Currently, K9 howitzer is the best known product of Hanwha Defense in Poland. Since 2014, Hanwha is cooperating with HSW, with the Polish company using its K9 chassis produced on license as a basis for the Krab howitzer. In August, the Polish MoD signed an executive contract, to procure 212 K9A1 howitzers, the first of which are to be delivered to Poland starting this year, as early as in late November or early December. This will fulfill the most urgent operational requirements of the Polish Land Forces Artillery, particularly as a number of Krab howitzers was provided to Ukraine within the military assistance framework.
As the Hanwha Defense representatives have told us, they have already been produced and now are awaiting delivery. Early next year, the integration of Polish Topaz Fire Control System should take place. Hanwha Defense has already some arrangements with WB Group, the manufacturer of Topaz, so the integration should take place without any issues. Both the Topaz Fire Control System, and the K9A1 are modern, modular systems that can be easily integrated.
With the first contract for K9A1 signed, Hanwha Defense is set to expand its presence in Poland. Until the end of the year, Hanwha Defense plans to open its office in Warsaw, to coordinate the operations in Poland. Additionally, an in-service support centre is set to be established, the location will be known until the end of the year.
Hanwha Defense is also preparing for further stages of cooperation with the Polish industry on K9 howitzer.
Currently a due diligence of a number of Polish companies is being conducted, with the aim of selecting the most beneficial location of a facility where the manufacturing of the second batch of the howitzers, namely K9PL, will take place,
said Peter JK Bae, Vice President of Hanwha Europe (Head of Poland & Eastern EU business).
A number of existing PGZ companies are taking part in this due diligence process, and the results of this process are likely to be known as early as in October. A decision on where to locate the production will eventually be taken by PGZ in cooperation with Hanwha Defense and the Polish Government. Here, a number of factors need to be taken into account – not only the current capabilities of the PGZ companies undergoing diligence, but also the possible scope of capacity expansion. It is likely that PGZ companies will need to increase the capacity to meet the requirements set in the Polish K9 program.
Hanwha is ready not only to provide a transfer of technology, but also appropriate investments, when if necessary, also in new manufacturing facilities
said Peter JK Bae
This will serve the K9PL program, which – as Hanwha representatives say – will eventually become a Polish-made howitzer, with full-technology transfer.
The transfer of K9 technology should come as a support for the Polish industry, especially as K9 is already used in several NATO and EU countries, such as Estonia, Finland and Norway
said Billy Boo-hwan Lee, Executive Vice President of Overseas Business Division, Hanwha Defense.
During the MSPO, the concepts of development of K9 howitzer were also showcased. While the K9A1 version is now in production, a research and development effort on the new K9A2 is being made. The K9A2 is set to feature fully automatic loading and handling system, which will enable to increase the rate of fire to up to ten rounds per minute and reduce the crew to three members. Future versions of K9 howitzers will also feature more Artificial Intelligence and Automation.
A next step, currently in development, is planned to be K9A3 howitzer, capable of driving remotely. Additionally, the K9A3 may receive longer, 58-calibre length barrel, which will increase the effective firing range to over 70 km. K9's final evolution will be the Next-Generation version capable of operating fully autonomously, without the crew inside the vehicle. Hanwha Defense is open to transfer the technology of both current and future versions of K9 howitzer to Poland. K9 howitzers may also be supplemented with highly automated K10 Ammunition Resupply Vehicles, ensuring automated loading and handling of ammunition, as well as K11 Firing Direction Center Vehicle.
Beyond the howitzers
During the MSPO 2022, Hanwha Defense has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with PGZ, to enhance the cooperation not only on K9 howitzer, but also on Redback Infantry Fighting Vehicle, K239 Chunmoo Multiple Rocket Launcher System and 155mm ammunition.
The first of those systems, Redback, is considered to be purchased for the Polish Land Forces to support the M1A2 Abrams SEPv3 tanks of 18th Mechanized Division, as Major General Maciej Jabłoński, Land Forces Inspector told recently Defence24.pl in an interview. Redback could support the heaviest Polish tanks, namely M1A2 Abrams SEPv3, while other units would use lighter K2/K2PL tanks and Polish-designed Borsuk Infantry Fighting Vehicle.
Hanwha Defense is open to cooperation on manufacturing and development of Redback with the Polish industry. Localization of the vehicle production is a feasible option, but also tailoring to specific Polish requirements.
Redback is a best-proven IFV solution because the vehicle was developed based on key technologies of K21 IFV, hundreds of which have been in service with the South Korean Army since 2009. The futuristic tracked IFV also underwent difficult tests and evaluations in Australia very successfully in 2021.
Another area of potential cooperation is the K239 Chunmoo Multiple Rocket Launcher System, which could be purchased for the Polish Army beside HIMARS. It is a truck-based mounted missile launcher which can load two pods at the same time. Each pod can carry six guided rockets with 80 km maximum range or one 600mm diameter ballistic missile with a range of up to 290 km.
The Korean side is open to industrial cooperation regarding K239 missile system, including the production of the guided missiles in Poland, integration of the system etc. Now the discussion is at an early stage, though it can be expected that the system would be integrated with the Topaz system already used by the Polish artillery, and K239 launchers (two pods with 12 missiles, like in the Korean Army) would be placed on Jelcz trucks.
Hanwha Defense is also open to cooperation regarding other areas. The company is a manufacturer of the ammunition, and according to the Polish Armament Agency release the contract for K9A1 also includes 155mm artillery ammunition. Currently, Hanwha Defense is discussing potential cooperation with the Polish industry to enable the manufacturing of the ammunition in Polish companies, which would secure the long-term needs of Poland, and give additional source of supplies for various Hanwha Defense customers around the world.
Hanwha is fully committed to cooperation with the Polish industry. We are not here just to sell equipment, but to work together with the Government of Poland and local companies with full partnership and trust
Jędrzej Graf, Jakub Palowski