12 K9 'Thunder' conscript crews should be ready for Exercise Spring Storm

Estonia is planning to equip both brigades with 12 K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers.
Estonia is planning to equip both brigades with 12 K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers. Source: mil.ee

The Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) artillery battalion has been training conscripts in using the South Korean-made K9 Thunder Self-propelled howitzer, ETV news show "Aktuaalne Kaamera" (AK) reported Friday, with around a dozen teams set to be ready by the time of Exercise Spring Storm (Kevadtorm) starting in May.

2 Battery (Tulepatarei 2) commander, Capt. Kaspar Põder, told AK that: "This is not a tank or a front line weapon, and should not come under direct fire. It lacks sensors which would monitor the surroundings. Targeting systems are the same as those used by the Koreans; simply, with modern machines, computer software carries out the work /.../ partly the [domestic produced fire control] Tooru software, and partly computer solutions provided by the supplier, which control the mechanical movement of the vehicle."

In comparison with towed artillery pieces, the K9 Thunder (Estonian: "Kõu") as with other SP guns has a longer barrel, one of 155mm caliber and which can give a range of between 18 and 54km, depending on rounds used.

So far, the newer arrivals of K9 pieces are wholly "un-Estonianized", AK reported, and still have Korean colors and internal labeling in the Korean language. The interior also contains state-of-the-art comms, water heater (for warming up ration packs), fire fighting equipment and other features.

The weapon is used by several European countries, Capt. Kristjan Katmann, commander of 1 Battery, told AK.

"If we look at Europe, the existing users are Finland and Norway, while Poland is a new adopter, and Australia is certainly considering the K9 too."

"South Korea has produced over 1,400 K9 units – I can't say the precise number, but if we compare it to [German made] Panzerhaubitz, they number aruond 500," he added.

EDF conscript training on the K9 began a yaer ago, while K9s continue to arrive in country and to undergo the conversion process to fit EDF use and the local conditions.

Around 500 rounds have already been fired with K9s on exercise in Estonia; the vehicles have covered 1,000km during that time, AK reported.

Crews train in a fire-and-go tactic, rather than pre-preparing set positions.

Estonian conscripts typically serve eight or 11-month terms, depending on the specialty, after which they remain on reserve lists and are liable for snap exercises such as Okas.

Conscripts in South Korea also train on the K9, albeit for a longer period of service (two years), AK reported.

Twelve K9 conscript crews should be ready for Spring Storm; battery commanders have received training in South Korea itself.

The first consignments of K9s procured by Estonia arrived in 2020.

While the initial procurement was for 24 pieces, with a €81.5 million price-tag, the changed security situation led to 12 more being purchased this month, for a further €36 million.

The weapon was in fact used in anger in November 2010, during the surprise bombardment of Yeonpyeong Island, which lies near a disputed maritime border between North and South Korea.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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