On October 23, 2023, a momentous event unfolded at a South Korean port as 18 formidable K9PL self-propelled howitzers were ceremoniously dispatched to Poland. This shipment marks a pivotal milestone in the meticulously planned reinforcement of Poland’s defense capabilities. The delivery represents the next phase in the comprehensive contract covering 212 K9 artillery systems. Hanwha Aerospace has commendably doubled its production capacity to ensure the punctual and even advanced delivery of these K9PL self-propelled howitzers. Back in December 2014, Samsung Techwin entered into a significant cooperation agreement with Huta Stalowa Wola to provide K9 Thunder chassis for the AHS Krab self-propelled howitzer. This extensive deal, valued at $310 million, includes the transfer of related technology and the power pack, encompassing 120 chassis. Over the years, from 2015 to 2022, South Korea manufactured 24 units, while an additional 96 units were license-produced in Poland. The first chassis rolled out on June 26, 2015, and by October 2016, all 24 vehicles produced in South Korea had embarked on their journey to Poland. The production of K9 chassis in Poland commenced in 2017.
July 27, 2022, witnessed the signing of a significant framework agreement between the Polish Armaments Group (PGZ) and Hanwha Defense to supply 672 K9PL vehicles. Hanwha Defense is looking to expand this deal further by introducing K10 ARV and K11 FDCV support vehicles. Concurrently, Poland is set to initiate the production of AHS Krab; however, due to production limitations, the fulfillment of existing orders is expected to conclude by 2026. On August 26, 2022, a momentous executive contract worth $2.4 billion was signed, securing the acquisition of the first batch order of 212 K9PL(A1) units manufactured by Hanwha Defense. This contract, which encompasses crew training, logistics packages, simulators, and a substantial ammunition supply, does not include accompanying vehicles. To meet the delivery schedule, the first 48 howitzers, consisting of 12 upgraded vehicles and 36 slated for refurbishment into K9PL(A1)s, will be transferred from the Republic of Korea Army inventory, with new vehicles compensating the ROKA by the end of 2023.
All K9PL units will be equipped with the Polish C2 network system and the Topaz Automated Fire Control Kit, designed for seamless integration with Polish command vehicles. The contractual agreement mandates that Hanwha deliver all 212 units by September 30, 2026. Poland plans to transition to local K9PL production for the second batch, and on September 7, 2022, Hanwha Defense and WB Electronics sealed a $139.5 million deal to install Polish communication systems on the first batch order. The inaugural batch of 24 K9PL(A1) units rolled out on October 19, 2022, with a grand delivery ceremony held in Poland on December 6, 2022. The construction of the first newly built K9PL commenced in July 2023. In another remarkable development in August 2023, Poland, in collaboration with its defense sector, embarked on the development of a heavy infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) christened the CBWP (Ci??ki Bojowy Wóz Piechoty). This IFV is based on the K9 Thunder chassis, for which Poland acquired modification and platform usage rights back in 2015.
The K9 Thunder, a South Korean 155 mm self-propelled howitzer, originally designed by the Agency for Defense Development and developed by private corporations, including Dongmyeong Heavy Industries, Kia Heavy Industry, Poongsan Corporation, and Samsung Aerospace Industries, has become an integral part of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces. Today, it is manufactured by Hanwha Aerospace. The K9 howitzers are deployed in conjunction with the K10 automatic ammunition resupply vehicle variant. Currently, the entire K9 fleet operated by the ROK Armed Forces is undergoing upgrades to K9A1, with a K9A2 upgrade variant in the testing phase for future production. As of 2023, the K9 series has secured a 52% share of the global self-propelled howitzer market, spanning both tracked and wheeled vehicles, since the year 2000.