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S. Korea Offers K9 Howitzers for Canceled US Army ERCA Program

South Korea is offering its K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer to the US Army to fill the capability gap created by canceling the Extended-Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) program.

Launched in 2018, the ERCA program aimed to provide the service with a long-range artillery strike capability by having a Paladin M109 howitzer mounted with a 30-foot (9-meter) gun tube.

However, the project was called off after several technical challenges prevented its first prototypes from meeting army requirements.

Now, Hanwha Defense is looking forward to demonstrating the K9 Thunder for the US military either in Seoul or at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.

“We can do either and it’s really working with the Army around the timing of that and exactly what they want to see,” company official John Kelly said, as quoted by Breaking Defense.

One of the most in-demand South Korean weapons, the K9 Thunder can carry up to 48 projectiles and is capable of firing six rounds per minute. It can also fire standard NATO 150-mm ammunition at ranges up to 60 kilometers (37 miles).

Potential Contenders

After canceling the ERCA program, the US Army revealed that it will instead focus on existing systems to provide long-range artillery capabilities.

Apart from the South Korean firm, Elbit Systems and BAE Systems have also signified their intent to participate in the effort.

Elbit is offering its Sigma next-generation howitzer capable of automatic loading and laying of the gun system to optimally engage targets.

BAE Systems, meanwhile, is proposing its M109 self-propelled howitzer, which integrates Rheinmetall’s L52 155-mm, 52-caliber cannon system for a strike range of 60 kilometers (37 miles).

Germany’s KMW is reportedly another firm that may be looking for a spot to demo its extended-range artillery solution for the US Army.

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