DSEI 2023: Hanwha highlights UK industrial benefits of K9 Thunder British Army artillery bid
Shown for the first time at DSEI in 2023 is the Hanwha K9A2 155 mm/52cal self-propelled artillery system. This is the company's entrant for the UK Royal Artillery Mobile Fires Platform (MFP) to replace the BAE Systems AS90, 30 of which have already been pass on to Ukraine.
In addition to Hanwha Aerospace UK, Team Thunder also includes Horstman, Pearson Engineering, Lockheed Martin, Leonardo and Soucy International.
The A2 is the latest version of the K9, of which some 1,800 have been built or are on order for South Korea and export markets.
The K9A2 has a crew of three and automated ammunition handling with a growth path for future technology insertions. It will be the standard version for export and the Republic of Korea Army will upgrade its vehicles to this standard.
The K9A2 has a 155mm/52cal barrel with 23l chamber which meets the NATO Joint Ballistic Memorandum of Understanding (JBMoU). Hanwha is already looking at a version with a 58cal barrel with a larger chamber volume to provide a step-change in range but may potentially cause higher barrel wear.
If selected Pearson Engineering would undertake hull manufacture while Lockheed Martin UK would build the turrets and integrate them.
Horstman would provide the hydrogas suspension and has been working with Hanwha for over 20 years. Soucy would supply composite rubber tracks and it is expected that other UK contractors will join Team Thunder in the future.
According to Hanwha if selected this would lead to the company investing more in the UK defence industrial base including R&D and well as potentially work on upgrading European K9s to the latest K9A2 standard.
Hanwha has commissioned a study which it says shows that if successful, Team Thunder will contribute £576 million gross value added to the UK economy which represents in excess of 90% of the contract value.
Shephard's sources say that the total UK MFP requirement is for 116 units with a pre-qualification questionnaire expected to be issued by the MoD in the Q1 of 2024 with an initial operation capability (IOC) still being 2028.
The user has not specified a tracked or wheeled solution although the acquisition of 14 ex-Swedish 155mm Archer SP artillery systems to pug a capability gap has, as one observer put it 'muddied the water somewhat'.
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