It has become well-known that U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) testing actively supports six of the Army Futures Command’s Cross Functional Teams (CFTs) building the Army’s future force. In mid-September, YPG hosted a demonstration showcasing the use of the United States’ most cutting edge 155mm artillery munitions with the South Korean K9A1 Thunder Self-Propelled Howitzer and K10 Ammunition Resupply Vehicle. Both platforms are manufactured by Hanwha Defense Corporation (HDC), South Korea’s largest defense contractor. Recently, the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Armaments Center signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with HDC to assess the feasibility, performance and capabilities of carrying and firing the American munitions by the two platforms. Preparing for the demonstration took months of test planning and coordination, even prior to a pre-demonstration test in July that involved every scenario the visitors saw in September. Weapons operators from YPG and South Korea both participated.
“We did some safety testing leading up to this demonstration event to collect data to prove out the compatibility and safety for the crew since they are doing on-board operations. It’s not easy to work on the technical test side with the planning and preparations involved in that on top of the logistics of many visitors coming together at a gun position,” said Jered Ford, YPG Artillery and Mine Branch Chief.
“These are the things within the scope of work of the CRADA with Hanwha that they wanted to demonstrate in terms of the capabilities. While the systems were here, they also wanted to have the opportunity to show the US and other foreign nations the capability of their system. What’s really important is that Yuma Proving Ground and all of the test sites under ATEC have procedures for safety so that we could ensure we had a safe demonstration for the test crews and all those involved. They’ve been very timely to allow this to come off on schedule,” said Anthony Sebasto, Acting Director of Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Armaments Center at Picatinny Arsenal.
“The purpose of our partnership is to check the compatibility of our munitions with those two vehicles. We’ve been working on this effort for the last year and a half to ensure we can safely fire the munitions from those two vehicles. We received great support from YPG personnel in the planning of this demonstration. We really appreciate the capabilities of YPG in all different kind of munitions testing. YPG is the prime testing ground for us for indirect fire munitions. There will be opportunities for countries that are acquiring the K9A1 to see that the U.S. munitions are compatible with the system. This is just the beginning of our collaborative efforts. There is the potential for more demonstrations like this in the future at Yuma Proving Ground,” said Sam Perez, who serves as principal investigator for the CRADA.
“There were several tests that we had to do just to ensure the safety of the South Korean crew that did the man-firing. There was a lot of pre-demo work that had to be done to accomplish the actual demonstration safely. You’ve got to get a lot of small details right to make everything work,” said Jonathan Bazua, the YPG test officer who ran the event.
On the demonstration day, about 60 visitors from across the Army and several friendly foreign nations observed the K9A1 undergo loading from the K10 and then embark on multiple realistic fire missions across two adjacent gun positions. The K9A1 demonstrated its ability to shoot and scoot, in which a self-propelled howitzer fires artillery, then immediately departs to a different location to evade possible counter-fire from an adversary. Weapons operators on board the howitzer also demonstrated the platform’s ability to burst fire three rounds within 16 seconds, and fire six rounds within 45 seconds. The K9A1 fired both XM1113 and M795 155 mm rounds, the former of which with rocket assistance. The testers also demonstrated the K10 capability of transferring the US Artillery munitions and inert Korean Modular Charge System to the K9A1. Following the demonstration, the DEVCOM personnel gave high marks to the support they received from YPG. The K9A1 is used by nine other nations in addition to South Korea, and more may acquire the platform in the future.