South Korea self-propelled Howitzer K-9 engages in a live-fire exercise

The explosion of a self-propelled howitzer ‘K-9 Thunder’ that killed South Korean soldiers last week is appeared to have caused by the combustion of gunpowder that is used to propel artillery shells toward the target, local media reports.

“For reasons unknown, there was smoke inside the howitzer’s breach block assembly,” the South Korean Army official was quoted as saying by The Korean Herald on Monday. “According to our on-site investigation, three sets of gunpowder were completely burned down without any trace,” source said.

Two South Korean soldiers were killed and five injured in an explosion inside a K-9 Thunder during artillery training Friday in Choerwon, Gangwon Province.

The Army decided to halt K-9 artillery firings for training purposes until the official investigation on the exact cause of the explosion is concluded. The training was designed to improve accuracy of counter-artillery attacks toward North Korea.

Touted as “high-quality indigenous artillery” for its longer range and higher rate of firing, he indigenous howitzer is manufactured by Samsung Techwin and has been exported to four foreign countries including Turkey, Poland, Finland and India.

However, since malfunctioning of two howitzers in 2010 during Pyongyang’s 2010 bombardment of Yeonpyong Island, the howitzer has been under scrutiny. 

More than 1,000 K-9s have been produced and they suffered from 1,700 malfunctions over the past five years. It means that every K-9 suffers from about two cases of malfunction every five years. This is similar to a car driven for five years, one might see a similar number of malfunctions.

It is worthy to note that, Larsen & Toubro (L&T) had signed a contract with Hanwha Techwin (HTW) in  for execution of the 155mm/52 Cal tracked self-propelled (SP) gun program for the Indian Army. 

L&T was declared as the sole qualified bidder, post User Evaluation Trials, based on the performance of the K-9 Vajra-T, a self-propelled howitzer appropriately customised and fielded by L&T with HTW as the technology partner. The K9 Vajra-T gun is an enhanced version of HTW’s K9 Thunder, to suit specific requirements of the Indian Army including desert operations.