Romania is set to start its 155mm self-propelled howitzer armament program in the imminent future, focusing on industrial cooperation. In pursuit of this goal, Romania has been in talks with South Korean defense manufacturer Hanwha to produce some components of the K9 Thunder howitzer domestically.

The Romanian Ministry of National Defense has already sought parliamentary approval to launch several weapons programs, including the self-propelled howitzer project. The entire programme, which encompasses the procurement of five 155mm self-propelled howitzer systems at the battalion level, is estimated to be worth $1.923 million.

The Defense Romania website has revealed that Romania may procure a total of 59 K9 155mm self-propelled howitzers from South Korea, with the initial procurement consisting of 18 howitzers.

At a recent strategic event organized by the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Romania, Daniela Nicolescu, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Economy, Entrepreneurship and Tourism, confirmed talks with Hanwha on the production of K9 Thunder howitzer components in Romania. The South Korean company Poongsan also participated in the discussions on the production of gunpowder.

Romania’s National Company Romarm signed two MoUs with South Korean firms Hanwha Aerospace and LIG Nex1, a missile manufacturer, earlier this year. Procurement of 155mm self-propelled howitzers is expected to start soon, with several tenders anticipated, including Hanwha’s bid for K9 Thunder howitzers.

The K9 Thunder, developed by the South Korean company Samsung Techwin, is a 155mm self-propelled howitzer, initially introduced to the South Korean military in 1999. With a caliber of 155mm, this robust piece of machinery demonstrates impressive range. It can launch standard projectiles up to about 30 kilometers, while the range is extended to about 40 kilometers when rocket-assisted projectiles are used. It is equipped with a highly efficient firing system that allows a burst of 3 rounds in just 15 seconds. The sustained rate of fire is 6 rounds per minute for the first 3 minutes, then reduced to 2 rounds per minute for an hour.

The K9 Thunder is powered by an MTU MT 881 Ka-500 8-cylinder water-cooled diesel engine, which generates a powerful 1000 horsepower. This power allows the 47-tonne vehicle to reach a top highway speed of 67 kilometers per hour. Armament-wise, in addition to the 155mm/52 caliber main gun, it also features a 7.62mm caliber K6 secondary machine gun. It can cover a range of 480 kilometers, demonstrating its substantial endurance in various operational scenarios.

The K9 Thunder is already in service with Estonia, Finland, India, Norway, Poland and South Korea. Australia and Egypt have also bought it. The Turkish Army also signed a contract to produce a localized version called the T-155 Fırtına, replacing many components with domestically produced ones. Furthermore, Finland acquired 48 used K9s from South Korea in 2017 and integrated them into its military forces.

Alain Henry de Frahan