Estonia on Tuesday signed an agreement with South Korea for the purchase of K9 Thunder self-propelled 155mm howitzers. The €46 million contract, one of the most significant defence procurements of the decade, includes 12 artillery systems, training, maintenance and spare parts.
The first howitzers are scheduled to arrive in Estonia in 2020, the Estonian Centre for Defence Investments (ECDI) announced.
"This artillery procurement will bring Estonia's defence capability to a new level and is one of the most significant steps in building up armoured manoeuvre capability," said Col. Rauno Sirk, director of the ECDI. "Estonia will have at its disposal a weapons system with the most powerful firepower yet, which is developed taking the needs of conscripts and reservists into account, and which is dependable and mobile in even extreme conditions."
The process of selecting the most suitable artillery system for Estonian conditions began in 2016. In the course of the process, experts from the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF), the Ministry of Defence and the ECDI assessed various weapons systems, and the results of the analyses indicated that the K9 Thunder was the most modern self-propelled artillery system with the greatest combat power, according to a press release.
"The Finns' thorough analysis and the [test] firing conducted in Norway, where the artillery proved itself very dependable in conditions similar to or even more severe than those in Estonia, helped us make our decision," said Priit Soosaar, head of the Procurement Department at the ECDI. "The use of the same weapons system in neighbouring countries will help integrate opportunities for maintenance and repair as well as joint orders for ammunition and spare parts."
In addition to Finland and Norway, the K9 Thunder is also in use in Poland, Turkey and India. The expected lifespan of the weapons system is at least 30 years, and according to the centre it should be simple to upgrade and rebuild.
Present at the signing on Tuesday were Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces Gen. Riho Terras, Director of the Defence Investments Department of the Ministry of Defence Kusti Salm, Lt. Col. Kaarel Mäesalu, inspector of artillery for the EDF, and officers and officials belonging to the procurement work group.
Editor: Aili Vahtla