Conscripts get first-hand experience in K9 Thunder live-firing exercise

K9 Thunder in EDF service.
K9 Thunder in EDF service. Source: Rene Kundla/ERR

Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) conscripts have been getting their first experience of live-firing South Korean-built K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers this week.

Commander of the EDF's artillery battalion (Suurtükivaepataljon) Lt. Col. Marko Tomentšuk said that: "During the shootings, our first conscript self-propelled artillery personnel demonstrated their will, skills and ability to keep a cool head. It's important now that they learn all the different roles in the howitzer team and know how to replace each other if necessary."

"The cooperation was smooth and precise - the firing was clean and all the targets almost ten kilometers away were destroyed," Tomentšuk added.

The exercise lasts a total of seven days, held at the EDF's central training area in Harju County, and is code-named Aikeselöök (Thunderstrike).

Personnel from other units in addition to artillery conscripts took part, including forward observers observed targets, meteorologists and communications conscripts.

The K9 procurement deal was finalized in 2018, with the first units arriving in Estonia in 2020.

The K9 has a life-cycle such that it is not likely to be rendered obsolete for around three decades, while its weapons systems suit conscripts and reservists, as well as regular soldiers, BNS reports.

Estonia's longer-range defense doctrine includes the development of mid-range artillery, as well as fully-mechanizing its two main infantry brigades and putting in place coastal defenses, both land-based missile systems and state-of-the-art sea mines.

Neighboring Finland, not a NATO member, as well as Turkey and Norway also use the K9, in addition to South Korea itself, while Poland uses an SP howitzer based on the K9. Further afield, the defense forces of Australia and of India also use the K9. It has been used in anger at least once, during a standoff between North and South Korea eleven years ago almost to the day, and concerning disputed waters.

The video below from Thursday's "Aktuaalne kaamera" (in Estonian) contains footage of the exercise.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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