The Estonian Centre for Defence Investment has signed a contract with a total volume of €36 million to acquire an additional twelve K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers from South Korean arms manufacturer Hanwha Techwin.
“The war in Ukraine clearly shows the importance of indirect fire weapons,” the Estonian defence minister, Hanno Pevkur, said. “In the light of the lessons learned from Ukraine, we’ve made rapid decisions to equip both of infantry brigades with additional K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers and to bring Estonia’s indirect fire capability to a whole new level.”
The first self-propelled artillery units of this type arrived in Estonia in 2020. The armored equipment category manager at the Centre for Defence Investment, Karmo Saar, said the initial contract involved the procurement of 24 self-propelled howitzers for Estonia but a decision was subsequently made to acquire 12 more K9 Thunders, the final delivery of which should take place in 2026. In addition to Estonia, Norway, Finland and Poland are likewise procuring additional self-propelled howitzers.
“We’re working on seeing the supplies carried out earlier and having the self-propelled howitzers delivered already before 2026,” Saar said.
Training on the use of K9 Thunders for representatives of the Estonian Defence Forces began in South Korea in September 2020. The defence forces now have its own instructors, under whose supervision, training of the first groups of reservists has taken place.
A lifespan of 45 years
The self-propelled howitzer has a high penetration capacity and is fully tracked, with a good level of armoured protection and high fire power. The lifespan of the weapons system is 45 years, meaning the Estonian forces will be able to continue using them for at least the next three decades.
In 2021, the Estonian Centre for Defense Investment signed a framework agreement with the company Go Craft for the modification and reconstruction of 24 self-propelled howitzers, which is a part of the process of integrating the units with the systems of the Estonian Defence Forces.
The works to be carried out include the installation of communication and control systems, painting, replacement of the fire extinguishing system, adaptation of the electrical system and the installation of additional accessories.
Go Craft, in cooperation with the Defence Forces and K9 manufacturer Hanwha Techwin, have developed two prototypes for the self-propelled howitzers which have successfully completed a test period in the Defence Forces.
In 2021, Go Craft opened the first privately-owned military weapons repair and production hall, which meets all the requirements of the Weapons Act and where the first major works are the reconstruction of CV90 armored personnel carriers and the K9 artillery.
Over €350 million worth of products and services are being procured annually for the purpose of developing Estonia’s national defence while infrastructure is developed and maintained to the tune of €70 million.