The K9 Thunder was developed in the late 1980s to replace the M109A2K, also known as the K55, to meet 21st century requirements
For South Korea, artillery and especially self-propelled artillery was the optimal choice for its mountainous terrain. It can be much more responsive, efficient and cheaper than air power; react quickly to a potential border adversary, the North Korea. K9 Thunder is currently considered Korea’s best self-propelled howitzer, and is the main export weapon product of Samsung Techwin – a subsidiary of Samsung, specializing in the production of weapons and high-tech equipment for war.
The K9 Thunder was developed in the late 1980s to replace the M109A2K, also known as the K55, to meet 21st century requirements. Key operational requirements included a higher rate of fire, longer range, better accuracy and faster into and out of action times. This artillery system entered service in 1999.
K9 Thunder has a weight of 47 tons, a length of 12 m, a width of 3.4 m, a height of 2.73 m. A standard crew includes 5 men: Commander, Driver, Gunner, and 2 Loaders.
K9 is welded with 20 t of MIL-12560H armor steel developed by POSCO for K2 Black Panther project, which can withstand explosion pressure and fragments from 155 mm HE rounds, 14.5 mm armor piercing rounds, and anti-personnel mines all around. The vehicle can protect crews from CBRN warfare using air purification system.
The main armament is CN98 155 mm 52 calibre artillery gun manufactured by Kia Heavy Industry. Maximum range of fire is 30 km with standard HE projectile and 40 km with rocket-assisted projectile. The K9 Thunder is resupplied form the K10 ammunition resupply vehicle. It is based on the K9 chassis. The reloading process is fully automated and can be performed without exposing the crew under enemy fire or in the contaminated areas.
South Korea ordered a total of 1,136 of these howitzers. Finland ordered 48 of these howitzers for delivery in 2017. India ordered 100 of these artillery systems. In 2018 at least 25 units were reportedly delivered to the Indian Army. Estonia ordered 18 of these artillery systems. Deliveries began in 2020 and are planned to be completed in 2023. Norway ordered 24 of these artillery systems. Egypt was also evaluating this system.
Priced at about $4 million per gun, the K9 Thunder is considered the main self-propelled gun in the South Korean military’s payroll today and also its main export lethal weapon product.