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S. Korea poised to sign deal to export K9 howitzer to Asian country

All Headlines 16:49 June 15, 2016

PARIS/SEOUL, June 15 (Yonhap) -- Hanwha Techwin, a South Korean defense manufacturer, is posed to land a deal with an Asian country to export the K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer currently in service with Seoul's armed forces, informed sources said Wednesday.

The arms producer is set to sign the deal as early as August with the country that is an emerging military power, defense industry and military sources said in Paris. The K9 Thunder is on display at the five-day-long international defense trade show Eurosatory that runs till Friday in the French capital.

The sources declined to identify the country because advance media reports could derail the deal.

If reached, the accord will allow Hanwha to export some 100 K9s.

The 155-millimeter artillery mounted on a tracked armored vehicle is one of several weapon systems being displayed by Hanwha Techwin at the expo.

The K9 was first developed by Samsung Techwin in 1989 before the industrial conglomerate Hanwha Group took over the defense manufacturing unit and renamed it Hanwha Techwin last year.

The sources said, including the aforementioned Asian country, seven nations from Europe, Africa and Asia are currently in talks with Hanwha on potential export deals.

Countries in North and East Europe are expressing particular interest in buying the K9, probably amid security concerns sparked after Russia's recent military meddling in Ukraine, according to the sources who asked not to be named.

They said the prospective export contracts may boost the international credibility of the K9 howitzer further after the artillery was sold to Turkey and Poland in 2001 and 2014, respectively.

Industry watchers tout the relatively cheap price and cutting-edge technology as competitive edges against the K9’s rival artillery pieces on the global market.

The 52-caliber gun has a good range of some 40 kilometers, and can fire off a three-round burst in a period of 15 seconds, a feat that challenges the made-in-Germany howitzer Panzerhaubitze 2000, seen as the best-performing artillery piece in the world, according to South Korean defense industry watchers. The price of the K9 is just half that of the German rival, they pointed out.

Since 1999, South Korea's military has deployed some 900 K9 howitzers along the heavily militarized border with North Korea and to a group of front-line islands along the tense sea border in the Yellow Sea.

South Korea's military used K9 howitzers deployed on one of the islands, Yeonpyeong, to fire back at North Korea after the communist country launched a deadly shelling attack in November 2010.

pbr@yna.co.kr
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