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Tank, howitzer exports to Poland feared to create arms shortage in Korean military

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The K2 Black Panther
The K2 Black Panther

By Kang Seung-woo

Dozens of tanks and self-propelled howitzers that were supposed to be delivered to the Republic of Korea (ROK) Army will be shipped to Poland, according to a lawmaker.

In addition, some howitzers that have already been in operation for years, will also be delivered to the Central European country, raising concerns over a possible weapons shortage in the military.

Korea and Poland agreed to a framework contract in July, under which Warsaw will purchase 980 K2 tanks from Hyundai Rotem and 648 K9 howitzers from Hanwha Defense as well as 48 FA-50 light attack aircraft from Korea Aerospace Industries. The deal was among Korea's most important and largest defense orders in recent years.

In addition, the two sides inked follow-up contracts, last month that calls for the delivery of 180 K2 tanks from 2022 to 2025 and 212 K9 howitzers between 2022 and 2026.

According to Rep. Song Ok-joo of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), 32 K2 tanks and 12 K9 howitzers will be exported to Poland.

"The ROK Army plans to procure 10 K2 tanks this year, 18 in 2023 and four in 2024, all of which will be deployed to units in Gyeonggi and Gangwon provinces," she said.

The lawmaker also said the military initially planned to station the howitzers in Gyeonggi Province.

In addition, 36 howitzers that the Army has been operating for the last 14 years will be exported to Poland following the consent of the Eastern European country.

According to the lawmaker, the decision was made between the military authorities and the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) in July to meet the Polish demand amid limited domestic production capacities and tight export deadlines.

In order to avoid a shortage of military weapons in the Army, DAPA plans to ramp up production of K-9 self-propelled howtizers.

The K9 Thunder
The K9 Thunder

In addition, DAPA plans to reinforce the Army's capabilities by also boosting K2 tank production.

However, there are still concerns that the military authorities' decision may lead to a shortage of weapons.

"There were concerns that there would be a vacuum in national security as the weapons used in Korea and the weapons that were planned to be deployed were suddenly shifted to exports," Song said.

"We plan to thoroughly check whether there are any problems during the upcoming National Assembly audit of the defense ministry."

The Ministry of National Defense is scheduled to face the annual parliamentary audit on Oct. 4.

The K2 Black Panther is a next-generation main battle tank and combines an auto-loaded 120-milimeter main gun, advanced composite armor and state-of-the-art protection systems.

The K-9 Thunder is equipped with a 155-milimeter cannon designed to meet the tactical concept of "Shoot and Scoot," which refers to firing while on the move, which makes it tougher for enemies to detect it. The mobile howitzer has been exported to nine countries ― Turkey, Poland, India, Finland, Norway, Estonia, Australia, Egypt and Korea since 2001.

Kang Seung-woo

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