The VIDAR Project: Norway’s New Artillery System from South Korea
ABOVE: K9’s 1,000hp MTU engine with Allison automatic transmission engine delivers high power-to-weight ratio and has equal mobility as modern Main Battle Tanks and tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicles. K9’s individual Hydro-pneumatic Suspension Unit at each wheel station provides the K9 with capability to maneuver and fulfil its missions in diverse environments and terrains.
On November 24, 2017, the Norwegian Government made changes in the Budget (2017–2018) for the Norwegian Armed Forces. One change includes the VIDAR Project, an acquisition of 24 K9 Thunder 155mm self-propelled howitzers (SPHs) and a number of K10 Ammunition Resupply Vehicles (ARVs) from Hanwha Techwin (founded as Samsung Techwin), South Korea. According to the government’s proposal, the Project also includes artillery precision and smoke ammunition, materiel for training and logistics. Deliveries are planned to start in 2019 and be finished within 2024. In connection with the purchase, it will be required that an offset agreement of cooperation between Norwegian defense industry and Hanwha Techwin is approved before the main contract is signed. An offset agreement on industrial cooperation must have at least one equivalent value and quality as the main contract. The Ministry of Defense will closely monitor the agreement being fulfilled. The estimated cost framework for the project is NOK 3.193 million (2017) ($409,470,320), including VAT, an amount for uncertainty as well as implementation costs. The project’s management framework is set at NOK 2.900 million ($371,896,000), including VAT.
Extensive Winter Trials—Short List
The choice of K9 has been expected since the Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency (NDMA) executed field trials in Norway, January 11-30, 2016. There were four selected contenders for its 155mm self-propelled howitzer system procurement program nicknamed VIDAR (Versatile InDirect ARtillery system) or NAS The choice of K9 has been expected since the Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency (NDMA) executed field trials in Norway, January 11-30, 2016. There were four selected contenders for its 155mm self-propelled howitzer system procurement program nicknamed VIDAR (Versatile InDirect ARtillery system) or NAS (Norwegian Artillery System). Based on the tests with:
- K9 Thunder, Hanwha Techwin,
- Panzerhaubitze 2000 (Krauss-Maffei Wegmann—KMW),
- M109 KAWEST (an upgraded and modernized M109A2, RUAG), and
- CAESAR (the wheeled truck mounted system, Nexter Systems).
- The K9 Thunder and the M109 KAWEST were shortlisted in June 2016.
- K9 Thunder’s Handbooks/Manuals Have Editorial Similarity to Those of the M109
The K9 system can transit new conscript crew to active duty quickly due to simplicity and similarity to M109 operational doctrine. It takes 4 weeks training for crew proficiency and 2 weeks training for maintenance crew proficiency.
Investment for Future
Why K9 Thunder and not M109 KAWEST? On one hand, regarding future growth potential for a platform, it is important to purchase new equipment to have modern and efficient systems that comply with current and future needs. On the other hand, further technological development possibilities for M109 KAWEST is considered to be not feasible, and the old parts of the piece (power plant, driveline, etc.) will be at their technical useful end in the middle of the 2020s.
K9 Thunder Is the World’s Leading 155mm/L52 Caliber Self-Propelled Howitzer System in Terms of the Volume of Production
The Republic of Korea’s Army (RoK’s Army) was the first in Asia to field a 155mm/L52-caliber self-propelled system. The K9 Thunder 155mm/L52-caliber tracked SPH, designed and developed in RoK by Hanwha Techwin, have given the RoK’s Army a significant improvement in capability over their current K55/K55A1 (the South Korean variant of the M109A2). K9 Thunder 155mm/52-caliber SPH will augment and replace the RoK Army’s 155mm/L39 caliber M109A2 SPHs.
When Experience Counts
The company was the prime contractor for the co-production of 1,040 M109A2s for the RoK. The first XK9 prototype was completed in 1994, and the first production weapons were delivered in 1999. In South Korea, a total of 1,136 K9 Thunder and 179 K10 Ammunition Resupply Vehicles (10 ARV) are delivered, and K9 Thunder is the only tracked armoured SPH system in mass production. K9 Thunder has proven its superiority through demonstrations and evaluation tests in various proving grounds such as extreme weather in jungles, barrens and severely cold areas. K9 Thunder has an excellent mobility and conformability with any other field artillery units. The K9 has been operated in RoK since 1999 (K10 ARVs from 2009). K9 Thunder is serving as one of the main conventional deterrent forces in the RoK Army.
The K9 and K10 Artillery Battery’s Tactical Concept
K9 Thunder SPH is designed for manoeuvre operations in a highly technological battlefield, along with main battle tanks and infantry combat vehicles. The K9 Thunder is an adaptable weapon system with a sophisticated fire control system embedded on each K9 and with the coordination of the Fire Direction Centre (FDC). The K9 is able to deliver indirect fire support to disperse, subdue and neutralize enemy ability to wage war in a network-centric environment. In the RoK, a K9 Thunder/K10 ARV combined battery has the versatile capability needed to engage any enemy target. Each K10 ARV supports two K9s. K10 ARV has a fully automated robotized equipment delivery system and resupplying capability to maximize the efficiency of artillery forces. K10 shares the same chassis, power pack and suspension with K9 Thunder. That gives efficiency in logistics support and tactical movement. The K10 ARV moves to the firing position after loading the ammunition stored in the ammunition dump or on the truck to resupply the K9 Thunders. In order to sustain the firing mission, K10 ARV approaches the K9 and resupplies its on-board munitions immediately when needed, wherever K9’s position, regardless of weather, daylight or darkness. K10 ARV has an electrically operated telescopic arm and conveyor belt to transfer rounds and charges and feeds 155mm projectiles and associated charges into the bustle at the rear of the K9 turret at a rate of 48 rounds and charges in 18 minutes. All crew is under protection during resupply. K10 ARV carries 104 rounds, sufficient to resupply two K9 guns.
K9 Thunder’s Features
The South Korean-made armoured Self-Propelled Howitzer (SPH) 155mm L52-caliber howitzer with a 23-liter combustion chamber volume is compatible with all NATO 155mm standard ammunitions and conforms to the Joint Ballistic Memorandum of Understanding (JBMoU).
The K9 Thunder is autonomous with a Modular Azimuth Position System and a Kongsberg Automatic Fire Control System connected to the CI2 network. With coordination of the FDC, K9 Thunder is able to deliver indirect fire support to disperse targets, neutralize and incapacitate enemy ability to wage war in a network-centric environment.
K9 has a great fire power and rate of fire to provide fast and concentrated fire power over time.
Longer Firing Range: K9 Thunder fired a Nammo 155mm IM HE-ER (Insensitive High Explosive Extended Range) Base Bleed projectile out to a range of 43.6 kilometers. The live firing took place at the Swedish firing test range Ravlunda, May 2–4, 2016. The test was checked by the Norwegian Defence Research Institute. A maximum range of 54km has been achieved in trial.
K9 Thunder is designed and developed to the tactical concept of “Shoot & Scoot.” K9 Thunder carries out its first round within 30 seconds while at rest and 60 seconds while in movement as soon as it receives firing information from the FDC. After completing the mission, K9 Thunder quickly moves away from the primary firing position prior to the enemy’s counter fire and implements the next mission. A burst rate of fire of three rounds can be achieved in less than 15 seconds, with a maximum rate of fire of from six to eight rounds a minute for three minutes. Sustained rate of fire is from two to three rounds a minute for one hour.
The K9 has proven to be modern, reliable and precise. At all times, when executing fire missions, the crew is protected under steel armour.
It has deployment capability in difficult terrains in all weather conditions. K9’s 1,000hp MTU engine with Allison automatic transmission engine delivers high power-to-weight ratio (21.6hp/t*) and has equal mobility like modern main battle tanks and tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicles [*Benchmark: Leopard 2 A4, 1,500hp engine power/weight 62.5 = 24hp/t].
K9’s individual HSU (Hydro-pneumatic Suspension Unit) at each wheel station provides the K9 Thunder SPH with capability to manoeuvre and fulfil its missions in diverse environments and terrains. The HSU minimizes shock and vibration to the cabin and significantly reduces crew fatigue. The HSU gives a quick stabilization of the gun between firing of rounds. The old Norwegian Army’s M109A3GN cannot travel across the Norwegian hilly terrain in deep snow and immediately execute a firing mission without help from snow clearing machines (due to low power-to-weight-ratio).
The “Family” of K9
Besides the Republic of Korea, the countries mentioned below show that the K9 SPH 52-caliber 155mm protected artillery system qualifies to be the largest number of 52-caliber SPHs system in terms of the scheduled volume of production and fielded in the world and the only SPH system in mass production.
In 2001, Turkish Land Forces Command signed a contract with Techwin to provide K9 subsystems for integration with locally produced components in Turkey. Delivery of the Turkish SPH, named the T-155 Firtina (Storm), began in 2004. Production in Turkey began in 2012, and a total of 350 designated T-155 Firtina will be produced, with production continuing.
May 14, 2017—In the first howitzer order to a domestic private sector company, the Indian Ministry of Defence signed a $700 million contract defense company, Larsen & Toubro (L&T). L&T will produce 100 155mm /52-caliber-tracked howitzer guns in India with Korean defence firm Hanwha Techwin. India’s system of choice after exhaustive comparison tests against the Russian system has reasserted K9 as the leading 52-caliber system in the world.
Two K9 Thunder chassis were provided to Poland for use with the Krab (crab is a Polish-license built “AS90 Braveheart” 155mm/L52-caliber turret married with a K9 Thunder chassis) and after trials accepted for production, with eight vehicles delivered in 2008. After this first pre- series, production was left in 2014 to Korean Samsung Techwin. 120 more vehicles are in order for the Polish Army.
On March 2, 2017, in Seoul, South Korea, the Finnish Defence minister signed a contract regarding acquisition of 48 SPH K9 Thunders, spare parts and training. The Estonian Ministry of Defence has decided to join Finland’s plan to acquire South Korean K9 Thunder 155mm self-propelled howitzers.
As a part of the development program to upgrade military equipment, Estonia will acquire at least 12 SPH K9s and according to current plans should enter service by 2021.
The Egyptian Army has performed evaluation tests for the K9 howitzer in Egypt. The final contract is expected to be signed in early 2018.
Nordic Cooperation Possibilities
Norway can, together with Finland and Estonia, establish a base for a system commonality and thus have an advantage to maximize use of regional subsystems in addition to full system support from Hanwha Techwin.
Through Life Support (TLS)
Hanwha Land Systems provides full system support throughout the life cycle for maintenance of the K9 through a proven ILS package. The ILS for K9 includes:
Integrated Logistics Support (ILS)
ILS of K9 Thunder has not only made a great contribution to its combat readiness but also made a noticeable reduction of life-cycle cost. Spare parts availability is anticipated beyond 2050.
Supportability Analysis (SA)
Various elements of SA have been applied to accomplish K9 ILS, such as: Test & Support Equipment, Spare Parts & Inventory, Facility/Utility, Level of Repair, Criticality, Operator Task, Distribution, Personnel Training, Maintenance, Interactive Electronic Technical Manual (IETM) + TM Publication, Test & Diagnostic Equipment/Special Tool and Training Aids.
Through Life Support (TLS)
TLS utilizing regional support base and technical transfer to local entity of choice, ILS and tech data to manage Maintenance Level 2~4, Establish field service at a Nordic company, Train the trainer at a Nordic/Baltic country, Transit TLS activity to Nordic/Baltic countries after first 5-year TLS, Maintain REACH BACK to Hanwha for sustainment support, Develop national industry as part of global supply chain for K9 SPH International, Regional parts supply, Licensed K9 components, produced in Poland and/or Turkey, could be utilized in an emergency, Synergize user community group dialogue to maximize support capability.
Kongsberg Defence Systems (KONGSBERG) has entered into a contract with Hanwha Land Systems to deliver Integrated Combat Solution (ICS) to Finland’s new K9 artillery system. That means that KONGSBERG can deliver risk-free integration of ODIN (C2) to ODIN (FCS) and system networks to other Norwegian Armed Forces equipment, as well as risk-free integration for remote-operated weapon stations. Nammo will deliver the 155mm HE-ER (High Explosive Extended Range) ammunition.