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06:55 PM, February 8, 2017
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Estonia to Team Up With Finland for K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer

Estonia has considered partnering with Finland to procure Hanwa Techwin K9 Thunder 155 mm self-propelled howitzers (SPH) from South Korea.

Finland is expected to spend at least 100 million euros in the joint deal.

The military seeks to replace currently-used Soviet-built cannons with modern howitzers, YLE Finnish Broadcasting News reported Tuesday.

Due to raising concerns of nearby Russian activity, Estonia will enter talks for at least 12 K9 Thunder howitzer.

Estonia's decision follows Finland’s proposal for joint-procurement that occurred in December 2016 after the army tested the South Korean K9 in Rovajärvi.

The K9 Thunder is a 155 millimetre armored howitzer with a firing range of about 40 kilometres and a maximum sped of nearly 70 kilometres an hour.

South Korea commissioned the K9’s development in 1989 and had begun testing the system in 1996. The K9 entered service with the Republic of Korea Army in 1999.

The K9 is armed with a 52-calibre gun capable of firing normal rounds up to 30 km, and extended-range projectiles to 42 km. It is supported by the K10 ammunition re-supply vehicle, which uses the same vehicle platform as the K9.

A variant of the K9 is also manufactured in Turkey as the T-155 Firtina. In August 2016, the Indian Ministry of Defence cleared the purchase of a domestically built version of the K9 Thunder known as the K-9 Vajra (offered by Larsen & Toubro).

South Korea has been eager to enter the European defence market. The K9 Thunder sales to Finland and Estonia, which could amount to several dozen units in total, could provide Seoul a stepping stone to build upon with additional defence hardware sales.

Delivery of the South Korean weapons is expected to take place by 2021. According to the Finnish Defence Ministry, a final decision on the deal could take place by mid-February.

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