Artillery types

Korean K239 Rocket Artillery System – New Developments Between Korea and Poland

Photo. Katarzyna Głowacka/Defence24.pl

Polish-Korean talks on the purchase of a new rocket artillery system have gained significant momentum, Defense24.pl found out. Warsaw is seriously considering acquiring the Korean-made K239 Chunmoo rocket artillery solution. Its capabilities are somewhat comparable to the US-made HIMARS systems already purchased by Poland – another letter of request for the HIMARS system has been placed. However, supplying the Korean system would also include broad industrial cooperation.

Talks on other areas of defense cooperation between Poland and Korea have been overshadowed by acquisitions of K2 MBTs, K9 howitzers and FA-50 light combat aircraft. One of these overshadowed issues concerns rocket artillery. Poland has communicated a request for nearly 500 HIMARS M142 systems to the United States. However, it remains unclear whether the Americans would be able to fully meet this demand in a short enough time, given that the US military is also looking at options to increase the inventory of MLRS-class assets.

Thus, the Polish Ministry of Defense has engaged in talks on the purchase of additional rocket artillery systems from the Republic of Korea. The above refers to the K239 Chunmoo already in service with the South Korean army which also operates the US-made M270A0/A1 MLRS solution on a tracked platform. The confidential information we have obtained suggests that the Polish-Korean talks have gained momentum recently and that the acquisition of the South Korean part of the Homar system is increasingly likely, but no final decision has been made. just taken again.

K239 Chunmoo System Overview

The K239 Chunmoo was developed to replace the obsolete assets of the K136 Kooryong and significantly improve available capabilities. 130 mm rockets allowed K136 systems to attack targets at a distance of 23 to 36 kilometers, with the entire launcher carrying 36 rockets. The corresponding development project was launched nationwide in 2009. 4 years later, the Korea Defense Technology and Quality Agency allocated $112.4 million to develop a replacement for the Kooryong solution. This helped speed up the project considerably. As a result, mass production was started. The first batch was to include 58 systems. Eventually, the ROKAF must operate more than 350 platforms as such.

The K239 Chunmoo is a wheeled self-propelled multiple rocket launcher that can launch rockets of various calibers (130mm, 227mm, 239mm). It can also launch tactical ballistic missiles. The launcher has two launch containers. According to publicly available data, each of these containers can accommodate several types of effectors.

  • Twenty 130 mm K33 unguided rockets, with a range of 36 kilometers (40 in total);
  • Six 227 mm KM26A2 rockets, manufactured under license granted by the United States and derived from the M270A0 MLRS effectors – these systems also being used by South Korea; these rockets offer a range of 45 kilometers
  • Six 239 mm guided rockets, with a range of 80 to 85 kilometers (12 in total); work is underway to develop a new generation of these missiles, with ranges increased to 160-200 kilometers
  • 1 or 2 ballistic missiles with a range of up to several hundred kilometers, calibers 600 or 400 mm.

It is still unclear whether the variant capable of launching the ballistic missiles has already been fielded in the Korean army.

K239 system rockets can use HE-frag, incendiary, smoke, illuminating, cluster, anti-tank, or pre-fragmented warheads. Defense News recently reported that work is underway to create improved 239mm rockets, with an increased range from 80-85 kilometers to 160-200 kilometers. This would gradually increase the K239’s firepower. The system is continuously and consistently developed.

239mm GPS/INS guided rockets are equipped with fuses that provide dual mode – they can explode on impact or with a delay. The Republic of Korea Army wanted the guided rocket to feature a bunker-buster penetrating warhead.

The system was based on a Hanwha 8×8 truck with an armored cab, protecting the crew from small arms fire or artillery shell fragmentation. The combat weight is defined as 25-30 tons, the range is 800 kilometers, and the vehicle can move at a maximum speed of 90 km/h. Each Chunmoo system is supported by an ammo carrier using the same type of truck, with four reloading containers. The reloading system is highly automated, similar to MLRS/HIMARS, allowing the platform to quickly return to combat readiness.

The information we have received suggests that the potential acquisition of the Korean system would also involve broad industrial cooperation. Not only would this mean Polish Jelcz and Topaz FCS/BMS vehicles would be used, but license manufacturing of the rockets could also be the case.

Notably, the Korean system is also very modular. It can launch both Korean rockets (130mm, 239mm), as well as US-made rockets (it is certain to use the KM-26M2 rockets which are a licensed version of the M26A2 MLRS rockets manufactured in the USA). One of the possible directions of future development could include an extension of the range of 239mm guided rockets and the entry into service of ballistic missiles – however, reports on the use of these have been contradictory.

Another potential development could involve the integration of more effectors and other fuzes, such as the American-made GMLRS for HIMARS compatibility, or the 122mm fuzes used in the Polish Langusta solution. Given that the system uses 130mm rockets similar to those used in Langusta, as well as 227mm unguided rockets, this seems technically possible. This would only require the consent of the Korean and Polish sides (for 122mm rockets), the US side (for GMLRS) and the development of suitable launch containers. A solution as such would be favorable from an operational point of view.

Adam SwierkowskiJakub Palowski