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Industry

A Polish-Korean IFV for Export? [INTERVIEW]

Photo. Defence24

We have the proven records of integrating the Polish 155mm turret into the Krab based on the K9 chassis. We have a very good experience of cooperation with HSW on Krab, so we think it will indeed be possible to integrate ZSSW-30 turret on Redback - as Son Jae-il, CEO, Hanwha Defense in an interview.

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Jędrzej Graf, Defence24.pl: I would like to start with a general question. We are meeting at the Eurosatory 2022 trade show in Paris. Our meeting takes place several weeks after Mariusz Błaszczak, the Polish Minister of Defence, has visited Republic of Korea, and the Polish delegation has been engaged in talks with the Hanwha Defense representatives. What is your cooperation offer to Poland, including the K9, K21 and AS-21

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Son Jae-il, CEO, Hanwha Defense: Please understand that we're not allowed to clarify the details on the agenda being discussed by the defence authorities of both countries.

What we can say is Hanwha Defense is in various discussions with Poland, in line with the defence cooperation between the two governments. Our company has already been cooperating with Poland through the Krab project, and we are very satisfied with the successful production and delivery of Krab.

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In the case of the K9, it is the world's most proven and trusted self-propelled artillery solution operated by nine countries around the globe. Operated by several NATO members such as Poland, Norway, and Estonia, in particular, the K9 has received full respect for its all-weather, all-terrain performances.

In addition, we have various infantry combat armored vehicle platforms with the latest technologies such as Redback and K21, both sides can discuss over the supplying of best defence equipment that Poland needs whatever it is.

I would like to focus on the Infantry Fighting Vehicles for a while. Hanwha has recently designed two types of Infantry Fighting Vehicles, namely K21 and Redback. We know that they are substantially different. I would like to ask two questions: firstly, are both K21 and AS21 Redback offered to Poland? And secondly, what were the design principles, according to which K21 and AS21 were designed?

I would like to highlight that we can deliver both platforms, depending on the Polish government needs. The K21 is a 25-ton lightweight armoured vehicle with amphibious capabilities, and the Redback is the next-generation IFV with enhanced protection, mobility and lethality.

K21 was built according to the Republic of Korea Army specification, and the Korean Army required an amphibious capability and high fire-power. That is why K21 is equipped with a turret with 40 mm gun and an Anti-Tank Guided Missile System. It also features a modern Fire Control Systems, with Independent Thermal Imagers both for Commander and Gunner, and it is integrated with a Battle Management System. It also features an amphibious capability, as needed by the Republic of Korea Army, and it obviously influences its overall design. The vehicle has been in active service since 2009, and it is now planned that a further batch will be ordered for the Korean Army.

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Redback, on the other hand, is a much heavier Infantry Fighting Vehicle, ensuring high mobility, firepower and protection, featuring the most modern technologies available. Redback has very high ballistic protection levels, 6 STANAG 4569, and above. It is also equipped with an Active Protection System. In the tender for Australia, we are using the Israeli IronFist system, which provides 360-degree warning and defence against rocket-propelled grenades and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles. The vehicle has also an internal spall liner as well as the slat armor for further protection against RPG. Redback is fully digitized. It is equipped with the Battle Management System and it is fully compatible with NATO Generic Vehicle Architecture for the future growth. Regarding the mobility, it has a power-pack with 1000 KM engine, which, coupled with in-arm hydro-pneumatic system ensures very good mobility.

I understand that the engine is a German MTU System. Are you working on Korean components regarding the power-pack, but also perhaps the active protection?

As it regards the power-pack, currently Redback is using MTU engine and Allison transmission, the same that is used in K9 chassis and in the Polish Krab howitzer. The industry is also working on a Korean engine, which should be available in 2023, and it will be offered to Poland as well. Also, the Korean industry is developing a Korean Active Protection System for Redback, and it will be offered as well.

I would like to add that the mobility and protection of Redback evaluated very highly during the recent trials for Australia and Republic of Korea. The Redback is designed in such a way that it can support and keep up with all the modern Main Battle Tanks, including Leopard 2, K2, and American M1 Abrams.

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What are the prospects of industrial cooperation regarding the Infantry Fighting Vehicles? Do you take into account the use of Polish ZSSW-30 turret for example?

We have the proven records of integrating the Polish 155mm turret into the Krab based on the K9 chassis. We have a very good experience of cooperation with HSW on Krab, so we think it will indeed be possible to integrate ZSSW-30 turret on Redback, that will obviously need to be examined in detail. Redback is a very flexible, open architecture platform, so it could be equipped with the MT-30 turret as currently in Australia, armed with 30 mm Bushmaster gun and Spike LR2 ATGM, with a Polish turret, which is using similar weapons, but also with turrets with 40 mm or even 50 mm guns if needed.

We're fully focused on supplying products that meet the needs of our customers. Most of all, for the exports of our self-propelled artillery and armored vehicles, we're dedicated to maximize localization capabilities and have been very successful in this area. The Krab project is also an important example of our localization effort in the global market, and we will actively engage in localization programs and the transfer of technology in defence cooperation with Poland in the future.

I would like to highlight that we are flexible, we would like to build on the relationship with the Polish industry we already have with Krab. Depending on the Polish needs, it could also be possible to establish a Redback production line in Poland, in HSW or in other facility designated by PGZ.

Photo. Hanwha Defense

Would a potential production of Redback in Poland be aimed solely at a Polish market, or also for the export markets?

We are offering the license manufacturing Redback to Poland on a similar principle to our very good cooperation with Krab howitzer and K9 chassis, that is a full license with no export limitations. We are ready to cooperate in marketing of Redback manufactured in Poland and with Polish components and turret on third markets. Should a Polish turret be integrated on Redback, we would like to offer it as one of the options for our export customers, just like we are doing with the Israeli MT-30 turret.

I would like to add that we see a high global demand for modern well-protected Infantry Fighting Vehicles, that are capable of supporting Main Battle Tanks under heavy battlefield conditions. At the same time, the global market is very demanding, so we need to be ready to adjust the platform to the specific customer's needs.

Thanks to the open architecture of Redback vehicle, we are able to provide modular and fully scalable solutions for various requirements. So, the Redback with a Polish turret could be a valuable addition to the joint offer of Polish and Korean industry on the global markets. This would also be an opportunity to built on the very good relationships and trust between the Polish industry, that we have established in the Krab project.

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Could you provide some information on the estimated production volumes for K9, including the chassis, and the IFVs?

The specific number of vehicles that could be delivered to Poland depends on the agreement with Poland, the detailed agreements between the Polish and Korean government, as well as the scope of orders for other customers, such as Australia or Republic of Korea. I can only speak of general volumes.

For all customers worldwide, Hanwha Defense has a capacity of delivering more than 200 K9 howitzers annually, and we are ready to increase that pace and meet any Polish requirements. Regarding the Infantry Fighting Vehicles, we are able to produce 20 vehicles a month for all customers. Like I said previously, we are open to expanding industrial cooperation with Poland, including setting up a dedicated Infantry Fighting Vehicle production line in Poland.

Regarding the K9 and the Polish requirements for accelerated deliveries, are you offering the chassis, entire howitzers or both?

Hanwha Defense has partnership with HSW on the Krab project and is continuing to consult with the Polish defence industry to expand bilateral cooperation. We're not in a position to clarify the details of discussions between both governments regarding emergency supplies. But we have a full capacity to meeting the needs, including production and delivery on schedule. That is concerning both K9 chassis and full K9 howitzers, depending on the requirement.

Based on mutual trust, both sides are discussing to sort out the best possible ways to meet the needs. Hanwha Defense is fully committed to providing the best solution for Poland's needs, and we expect to produce win-win results in the end.

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I would like to move to K21 vehicle for a while. What are the plans of Korean Army regarding this vehicle? And is it possible that Poland would become a number of existing K21 as a gap filler?

To start with, K21 is a major Infantry Fighting Vehicle of the Republic of Korea Army. Hanwha Defense has produced nearly 500 of them, and all of them are used by the Republic of Korean Army. So they are property of the Korean government and it will be up to the Korean government to decide whether it could provide some of the existing vehicles to the Army.

Additionally, a decision has been made to deliver a further 100 of K21 Infantry Fighting Vehicles to the Korean Army. The production will start in 2024 and the vehicles will be delivered in 2025. I would like to add that while using K21, Korean Army is interested in Redback as well.

A Korean K21 IFV, used by Republic of Korea Armed Forces
Photo. Republic of Korea Armed Forces

Hanwha Defense is also producing Unmanned Ground Vehicles, as well as Air Defence Systems. Could they also be offered to Poland, with technology transfers?

We have very good cooperation with the Polish industry, regarding Krab howitzer. Now discussions are ongoing on the Infantry Fighting Vehicle. We see this as a first step of our expanded cooperation. We are open to next steps and cooperation in other areas, including the air defence systems and Unmanned Ground Systems.

What is your general assessment of the cooperation with Poland?

In my opinion, trust is very important in the defence industrial relationships. Since we have signed the contract in 2014 with HSW for Krab K9 chassis, we have gained very high mutual trust and we are willing to expand our cooperation further. Poland is a very important partner for us.

Poland has established a high level of defence industry capability, so we expect mutual cooperation on self-propelled guns, armored combat vehicles and air-defence systems will be expanded further.  

We will develop a strong footing in Poland as a business hub for the European market. To that end, we will make efforts to expand our business in Poland through further cooperation with local companies to develop new defence platforms and export products to third countries.

Thank you for the conversation.

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