Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Will South Korean armored vehicles establish themselves in European armies?

Following in-depth consultation with France and the Nexter group, the Danish authorities announced, on January 19, that they would transfer their entire fleet of CAESAR motorized cannons, i.e. 19 8x8 systems heavier and better armored than the models in service within the Army as well as in Ukraine, in order to strengthen Kyiv's defensive capabilities. This announcement, rightly well received by the Ukrainian armies, given the performance of the system, is part of an unprecedented dynamic by European countries to support their ally, Sweden having promised 50 CV90 and an undetermined number of Archer artillery systems (comparable to the CAESAR), Great Britain heavy Challenger 2 tanks and AS90 tracked self-propelled guns, and Poland having promised Kyiv a platoon of Leopard 2 tanks, just like Finland, these announcements are currently suspended from authorization from Berlin.

The announcement made by Copenhagen, however, was accompanied by a clarification. Indeed, to replace its 19 Caesar cannons which themselves replaced the M109 self-propelled guns within the Danish armed forces, they will call on a replacement solution likely to be activated quickly. However, to date, there are very few solutions of this type in Europe: The French Caesar whose order book is already full, the German Pzh2000, produced on the same lines as those which assemble the Puma and which modernize the Leopard 2 of the Bundeswehr and its allies, also under tension, and the Swedish Archer, which to date has hardly convinced with its performance. As for the American M109, it remains equipped with a 39 caliber tube, limiting its performance and in particular its effective range, of the order of 25 km where the European systems, which rely on a 52 caliber tube, reach and exceed 40 km. But there is an alternative that is available in the relatively short term, efficient and even economical compared to equivalent systems, the South Korean K9 Thunder.

Denmark announced that it would cede its 19 Caesar 8x8s to Ukraine, and that it would seek a short-term stopgap solution to replenish its artillery

Armed with a 155mm 52 caliber self-loading tube, the K9 has little to envy of its most efficient European counterparts, whether in terms of range, precision or rate of fire. In addition, it is based on a tracked chassis powered by a 1000 hp turbo-diesel engine for a combat mass of 47 tonnes, giving it a power-to-weight ratio of 21 hp per tonne and therefore good mobility, including off-road. The artillery system is entirely under armored casemate, effectively protecting its crew of 5 against light ammunition and shrapnel fragments. Finally, it has an advanced positioning and pointing system, a semi-automatic loading system powered by 48 rounds, and a set of support vehicles allowing a full magazine reload in just 4 minutes (12 shells per minute) using the K10 support vehicle, also armored and tracked, carrying 104 155 mm shells and 504 units of powder. But the two most important arguments of the K9 are neither technical nor operational.

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Fabrice Wolf
Fabrice Wolf
A former French naval aeronautics pilot, Fabrice is the editor and main author of the site. His areas of expertise are military aeronautics, defense economics, air and submarine warfare, and Akita inu.

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