Finland formalizes order for 38 additional South Korean K9 Thunder self-propelled guns

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With more than 850 artillery systems in service, the Finnish Army is undoubtedly the one which, in Europe, has the most impressive density of firepower. However, the majority of these systems, such as the H63 122mm gun and the H83 155mm gun, are towed systems, which are known to be particularly vulnerable on a modern battlefield. It suffices to note the comparative losses of American towed M777s in Ukraine, vis-à-vis self-propelled systems such as the Caesar or the Pzh2000 to be convinced of this. In addition, 3 quarters of this artillery were still composed, in the mid-2010s, of systems acquired from the Soviet Union, which were less efficient and less precise than their Western counterparts. To overcome this weakness, Helsinki ordered, in March 2017, 48 South Korean K9 Thunder self-propelled guns taken from the South Korean armies' arsenal for $160 million, with an option for 48 additional systems.

Deliveries of second-hand South Korean systems took place between 2017 and 2021, and quickly gave satisfaction to the Finnish military. In October 2021, Helsinki exercised the option on 10 additional systems, for an amount of $30 million, 5 to be delivered in 2021, the 5 others in 2022. The beginning of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, and the candidacy to NATO, have probably finished convincing the Helsinki authorities, who have just lifted the balance of the planned option, i.e. 38 additional systems, for an amount of $134 million, which will bring the Finnish fleet to 96 K9, for a country of only 5,5 million inhabitants with an army fielding only 19.000 men in country time, including only 3.700 professional soldiers.

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The arrival of the K9 has considerably improved the performance of the Finnish self-propelled artillery, which until then relied on 74 2S1 Gvozdika 122mm and of Soviet manufacture, which entered service in the early 70s. Indeed, where the 2S1 struggles to sustain a rate of fire of 2 shells per minute, with a maximum range of 20km, the South Korean K9 Thunder can effortlessly sustain a rate of fire of 6 to 8 shells per minute thanks to its automatic loading system, with a range of 40km, being able to even exceed 50km with shells with added propulsion. In addition, the South Korean system proves to be much more precise than its Soviet counterparts, in particular thanks to the TALIN prohibited central unit, the use of GPS positioning, and a very powerful firing computer, putting it on the same level than the best Western systems like the French Caesar or the German Pzh2000. In addition, the K9 is both highly mobile, with wide tracks powered by a 1000 hp turbo-diesel engine giving it a remarkable power-to-weight ratio of 21 hp per ton, including on muddy or snowy ground, but it is also well protected against small arms and artillery splinters.

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