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South Korea approves funding for K9A2 SPH

South Korea's DAPA has approved a USD1.73 billion programme to upgrade Hanwha Defense's K9 self-propelled howitzer, pictured above. (Hanwha Defense)

South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) has given formal approval for the project to upgrade Hanwha Defense's K9 155 mm/52 calibre self-propelled howitzer (SPH).

DAPA said in a recent notice that the upgrade programme is worth KRW2.36 trillion (USD1.73 billion) and will be undertaken during 2023–34.

According to DAPA, the upgrade will improve the performance of the K9 through domestic research and development (R&D). It said the project will enhance the K9's “rapid strike ability” and improve its combat efficiency by automating the ammunition retrieval and loading system.

Hanwha Defense confirmed to Janes in late August that the project supports the development of the K9A2 version of the howitzer.

A company spokesperson said development of the K9A2 was driven by a requirement for a “high reaction” artillery system. The development programme started in 2016 and ended in August 2021, the spokesperson said.

“The [K9A2] R&D programme was centred on developing and testing a full-automatic ammunition handling system that can enable ammunition feeding, loading, and propellant charging 100% automatically, compared to the semi-automatic loading system for the K9A1,” said the spokesperson.

He added that the automatic turret on the K9A2 can fire “up to nine rounds per minute compared to K9A1's fire rate of six rounds per minute”. The automatic turret system also enables a reduction in crew from five to three, he said.

Beyond the K9A2, the Hanwha Defense spokesperson said the company is also working on the “next evolution” of the SPH, the K9A3. He said the K9A3 will be positioned to fulfil the “future operational concept of manned and unmanned operations”.

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