Egypt has signed a $1.7 billion deal with South Korea’s Hanwha Defence for the acquisition of K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers, which will be mostly locally manufactured in Egypt.
The signing ceremony took place in Cairo on 1 February and was attended by senior Egyptian military and South Korean industry officials, including Mohamed Zaki, Egypt’s Minister of Defence, Mohamed Ahmed Morsi, Minister of State for Military Production, and Son Jae-il, President & CEO of Hanwha Defence.
Around 200 artillery systems will be supplied along with support vehicles including the K10 ammunition resupply vehicle and K11 fire control vehicle, Defense News reported.
Hanwha said the first batch of K9A1 EGY systems will be delivered before 2025, with the remainder to be produced at the state-run Military Factory 200 in Egypt through technology transfer. In addition, Hanwha Defence is committed to providing a variety of support programs, including user trainings and organizational/field/depot maintenance.
South Korea’s Defence Acquisition Programme Administration (DAPA) and the Egyptian military announced the deal, but did not disclose the exact quantities involved – Hanwha said the deal is worth around $1.7 billion and covers ‘hundreds’ of vehicles.
Egypt will be getting the first ever naval K9 variant, as the Egyptian Navy had long sought to acquire the K9 as an anti-access/area denial weapon system, and the K9 successfully proved its access denial capability by hitting targets precisely at sea during tests and evaluations in 2017.
“The latest deal with Egypt is significant in that Hanwha Defence has made its way across Africa for the first time with the K9, the world’s most advanced and proven self-propelled howitzer, amid growing partnership between South Korea and Egypt,” said Jae-il. “I promise we will do our best to make K9A1 EGY project the best model case of bilateral cooperation.”
“Based on mutual trust and understanding, we will put our utmost efforts not only to contribute to strengthening the defence capabilities of the Egyptian Armed Forces, but also to improving the local industrial base,” Jae-il said, adding the K9A1 EGY would be promoted in other countries.
Egypt has been eyeing the K9 since 2010 when a memorandum of understanding on defence cooperation was signed between Egypt and South Korea. Egypt has for years expressed interest in acquiring new self-propelled howitzers, most likely to replace its M109s (Egypt has more than 170 M109A5s in service). Amongst options it examined were the French Caesar, the K9, the Russian 2S35 Koalitsiya-SV, and Chinese PLZ-45. Around 2017, the Caesar was trialled in Egypt.
During the December 2021 Egypt Defence Exhibition (EDEX), Hanwha displayed an upgraded version of the 155 mm/52-calibre K9, the K9A1. At the show, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with Jae-il to discuss bilateral cooperation and the possible K9 acquisition.
In announcing the deal on Tuesday, DAPA chief Kang Eun-ho was quoted as saying, “It is an achievement made through a combination of technological cooperation, collaboration in terms of localized production and pan-government support, which goes beyond just the transactional relationship between the two nations.”
A memorandum of understanding for cooperation between Korea and Egypt in defence research and development was also signed this week, and the two countries will collaborate in the fields of railway development, desalination, and renewable energy, amongst others.
The Egyptian sale is the largest export contract for the K9 Thunder. Around 1 700 K9 howitzers are in service around the world, accounting for nearly half the market share, and have been acquired by South Korea, Turkey, India, Poland, Finland, Norway and Estonia. Australia in December signed a contract worth $730 million for 30 K9 howitzers and 15 ammunition resupply vehicles under the Land 8116 acquisition project. Hanwha is also bidding for a United Kingdom contract for artillery systems.
Equipped with a rotating turret that can traverse through a full 360 degrees, the 47-ton vehicle is powered by a 1 000 hp diesel engine, giving a top speed of 67 km/h. It is armoured against 155 mm shell splinters and 14.5 mm armour-piercing shells. The system can fire its first round within 30 seconds from a stationary position and within 60 seconds while moving, with a burst rate of fire from six to eight rounds per minute or 2-3 rounds per minute for an hour. Firing range is 18-50 km depending on ammunition used.
The K10 ammunition resupply vehicle carries a total of 104 rounds and possesses the same mobility as the K9. The K11 fire control vehicle is a new vehicle to be developed for the Egyptian military. Using the K9 chassis, the command-post vehicle will be equipped with a range of high-tech sensor and communication equipment in accordance with operational requirements of the Egyptian Army and Navy, Hanwha said.
Egypt has created its own self-propelled artillery systems by mounting the 122 mm D-30 howitzer and 130 mm M-46 howitzer on Ural 6×6 trucks. The trucks are fitted with hydraulic stabilisers for stability while the howitzers are firing. The M-46 truck appears to have a locally produced armoured cab. They were apparently bought in Russia and upgraded in Egypt – Egypt’s Abu Zaabal Engineering Industries Company produced towed D-30 and M-46 guns in the past, according to IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly. The M-46 has a range of 27 kilometres, although this is increased to 37 kilometres with a rocket-assisted projectile. The D-30 has a range of 15 kilometres with a normal shell and 22 kilometres with a rocket-assisted projectile.
Egyptian artillery includes M109 tracked self-propelled howitzers, SP1H-22 tracked self-propelled howitzers, towed M-46 howitzers, M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, BM-11 multiple rocket launchers and ATS-59G tracked artillery tractors.