Last year, Poland signed a number of contracts for the supply of armaments from South Korea. Among others, the country ordered 212 K9A1 self-propelled howitzers and 218 K239 Chunmoo missile systems. The value of the first contract stands at USD 2.4 billion and the second at USD 3.5 billion. That same year Poland also ordered 180 K2 tanks (order value USD 3.3 billion), manufactured by another South Korean company, Hyundai Rotem.
Ultimately, Poland wants to acquire more howitzers from the K9 family (the framework agreement speaks of even 624 more K9PL howitzers to be partly manufactured by the Polish armament industry in cooperation with Hanwha). In addition, the country plans to order an additional 70 K239 Chunmoo missile systems.
Polish-Korean industrial cooperation
Last year, Hanwha Aerospace, formerly known as Hanwha Defense, signed contracts worth nearly USD 6 billion with Poland, with further sizeable orders in prospect. In order to meet such a huge challenge related to the production as well as the technical and logistical support for howitzers and rocket launchers, Hanwha is strengthening its presence in Poland.
“We are currently in talks with PGZ and its companies such as Mesko, Dezamet and HSW over ways to best cooperate together. A great deal depends on the outcome of these discussions. Above all, the scale of the investments we will make in Poland and the scope of the transfer of our technologies to the Polish armament industry. We will certainly be setting up a warehouse and logistics centre in Poland, which will also serve other customers in the region. We also have a concept for building a new production facility in Poland,” says Executive Vice President Lee Boo-hwan, Head of Hanwha Aerospace Europe.
Lee emphasises that Hanwha is fully open to cooperation with the Polish armament industry. Its scope could include, among others, making critical technology available to Polish companies for the production of K9 howitzers, 155mm artillery ammunition, as well as K239 missile systems and missiles with ranges of up to 80 and 290km.
As Lee says, industrial cooperation is mutually highly beneficial. From Hanwha’s perspective, it will significantly shorten the supply chain and increase its security for Poland and other customers in the future, while from Poland’s perspective it will mean access to new weapons technology, possibility of acquiring new competences, as well as a number of economic benefits such as the creation of many jobs for skilled workers.
In fact, Hanwha has already started to cooperate with the Polish armament industry. All K239 launchers will be integrated into wheeled chassis manufactured by the Polish company Jelcz. Moreover, Hanwa has already signed a contract with WB Group, a private Polish company, for the integration of K239s with the C2 system supplied by WB Group. The K9 howitzers supplied to the Polish army are also equipped with communication systems and the TOPAZ Integrated Combat Management System, supplied by WB Group.
The K2PL howitzer based on the K9A1 variant will be adapted to Polish specific requirements and fitted with components manufactured in Poland. Ultimately, Hanwha is offering Polish industry participation in the development and production of future variants of this system, the K9A2 and K9A3.
“We are interested in developing industrial cooperation with Poland. We want Polish industry to be integrated into our supply chains and in the future to participate in the production of weapon systems for other European markets. We want to establish a manufacturing, logistics and service hub in Poland to serve other customers in the region,” explains Lee.
Hanwha bets on technology transfer and collaboration
Potential Hanwha customers in Europe include Romania, which is currently trying to purchase self-propelled howitzers. Of course, Hanwha offers the Romanian army its proven product, the K9 howitzer. Other weapons systems such as the AS-21 Redback infantry fighting vehicle are also available.
“We are interested in developing our business in many European markets, with a primary interest in Central European markets such as Romania,” says Vice President Peter Bae of Hanwha Aerospace Europe. “I want to emphasise that industrial partnerships are an integral part of our business philosophy. We see the possibility of cooperating with companies from Poland and Romania in the execution of orders for the Romanian armed forces, if our bid is selected,” Bae adds.
The increased activity of the South Korean arms industry in Europe must be causing some concern to European companies, especially manufacturers of tanks and artillery systems. However, Lee stresses that Hanwha is able to meet all the requirements of potential customers as to the participation of local industry in the production and servicing of weapon systems, and is open to integrating local companies into Hanwha’s global supply chain.
“We do not come to Europe only with finished products, but we bring technology and an offer of cooperation. We believe that cooperation with European companies will generate synergies that will deepen cooperation in the future,” emphasises Jeff Sung, spokesman of Hanwha Aerospace.