MELBOURNE, Australia ― The Hanwha Land Systems K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer has scored another export success, with Norway being the latest customer for the South Korean artillery system.
The Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency, or Forsvarsmateriell, announced Wednesday it had signed a contract with Hanwha Land Systems for 24 K9 155mm, 52-caliber self-propelled howitzers with an option for 24 more.
The contract, which Forsvarsmateriell said was worth 1.8 billion kroner (U.S. $215.2 million), will also include an unspecified number of K10 ammunition resupply vehicles. Delivery of the Norwegian K9s will start in 2019 and is expected to be completed by 2021.
According to Brig. Gen. Morten Eggen, commander of Forsvarsmateriell’s Land Systems Division, Hanwha Land Systems was the bidder who best satisfied the Norwegian Army’s requirements. The military officer added that the K9 Thunder will be an important component of the Army’s operational capability.
The new howitzers will replace the M109A3GNM self-propelled howitzer currently in service with Norway’s armed forces, and the selection of the K9 comes after a competition alongside Germany’s Krauss-Maffei Wegmann Panzerhaubitze 2000, France’s Nexter Caesar and RUAG’s M109 Krait that also saw the contenders participate in trials held in Norway during early 2016.
Forsvarsmateriell also announced it had struck an agreement with Hanwha for lifetime logistical support for the howitzers, which will also see the company establish a technical competence center at Norway’s Bjerkvik Technical Workshop.
Hanwha will transfer test equipment, training materials and technical knowledge to the workshop to enable the Norwegian Army to carry out sustainment of its howitzers, as well to offer similar services to allied nations who operate the K9.
In addition to South Korea, the K9 is also in service in or has been selected by Finland, India and Estonia. Turkey operates the T-155 Fırtına, which uses several subsystems from the K9 including the chassis, howitzer and automatic ammunition-feeding mechanism. Poland is producing the chassis as part of its AHS Krab self-propelled howitzer program.
The Norwegian contract is the latest win for South Korean weapons producers, who have seen a steady sales increase over the past few years with their products carving a successful niche in the competitive global arms market that had previously been dominated by big players like the United States and Russia.
Sweden’s Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reported that arms sales by South Korean companies included in its research shows that exports hit record levels at $8.4 billion in 2016, up 21 percent from the previous year.