On October 19, an initial batch of 24 K9PL self-propelled howitzers (SPHs) was rolled outto be sent to Poland. The K9PL is based on the K9A1 variant that features improvements such as automatic fire control, driver night vision periscopes, and auxiliary power units. The roll-out ceremony was held at Hanwha Defense’s Factory 1 in Changwon, some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, as part of the first executive contract signed in mid-August. During the event, all the 24 K9PL vehicles were lined up on the site, while a K9PL led the parade of advanced combat vehicles, built by Hanwha Defense, including the K10 Ammunition Resupply Vehicle; K77 Fire Direction Center Vehicle; K21 Infantry Fighting Vehicle; Korean Amphibious Assault Vehicle; and Arion-SMET Unmanned Ground Vehicle.
The K9 Thunder is a South Korean 155 mm self-propelled howitzer designed and developed by the Agency for Defense Development and civil contractors including Dongmyeong Heavy Industries, Kia Heavy Industry, Poongsan Corporation, and Samsung Aerospace Industries for the Republic of Korea Armed Forces, and is now manufactured by Hanwha Defense. K9 howitzers operate in groups with the K10 automatic ammunition resupply vehicle variant. The entire K9 fleet operated by the ROK Armed Forces is now undergoing upgrades to K9A1, and a further upgrade variant K9A2 is being tested for production. As of 2022, the K9 series has had a 52% share of the global self-propelled howitzer market, including wheeled vehicles, since the year 2000.
On 27 July 2022, Polish Armaments Group (PGZ) and Hanwha Defense signed a framework agreement to supply 672 K9A1 and K9PL. Hanwha Defense hopes to expand the deal plus adding K10 self-propelled howitzers and K11 support vehicles. Poland will also produce AHS Krab in parallel; however, due to the low production capability, the deliveries of the existing order will be completed by 2026. On 26 August 2022, an executive contract of $2.4 billion was signed to acquire 212 K9A1s manufactured by Hanwha Defense as a first batch order. The deal does not include accompanying vehicles; however, it consists of crew training, including simulators, logistics packages, and a large amount of ammunition.
To match the delivery time, the first 48 howitzers–12 upgraded vehicles and 36 to be refurbished to K9A1s–will be transferred from the Republic of Korea Army inventory. The ROKA will be compensated with newly produced vehicles by the end of 2023. All howitzers will be equipped with Polish communication system and Topaz Automated Fire Control Kit, which is intended for operating with Polish command vehicles. Delivery will commence between 2022–2026. Poland plans to build K9PL locally afterward via technology transfer for the second batch. On 7 September, Hanwha Defense and WB Electronics signed a $139.5 million deal for installation of Polish communication systems on the first batch order.