On the order of the Estonian Center for Defense Investments (ECDI), the next six K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers arrived at Paldiski South Harbor on Saturday, joining the 12 units already previously delivered to Estonia by South Korea.
"According to the National Defense Development Plan, 24 self-propelled artillery units will be delivered from South Korea to Estonia over the course of four years, at a total cost of €81.5 million," ECDI armored equipment category manager Karmo Saar said according to a press release. The cost also includes training for instructors and maintenance personnel, special tools as well as spare parts.
"It has also been decided that another 12 self-propelled artillery units will be purchased in the coming years, making the spearhead of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) even more powerful," he added.
The first 12 K9 Thunders arrived in Estonia in 2020.
"These weapons systems are an important addition to existing towed and mobile artillery weapons systems and a significant contribution to our combat capability," said Lt. Col. Allan Raidma, commander of the Artillery Battalion of EDF's 1st Infantry Brigade.
EDF representatives first began receiving comprehensive training on the K9 Thunder in South Korea in September 2020. The EDF now has a base of instructors of its own, under whom the first conscripts have likewise been trained on the unit.
According to the ECDI, the self-propelled howitzer has a high penetrating capacity and is fully tracked, with good armored protection and high fire power. The lifespan of the weapons system is 45 years, which means that Estonian forces will be able to continue using them for at least another 30 years.
Go Craft to adapt K9s for Estonia
Last year, the ECDI signed a framework agreement with Go Craft for the modification and reconstruction of 24 self-propelled artillery units, which the center described as being part of the natural process of integrating them with the EDF's systems. Work to be carried out on the units includes the installation of communications and control systems, painting, replacement of the fire extinguishing system, adaptation of the electrical system as well as installation of other accessories.
To date, two prototype self-propelled artillery units have been developed at Go Craft in cooperation with the EDF and Hanwha Defense, the manufacturer of the K9, which have successfully completed their test phase in the EDF.
"We are pleased to note that Go Craft also recently opened Estonia's first privately owned military weapons repair and production facility, which complies with all of the requirements of the Weapons Act and where it will be possible to immediately begin the reconstruction of CV90 armored vehicles and K9 self-propelled howitzers," Saar added.
The last of the self-propelled artillery units to be modified and adapted for Estonia's needs by Go Craft are slated to be handed over to the EDF in 2024.
Editor: Aili Vahtla