Finland has ordered 48 South Korean K9 “Thunder” 155 mm self-propelled howitzers for about $3.3 million each. This price includes training, spare parts, maintenance and howitzer modernization to Finland standards (installation of Finnish made communication equipment and battle management system). The contract also includes an option for additional K9s. Deliveries begin by the end of 2017 and all 48 vehicles should arrive to Finland till 2024. Nearby Estonia will now be able to get valuable advice from Finland to determine if Estonia should go forward with a similar purchase of twelve K9s.
In 2016 the Finns began negotiating the K9 purchase terms with South Korea because the Finns had determined that the K9 was the least expensive option to obtain modern self-propelled howitzers that could be easily handled by the conscripts Finland still depends on for most of their military manpower. By the end of 2016 the Finns had confirmed this with field trials of the K9 which as expected, performed better than competitors.
K9 is a South Korean designed and manufactured self-propelled howitzer which was developed as a replacement for the K55 (license variant of M109). K9 is a 48 ton self-propelled howitzer operated by a crew of five and using a NATO standard 155mm gun which can take out targets 40 kilometers away. Development of the K9 began in 1989 and mass production began in 1999. So far K9 is used by South Kora armed forces and exported to Turkey and India with several other nations considering purchase. In addition the K9 chassis is also used in Polish 155 mm self-propelled howitzers.
For Finland obtaining the K9 enables them to phase out most of its Cold War era Russian self-propelled artillery systems like 152 mm 2S5 or 122 mm 2S1. Meanwhile Estonia was looking for cheap opportunity to significantly increase the artillery and maneuver capabilities of the country’s land forces. Estonia decided buying the K9 made it easier for them to replace their own aging Russian equipment at an affordable cost. That decision is not surprising because Baltic States have long had very good relations with their Scandinavian neighbors, especially Finland, which speaks a unique Central Asian language similar to Estonian. It should be noted that now all countries near Russia are increasing their defense budgets due Russian aggressive politics (annexing the Crimea Peninsula and invasion of Ukraine). -- Przemysław Juraszek