|l Hanwha Aerospace’s Chief Executive confirms the importance of UK market and the company’s ambition to partner with UK through a program of ‘Investment and Involvement’ with UK MOD and industry partners|
|l Hanwha Aerospace leads Team Thunder partnership with UK companies to build and supply a British variant of K9A2 Self-Propelled Howitzer (SPH)
l The latest variant of the world’s most popular K9 Thunder SPH, already in service with a number of key NATO and JEF countries, will offer increased lethality and survivability through capability enhancements such as a fully automatic ammunition handling system, composite rubber tracks, and increased rate of fires
|l Hanwha Aerospace is committed to maximizing the transfer of K9A2 manufacturing to UK firms, drawing from UK supply chain and SMEs and generating hundreds of highly skilled jobs across the UK|
|l Hanwha Aerospace’s UK campaign seeking out a range of broader industrial partnerships in the aerospace, communications, and energy solutions|
Led by Hanwha Aerospace as the prime, ‘Team Thunder UK’ is a unique international partnership involving a group of highly accomplished UK defence manufacturers, brought together to build and supply a world-class, cutting-edge mobile fires capability to the British Army in response to its Mobile Fires Platform (MFP) requirement.
Team Thunder includes Lockheed Martin UK, Leonardo UK, Pearson Engineering, Horstman Defence Group, and Soucy Defense The team is offering to the British Army is the K9A2 Self-Propelled Howitzer (SPH), developed from the prodigious and highly fielded K9A1 SPH already in service or ordered by nine nations, including five NATO members, Turkey, Poland, Norway, Estonia and Finland, and Five Eyes partners such as Australia.
The K9A2 builds upon the key battle winning components from the proven K9A1, which accounts for over 50 percent of the global SPH market with over 1,800 platforms in service, to deliver enhanced levels of lethality and survivability within the upgraded K9A2 SPH platform. Central to these enhancements is a fully automated turret, reducing crew size from five to three and delivering the operating sweet spot for reduced crewing, and the inclusion of a novel ad game changing tracked system utilizing Soucy’s groundbreaking Composite Rubber Track (CRT).
These enhancements deliver greater mobility, firepower, speed into and out of action, delivering 24/7, accurate, rapid and consistent artillery effects at +40km range. K9 gun is compatible with all current Joint Ballistic Memorandum of Understanding (JBMOU) ammunition including Guided Munition and Rocket Assisted Projectiles and foreseen RAMJET solutions.
High levels of tactical mobility and automation deliver opportunities for novel artillery employment and enable fast moving, shoot-and-scoot operations to enhance survivability and extend battlefield coverage. The K9A2 will be equipped with a fully automatic ammunition handling system capable of firing nine or more rounds per minute. An onboard ammunition holding of 48 rounds and options for automated robotic re-supply through K10 Ammunition Resupply Vehicle pairing, extends freedom of action and mission longevity.
Powerful powerpack and advanced track and suspension design secures K9A2 platform with several tons potential for weight growth, which will enable the integration of Active and Passive Protection System without any concern.
The endorsement in June 23 by the ROK Government to upgrade its substantial fleet of K9A1 SPHS to a K9A2 build standard was a significant step forward in developing the K9A2 SPH and provides real benefit to the UK MFL programme through technological de-risking and collaborative development opportunities.
In another key milestone for developing a British variant of K9A2, the CRT was successfully integrated onto the K9A2 prototype in July 2023 and will be showcased to the public for the first time at DSEI 2023 at ExCel, London, from 12-15 September 2023.
“CRT is one of the key innovative technologies to be featured on the British K9A2 variant, enabling greater all-weather terrain accessibility for shoot-and-scoot operations, alongside reduced noise, vibration, maintenance and fuel consumption to enhance operational mobility,” said Simon Humphrey, Vice President of UK Business Development and Strategy of Hanwha Aerospace’s Land Systems Business Group. “CRT is a game changer and makes huge strides in closing the gap between the oft heard Wheels v Tracks polarizing debate.”
The K9 User Community of nine nations provides significant strategic and operational opportunities for international collaboration, interoperability benefits and through life operating and upgrade efficiencies such as gun calibre, new ammunition natures, protection, fire control, power and engine.
“Integration with NATO allies will be a force multiplier for the UK,” Pasi Pasivirta, Director of Business Development Europe of Hanwha Aerospace, said. “Operating a same gun system with many important allies contributes to platform commonality, availability, and security of supply among the other benefits. Sharing common ammunition database will also be a great benefit as it allows partners to use each other’s ammunition without problems.”
Commitment of Investment and Involvement in UK
As part of commitment to partnership with UK MOD and industry partners, Hanwha Aerospace has set up a UK business office headed by Simon Humphreys CBE, a retired major general of the British Army, who will serve as Vice President of Business Development and Strategy in UK.
“The establishment of Hanwha Aerospace UK is imminent and the presence of Hanwha Aerospace’s top leadership, including CEO Son Jaeil, from across South Korea, Europe, US and Australia at DSEI 2023 is the evidence of Hanwha’s strong desire to build new partnerships, evolve existing relationships, and broaden its delivery of the highest quality technology and capabilities at a time of high global demand,” said Simon, who commanded at every level within the Royal Artillery before his retirement in 2021.
In a recent meeting with the UK business head, Son, President and CEO of Hanwha Aerospace, made clear his desire to build a strong partnership with the UK through a programme of Investment and Involvement with UK MOD and UK industry partners.
“South Korea has a strong partnership with the UK at a national level, and as a leading aerospace and defence group in Korea, Hanwha Aerospace will make every effort to broaden partnerships with UK MOD and industry partners through investment and involvement,” Son stressed.
Hanwha Aerospace’s commitment to Investment and Involvement within the UK Defence Sector alongside any success of Team Thunder UK initiative is expected to help broaden the realm of industrial cooperation between Hanwha Group and UK partners over a wide range of sectors, including aerospace, shipbuilding, communications and energy solutions, as Hanwha operates a wide variety of subsidiaries for those markets.
Hanwha is ranked as the seventh largest company in South Korea and a Fortune 500 company, operating the business areas of aerospace, defence, energy, materials, finance, retail, and services.
“Hanwha is a significant supplier and customer to UK companies, adding to UK prosperity as well as generating direct UK export revenue in these markets,” said Jeff Sung, Communications Director of Hanwha Aerospace, referring to the partnership in place between Hanwha Aerospace and Rolls Royce over civil engines. “Hanwha has first class capabilities to cooperate in the UK markets in a variety of business areas beyond the defence sector, and we are ready for it.”
Hanwha Aerospace stands at the forefront of South Korea’s space market, as the company is the supplier of engines for the homegrown KSLV-II space rocket and serves as systems integrator of the rocket, which will be launched four times through 2027. Hanwha acquired the country’s only satellite company, Satrec Initiative, and invested in OneWeb, a UK firm specialized in connecting hundreds of low-Earth orbit satellites, as part of efforts to bolster its space portfolio.
Hanwha has also launched its naval business arm, Hanwha Ocean, after acquiring Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME), a global leading shipyard with extensive expertise and experience in the shipbuilding and offshore industry. Hanwha System is committed to providing an advanced urban air mobility (UAM) solution in partnership with global partners. In 2021, Hanwha System signed an agreement with UK UAM startup Skyports to cooperate in developing air taxi infrastructure.
Team Thunder for UK capability and prosperity
To build a British variant of K9A2, Lockheed Martin Ampthill in Bedfordshire is to take charge of turret production based on its successful track records of turret modeling, manufacture, integration and trials capability. Leonardo in Edinburgh will offer proven navigation and on platform firing systems as found on AS90, UK Light Gun, and K9.
Pearson Engineering in Newcastle upon Tyne will manufacture vehicle hulls with unrivalled material handling, fabrication and assembly of armoured solutions such as Boxer and Challenger 3. Horstman Defence Systems will provide suspension and running gear, and Soucy Defense will offer Composite Rubber Track and Wheel Assemblies.
Hanwha Defense Australia has joined the team to maximize the synergies and opportunities with the AS9 Huntsman programme, alongside their recently announced Redback IFV success and to examine opportunities for deepening the AUKUS relationship.
“The K9A2, like the K9A1, is a purpose-built artillery platform and avoids compromising lethality or survivability,” said Simon, former commander of the British Artillery Brigade. “Protection, workload, mobilization, open architecture and battlespace integration have been optimized, not compromised to save weight. The platform’s power and weight entry points allow genuine stretch and growth to incorporate further survivability enhancements such as C-UAS/RWS, active protection and up armouring.”
The K9A2 design and manufacture is free from ITAR or export control restrictions and will be a UK sovereign asset, serviced and supported in the UK, delivering full operational independence and export potential, he added.
Hanwha intends to grow Team Thunder further with the inclusion of more SMEs and more technology companies, generating direct and future wealth for the UK, with at least 50 percent of the manufacture of the British version of K9A2 to the UK using Team Thunder partner companies. Hanwha has already implemented similar localization partnerships in Australia, Poland, India and Egypt.
“Team Thunder is committed to creating a highly skilled industrial base by generating hundreds of brand-new specialist jobs in the supply chain as well as local training programmes for graduates and apprentices,” said Sun Wi, Director of Hanwha Aerospace’s Global Operations Office. “The purchase of K9A2 will lead to export work for Team Thunder in the UK, as K9 users such as Finland, Norway and Estonia will need to upgrade to A2 standard and beyond with significant opportunities for export and cost sharing across the user base.”
The K9 capability is evolving under a robust developmental roadmap. The autoloading K9A2 will be further upgraded to an AI-based A3 standard that can be operated autonomously, providing crewed and uncrewed teaming operations in the future battlefield.
Fitted with an increased barrel of 58 calibre, the K9A3 is envisaged to serve as a node to remote-control other crewed and uncrewed SPHs. The K9A3 will be operated optionally for fully automatic turret either with or without driver in assigned units, which will enhance tactical flexibility with reduced crew exposure.
The K9A3 is already under the early stages of development within Hanwha’s highly impressive R&D centre in Changwon, a southern industrial city of South Korea.
About Hanwha Aerospace
Hanwha Aerospace is a key subsidiary of Hanwha, which was formed as an explosive manufacturer at the end of 1950-53 Korean War. Founded in 1977, Hanwha Aerospace has become a leading company in the aerospace industry in South Korea, with its highly impressive and broad portfolio of products and technologies serving not only aerospace but also the defence and marine sectors.
Hanwha Aerospace’s impressive growth is characterized by an unwavering focus on customer-centric quality management, on-time delivery, technological innovation, and product competitiveness reinforced by advanced technologies. Hanwha Aerospace is surging forward as a global leader in the burgeoning space and aerospace business as well as in the land, sea, and air defence industries. Its international market stretches across wider Asia, Europe and the US with key partners within NATO, the Joint Expeditionary Force and the FYEY’s community fielding Hanwha Aerospace’s capabilities and technologies.