Written by: Jonah Brody
Estonia took another step on January 14 to bolster its defence as the nation’s Ministry of Defence announced the signing of a new €36 million contract to procure twelve K9 Thunder Self-Propelled Howitzers (Ministry of Defence Estonia, 2023). The deal, signed with the company Hanwha Defence, is a result of what Defence Minister Hanno Peukur referred to as “lessons learned from the war in Ukraine” (as cited in Estonian World, 2023). The 47-ton, 155 mm howitzers manufactured in South Korea feature a maximum firing range of 40 kilometres and can reach a top speed of 67 kilometres per hour (European Defence Review, 2022).
The Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) are set to receive the howitzers through 2026, although the country hopes to receive them sooner. According to Karmo Saar of the Estonian Centre for Defence Investment, the Baltic nation is “working toward the deliveries arriving earlier” (as cited in ERR News, 2023) than the 2026 mark Once delivered, Estonia will begin the process of adapting them to the EDF’s network and will have a total of 36 such howitzers in its arsenal (Ministry of Defence Estonia, 2023).
This contract between Estonia and Hanwha is not a first. Twelve K9 howitzers arrived in 2020 thanks to a €46 million contract signed in June 2018 (ERR News, 2022). Business has been busy for Hanwha Defence on the European continent since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Poland signed an execution contract valued at $2.4 billion with Hanwha for the delivery of new K9s (European Security & Defence, 2022). In November, Norway exercised an option from a contract signed in 2017 to purchase 4 new K9s, and Finland authorised the purchase of 38 howitzers for €134 million (Martin, 2022; Meta-Défense, 2022). The proliferation of agreements for the versatile K9 Thunder highlights the growing European commitment to strengthen the continent’s eastern defences.
ERR News. (2022, December 10). Next six K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers arrive in Estonia. ERR.Ee. Retrieved 18 January 2023, https://news.err.ee/1608816319/gallery-next-six-k9-thunder-self-propelled-howitzers-arrive-in-estonia
ERR News. (2023, January 14). Estonia buys 12 more K9 Thunders from South Korea. ERR.Ee. Retrieved 18 January 2023, https://news.err.ee/1608850675/estonia-buys-12-more-k9-thunders-from-south-korea
Estonian World. Estonia buys 12 more K9 Thunders from South Korea for €36 million. (2023, January 18). Retrieved 18 January 2023, https://estonianworld.com/security/estonia-buys-12-more-k9-thunders-from-south-korea-for-e36-million/?fbclid=IwAR07MMdu5UeNq0SsqMTtR1RGQFSunqdKlZ3nIOIXTQNpiqHr8uKm3z1G1iU
European Security & Defence. (2022, August 31). Hanwha Defense Signs Polish Contract. Retrieved 18 January 2023, https://euro-sd.com/2022/08/articles/exclusive/27101/hanwha-2/
European Defence Review. (2022, October 7). Hanwha’s K9 artillery solutions proven compatible with US munitions. Retrieved 18 January 2023, https://www.edrmagazine.eu/hanwhas-k9-artillery-solutions-proven-compatible-with-us-munitions
Martin, T. (2022, November 7). Norway bulks up artillery with new K9 howitzer agreement, tank contract set for year end. Breaking Defense. Retrieved 18 January 2023, https://breakingdefense.com/2022/11/norway-bulks-up-artillery-with-new-k9-howitzer-agreement-tank-contract-set-for-year-end/
Meta-Défense. (2022, November 21). Finland formalizes order for 38 additional South Korean K9 Thunder self-propelled guns. Retrieved 18 January 2023, https://www.meta-defense.fr/en/2022/11/21/finland-formalizes-order-for-additional-38-south-korean-k9-thunder-self-propelled-guns/
Ministry of Defence Estonia [@MoD_Estonia]. (2023, January 18). Here We Go Again, Estonia Adds Another 12 South Korean-made Self-Propelled Howitzers to its Combat Capability [Tweet]. Twitter. Retrieved 18 January 2023, https://twitter.com/MoD_Estonia/status/1614182189368856577