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A South Korean arms company once seen as a dinosaur is now producing howitzers twice as fast as its Western competitors


  • Once passed off as a relic that only made conventional weapons, Hanwha Aerospace is returning to the spotlight.

  • Bloomberg reports this that the South Korean company builds howitzers up to three times as fast as its competitors.

  • The country’s rising arms exports underline a global push to restart production of older weapons.

A South Korean arms manufacturer that traditionally specialized in older, less advanced weapons is responding to demand for 155mm howitzers by producing them faster than the West.

Hanwha Aerospace can build its K9 self-propelled howitzer in about six months for $3.5 million each, Bloomberg reports thiswith the company estimated to be two to three times faster than its competitors.

By comparison, French supplier Nexter estimated it took about 30 months to deliver its Caesar self-propelled howitzer. However, it was reported in in early January to have reduced the wait time by half.

That’s in line with estimated production times for other Western companies resuming howitzer production, although other factors, such as sourcing materials, could cost them additional time.

The US uses the M777 howitzer, built by the British company BAE Systems. In January the company said it expected to reopen production of the artillery platform for new orders from the US Army and would deliver a first tranche next year.

German manufacturer KNDS Deutschland is also expected to resume production of its self-propelled PzH 2000 howitzer, using parts from Rheinmetall. It is in June said it would yield the first howitzers in mid-2025.

Bloomberg reported that Hanwha’s advantage comes from a streamlined manufacturing process that the company maintained as major Western defense companies moved to more advanced weapons years ago.

Hanwha Aerospace CEO Son Jae-il told Bloomberg: “We are focusing on the middleweights, self-propelled guns, armored vehicles and tanks. We are already globally competitive in that.”

That class of weapons “is something that Lockheed Martin and Boeing do not do,” Yoon Sukjoon, a senior fellow at the Korea Institute for Military Affairs, told the newspaper.

South Korean law prohibits defense contractors from exporting weapons to active combat zones. But Hanwha finds business outside Ukraine.

Its clients include Poland, which was responsible for a order for 679 K9 howitzers in July 2022and Romania, that was April reported to explore its first defense contract with South Korea for $725 million.

According to Bloomberg, Hanwha’s annual revenues from arms exports have increased eleven times to $1.1 billion since the start of the war in Ukraine.

In September, Hanwha factory workers in Changwon said this Agence France-Presse that the factory had expanded production three times after Russia invaded.

That growth underlines a global push to revive conventional weapons production as global tensions worsen and major militaries send their supplies to Kiev.

For example, the US has begun to increase production of its 155mm shells from 10,000 rounds per month to a target of 100.00 per month in 2025.

South Korean defense companies have emerged as major players in the industry, making the country the world’s tenth largest arms exporter, according to figures. Stockholm International Institute for Peace Research.

According to SIPRI, the country had a 2% share of the global defense export market from 2019 to 2023, about 12% more than the previous five years.

Read the original article Business insider

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