South Korea recently agreed to partner with Larsen & Toubro to build a hundred of its South Korean designed K9 155mm self-propelled howitzers for the Indian Army. The K9s will cost about $7 million each and half the work will be done in South Korea while the rest will be done in India by L&T. The Indian Army wanted 100-150 more K-9s but budget problems limit the current deal to 100.

While superficially similar to the American M109 the K9 is a heaver (46 tons versus 28 for the M109), carries more ammo and has twice the range (up to 56 kilometers in part because of a barrel that is a third longer). There is more automation on the K9, so it has a crew of five versus six on the M-109. With the K9 South Korea joins Germany in their effort to build a suitable replacement for the elderly M109 design. The chief competitor for the Indian contract was Russia which offered its similar 42 ton 2S19. The K9 won on the basis of technical capabilities, field tests and a South Korean reputation for quality and reliability.

South Korea has already sold 350 K9s to Turkey and 120 to Poland.

K9 Howitzer System

The K9 VAJRA-T is a variant of K9 Thunder which is unarguably the world's best 155mm/52 Caliber Self Propelled Howitzer. Currently, K9 Thunder is serving as one of the main conventional deterrent forces for a number of armies including the Korean Army. K9 Thunder has established its superiority through demonstrations and evaluation tests at various proving grounds in extreme weather conditions, jungles, barren deserts and severely cold areas. By demonstrating its ability to handle Indian as well as all NATO standard ammunition, K9 VAJRA-T has proven its excellent conformability to any field artillery unit.

The K9 VAJRA-T 155mm / 52 Caliber Tracked Self-Propelled Howitzer meets the requirements of 21st century warfare, which is based on the following missions: Deep fire support with its longer firing range; qualitative superiority to overcome a numerical inferiority with its higher rate of fire and accuracy and effective and reliable fire support in all kinds of circumstances with its higher mobility and protection.

The K9 Thunder is a 155mm / 52 caliber self-propelled howitzer developed by Samsung Techwin for the Republic of Korea Armed Forces. The howitzer is designed to provide effective and deep fire support in all kinds of theaters. Built on high mobility platform, the K9 delivers a high rate of fire at long range.

The K9 Thunder development program began in 1989. The first prototype was rolled out and tested in 1996. The design phase was completed in 1998 and serial production began in 1999. It is one of the main contenders for the Land 17 Artillery Replacement Project of the Australian Army.

K9 Self-Propelled Howitzer Design

The K9 Thunder platform is made of all-welded steel armour protection material. The design incorporates a Modular Azimuth Position System (MAPS), an automatic fire-control system (AFCS), a powered gun elevation / depression and a turret traverse system. The hydro-pneumatic suspension system provides high-ground clearance and mobility across different terrains.

"The K9 Thunder platform is made of all-welded steel armor protection material."

The main weapon is the 155mm / 52 caliber gun. It has a burst rate of fire of three rounds per 15 seconds and a maximum rate of fire of six to eight rounds a minute for three minutes. Sustained rate of fire is two to three rounds a minute for one hour. The K9 Thunder is designed to meet the up-to-date tactical concept on shoot and scoot.

The gun can fire a standard M107 high-explosive (HE) projectile for a maximum range of 18km.

Maximum range firing the HE rocket assisted projectile (RAP) with uni-charge of five zones, is 30 km. It can also fire a K307 projectile with a modular-charge of six zones for a maximum range of over 40 km.

Fire Control

The gun's firing is controlled by on-board fire-control equipment. The information can be transmitted through a data digital radio link or voice communications. The automatic loading system places the projectiles onto the ammunition tray ready for fire. The K9 Thunder can open fire within 30 seconds at stand out position or within 60 seconds during movement.


The K9 Thunder's welded steel construction protects crew and on-board equipment against the 155mm shell fragments, 14.5mm Armour piercing shells and anti-personnel mines. The air purification system and on-board crew gas masks are provided for NBC warfare.

K10 Ammunition Re-Supply Vehicle (ARV)

The K9 Thunder is supplemented by a K10 automatic ammunition re-supply vehicle (ARV) built on the K9 platform.

Each K10 supports two K9 guns and can carry 104 rounds of ammunition. The K10 is a fully tracked vehicle that follows the main artillery battery. The K10 ARV can automatically transfer 12 rounds per minute through a conveyor belt. This avoids the exposure of crew to the combat environment. Each K10 supports two K9 guns and can carry 104 rounds of ammunition.

K9 Engine

The K9 Thunder is powered by an MTU MT 881 Ka-500 8-cylinder water cooled diesel engine coupled to the Allison ATDX1100-5A3 transmission. The engine develops a power output of 1,000hp with a power-to-weight ratio of 21.6hp/t. The propulsion system provides a top speed of over 67 km/h and a cruising range of 360 km. (Text adapted from Techwin)

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