Finland will purchase K9 Thunder 155 mm self-propelled howitzers from South Korea, the country's Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed on 17 February.
According to the MoD announcement, Finnish defence minister Jussi Niinistö has approved the purchase of 48 former South Korean Army K9s at a cost of EUR146 million (USD155 million). The MoD stated this includes training, spares, and maintenance. The contract also includes options for the procurement of additional K9s, it added.
The move has been expected since the MoD announced in July 2016 it was beginning direct negotiations with South Korea to buy K9s. At the time, the MoD said the choice to pursue the K9 over other options on the market was due to price and the compatibility of the system with a conscription-based military. The Finnish Defence Forces (FDF) has been conducting trials of the K9 since late 2016, some of which Jane's witnessed.
Deliveries of the howitzers to Finland are due to begin during 2017 in order to begin staff training this year. Finnish conscripts are due to begin being trained on the K9 in 2019, while deliveries of all 48 systems are due to be completed by 2024. This timeline accords with previously released Finnish plans to declare initial operating capability with a new howitzer in 2020 and full operating capability in 2025.
Purchasing the K9 will enable Finland to phase out the majority of its old Soviet-designed artillery systems. Currently the FDF operates a number of Soviet-era and -calibre artillery pieces, including the towed 130 mm M-46, self-propelled 152 mm 2S5 Giatsint-S, towed 122 mm D-30, and self-propelled 122 mm 2S1 Gvozdika. The K9s are expected to supplement the FDF's existing NATO-calibre artillery pieces, including its towed 155 mm 155 GH 52 APU systems.
Speaking to Jane's on 20 February, an FDF source said that the K9s would be modified to accommodate the country's existing digital radios and Patria-made battlefield management system (BMS).
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