The Australian Army has conducted a live-fire test of the AS9 Huntsman self-propelled howitzer in South Korea.
The trial served as preparation for the army’s future AS9 units based on the South Korean K9 Thunder 155-millimeter howitzers that will be delivered by weapons developer Hanwha Defense Australia.
The AS9 is part of Australia’s Land 8116 initiative, which seeks new protected mobile fire systems by combining locally-made 155-millimeter shells with cannons procured from partner countries.
Once deployed, the AS9s will complement the government’s existing M777 towed artillery and associated systems.
‘Compatible’ Weapon System
During the test, the Australian Army evaluated the AS9’s performance and safety by firing three rounds of artillery from the platform.
“While we know in isolation the K9’s cannon is safe, and in isolation the ammunition is safe, this testing makes sure they are compatible,” Land 8116 Project Team’s Maj. Brendan Kelleher stated.
Further trials will be carried out to collect ballistics data for operating the AS9 using the army’s Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data Systems.
Other demonstrations will focus on the AS9’s protection from small arms fire and shrapnel.
Sustaining Soldier Protection, Survivability
Meanwhile, a parallel AS9 trial from Israel showed that the AS9 could also withstand landmines through a simulated charge explosion. Results from the test will be used to ensure required troop protection and survivability.
“The feedback we’re getting from other users is they are impressed by the maturity and ease of use of the platform,” Kelleher said.
“It is a big increase in range and lethality from the in-service towed howitzer, made possible by the longer cannon and higher rates of fire.”
Expanding Australian Artilleries
The AS9 order was signed in December 2021 by previous Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and South Korean President Moon Jae-in and is valued at 1 billion Australian dollars ($669 million).
Hanwha is performing the work for the contract in Greater Geelong, Victoria, while partner firm Elphinstone is manufacturing AS9 hulls and turrets in Burnie, Tasmania.
After the production, the company will deliver the first two AS9s and the corresponding AS10 armored ammunition resupply vehicle by the end of 2025.
Development of the remaining 42 vehicles will commence in late 2024.