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South Korea to upgrade K9A1 howitzers

South Korea has announced plans to upgrade the RoKA's K9A1 self-propelled howitzers. (Hanwha Defense)

South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) has announced plans to upgrade K9A1 Thunder 155 mm/52 calibre self-propelled howitzers (SPHs) and 120 mm self-propelled mortars (SPMs) in service with the Republic of Korea Army (RoKA).

A DAPA spokesperson told Janes on 31 May that a visit by the agency earlier that month to the RoKA's Capital Mechanized Infantry Division in Gapyeong had identified about 15 upgrade requirements.

The spokesperson said that these upgrades include “installing additional footrests for the K9A1 SPHs and preparing a plan to shorten the alignment time of the 120 mm self-propelled mortar inertial navigation system”. The spokesperson added, “Most of [the upgrades] are tasks that can improve the safety, convenience, and operational efficiency for operators.”

These upgrades are newly identified based on input from the operating RoKA unit, the spokesperson added. However, DAPA is “still internally looking into whether or not to execute the identified tasks to applicable weapon systems, how much funds are required, and how long it would take to finish [the] upgrades”, the spokesperson said.

According to Janes World Armies, the RoKA operates 1,136 K9 and K9A1 SPHs. The baseline K9 Thunder SPH entered service with the RoKA in 1999. The enhanced K9A1 version, which features an improved mission system was deployed from 2018.

The K9 family of tracked SPHs was designed and manufactured by Hanwha Defense to replace the country's M109A2 155 mm/L39 tracked SPHs. The K9 was intended to provide the RoKA with the indirect fire required to defeat conventionally equipped opponents. The howitzers can fire up to a maximum range of 40 km.

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