türkiye maintains close ties with Russia and was a lead element in Russia’s now terminated agreement to allow Ukrainian grain exports, under the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
The three-day K9 User Club meeting, running from 23-25 January, also includes delegates from global defence companies such as Millog from Finland; Kongsberg from Norway; HSW from Poland; Van Haltern from the Netherlands; and Soucy from Canada for discussions over industrial partnerships. The meeting is taking place in Helsinki, Finland.
Hosting the event, Finland operates the K9 ‘Moukari’ artillery systems, which first entered service in 2018.
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In a briefing, South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) shared a developmental roadmap for the next-generation K9A2 and K9A3 variants over the next decade. The K9A2 will integrate a fully automated turret, delivering enhanced levels of automation, lethality, survivability, and digitalisation, according to the manufacturer.
The K9A3 is to feature extended range through the integration of a 58-calibre barrel, alongside the inclusion of further automation and AI capabilities.
Meanwhile, Hanwha Aerospace unveiled a plan to establish a K9 spare parts center in Europe to provide K9 customer nations in the region with more effective logistics support.
The K9 155mm howitzer has seen significant success in the global market, with about 1,800 units in service accounting for over 50% of the global market share of artillery SPH platforms, according to Hanwha claims. The howitzer can deliver long-range fire at ranges of more than 40km.
The K9 User Club was launched in April 2022 in Changwon with the aim of rotational hosts. The first meeting was hosted by South Korea, followed by the second event in Norway in 2023, and the third, in Finland for this year.
It is thought that the K9 could be in the running for the UK’s Mobile Protected Firepower programme, intended to replace the in-service, but ageing, AS90 155mm platforms in the British Army.
However, recent stopgap acquisitions by the UK of the wheeled Archer 155mm artillery system from Sweden, and the formation of an industry team to pursue future UK sales, could indicate a shift away from complex tracked platforms in the British Army.