First batch of S. Korean tanks and howitzers rolled out for delivery to Poland

By Lim Chang-won Posted : October 19, 2022, 16:36 Updated : October 19, 2022, 17:44

[Courtesy of Hanwha Defesne]

SEOUL -- The first batch of South Korean tanks and self-propelled howitzers was rolled out for delivery to Poland, just two months after the European country concluded an arms deal on the quick introduction of foreign weapons to fill up equipment shortages caused by the support of crucial munitions to Ukraine.

Poland has signed basic deals with South Korea to acquire FA-50 light attack fighters, K2 tanks and K9 self-propelled howitzers. Hanwha Defense and Hyundai Rotem held separate ceremonies on October 19 to roll out the first batch of 24 K9PL howitzers and ten K2PL tanks at their production bases in the southern industrial city of Changwon. 

[Courtesy of Hyundai Rotem]

K2PL is a variant of South Korea's main battle tank, K2 Black Panther. Hyundai Rotem will deliver homemade 180 tanks to Poland by 2025. K9PL is the Polish version of K9 Thunder, the most popular and proven tracked artillery system in the world. Hanwha Defense will ship more than 200 howitzers to Poland sequentially by 2026 and hundreds more through local production afterward.

The K9PL howitzer is based on the K9A1 variant that features improvements such as automatic fire control, driver night vision periscopes, and auxiliary power units. Hanwha promised to deliver an upgraded version that is equipped with a fully automatic ammunition handling system and can fire over nine rounds per minute.

"Today’s rollout of K9PL self-propelled howitzers represents our firm commitment to satisfying the needs of Poland," Hanwha Defense's overseas business division head Lee Boo-hwan said in a ceremony attended by some 150 guests including Major General Maciej Jablonski, Polish Army Inspector of the Land Forces.

For its boastful ceremony, Hanwha Defense said that all the 24 K9PL vehicles were lined up, while a K9PL led the parade of various ground vehicles. Guided missiles were also on display. The company's K239 Chunmoo self-propelled rocket artillery system drew special attention due to news reports that under a framework contract signed in Warsaw, Hanwha Defense will supply 288 Chunmoo launchers, with the first batch of 18 to be delivered in 2023.
Originally, Poland favored U.S.-made M142 high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) capable of firing GPS-guided rockets, which have been in high demand since they were used by Ukrainian forces to launch precision strikes on crucial Russian targets such as ammunition dumps, command posts and bridges. Chunmoo became a promising substitute as Lockheed Martin may not meet Polish requirements.  

HIMARS can fire rockets with a range of up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) and a single tactical missile with a range of 300km. Chunmoo is capable of firing different guided or unguided rockets with a range of 80 km in quick succession. 

The Chunmoo launcher carries two launch pods that can hold three types of rockets: 131 mm unguided rockets, 230 mm rockets, and 239 mm guided rockets with unitary high-explosive warheads warhead developed for bunker busters or hundreds of cluster bombs. Two different types of rocket pods can be loaded at once. One rocket pod can launch six 239 mm rockets in 30 seconds, and it's possible to reload two rocket pods in seven minutes. Each Chunmoo launcher is paired with an ammunition support vehicle (ASV) carrying four reload pods. 

A total of 12 Chunmoo systems are in service in the United Arab Emirates. In June 2022, the Agency for Defense Development, a state-run defense technology development agency in South Korea, revealed efforts to increase the range of Chunmoo's 239 mm rockets to 200 km, along with research into a larger 400 mm rocket. 
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