South Korean tracked military vehicle specialist Hanwha Defense has announced a teaming agreement with several UK defense companies to work on the development of a local variant of K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer, which will be offered for the British Army’s Mobile Fires Platform (MFP) program.
Hanwha Defense said it will be signing memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with Leonardo UK, Pearson Engineering, Horstman Defence Systems, and Soucy Defense to form “Team Thunder.” The MOUs will be signed during the DSEI 2021 defense exhibition running from September 14-17, in London.
Lockheed Martin UK is also in talks to join the Team Thunder and more partners may be announced later, the South Korean company added.
The UK defense ministry is planning to release a request for proposals for the MFP program sometime in 2022. The program is aimed at finding a successor for the AS90 artillery weapon, which has been in service since the 1990s. The MFP solution will support the armored infantry and future strike brigades.
“Team Thunder will be a key pillar of Hanwha Defense’s bid for the Mobile Fires Platform program, and the formation of Team Thunder demonstrates a firm commitment to bringing the maximum benefit to the UK industry through a robust partnership with local suppliers,” said vice president Oh Kyehwan of Hanwha Defense’s Overseas Business Division.
“We believe the combination of UK industrial expertise and South Korean technology will generate an incredible level of synergy.”
Oh added that a “substantial part” of the manufacturing would take place in the UK, should the team be selected.
Sweeting the pot, Hanwha said the Team Thunder partnership was established with one eye on the export market with the potential for the UK to become a regional hub within the global supply chain of the 2,400 vehicles in the K9 family, including K10 ammunition resupply vehicles.
For the MFP, Hanwha Defense plans to offer the most advanced version of the K9 155mm/52-calibre Self-Propelled Howitzer (SPH), called the K9A2, which is being developed to feature enhanced firepower, protection and mobility.
The K9A2 is to be equipped with a fully automated turret capable of firing nine rounds per minute. With the automated turret, the number of crew is to be reduced from five to three. A plan is being examined to equip the K9 with composite rubber tracks, which will bring several benefits, including improved road mobility.