South Korea considers 155mm shell exports to replace Canadian rounds sent to Ukraine

According to Ji Da-gyum in The Korea Herald echoed by Asia News Network, a South Korean official said the government has not yet formally begun procedures for the export but the military is reviewing whether it is capable of supplying the 155mm artillery shells needed by the Canadian artillery.
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Canadian artillerymen firing M177 155mm howitzers (Picture source: Canadian Army)

The South Korean government has been reviewing the export of 155mm artillery shells to Canada in a bid to help the country replenish its depleted weapons stocks sent to Ukraine. Indeed, Ji Da-gyum reports, Canada recently asked if South Korea is able to export 100,000 rounds of 155 mm artillery ammunition through a diplomatic channel, a South Korean senior official at the Defense Ministry confirmed to The Korea Herald on May 30. The South Korean official said the government has not yet formally begun procedures to proceed with the export. But the military has been reviewing whether it is capable of supplying the artillery shells in light of its weapons stocks and readiness posture.

Since February, the Canadian government has provided a number of M777 howitzers and its 155mm shells to the Ukrainian army. Canada’s Defense Minister Anita Anand on May 24 announced the country’s plan to donate 20,000 artillery rounds of 155 mm NATO standard ammunition to support Ukraine’s defense against the Russian invasion. But the ammunition purchase worth 98 million Canadian dollars ($77 million) from the US suggests the depletion of its weapons stockpiles.

The 155 mm artillery rounds are produced by South Korea’s Poongsan Corp. South Korean broadcaster SBS on May 29 reported that the military is considering sending its ammunition stocks to Poongsan Corp. so the firm can supply the artillery shells to Canada without additional production, at a lower-than-normal price. The company will be paid by the Canadian government and additionally produce 100,000 artillery shells for the South Korean military, the report said, citing a high-level official at the Defense Ministry. Seoul’s plan is to support both Canada and Ukraine by supplying the ammunition at lower costs, the report added.

Ji Da-gyum recalls that Ukrainian Defense Minister Alexei Reznikoff in April requested his then-South Korean counterpart, Suh Wook, to provide anti-aircraft weapons systems. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the same month asked for weapons aid during a virtual address to South Korean lawmakers. Should the South Korean government decide to supply 100,000 shells of 155 mm caliber, it will have indirectly joined the international community’s move to provide weapons aid to Ukraine against Russia for the first time.

The South Korean military has delivered around 3 billion won ($2.4 million) worth of nonlethal military items including helmets, bulletproof vests and combat rations to Ukraine on two separate occasions. Vice Defense Minister Shin Beom-chul committed to seeking ways to step up support for Ukraine at a second virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group hosted by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on May 23, Ji Da-gyum reports.

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The 155 mm artillery rounds requested by Canada can be produced by South Korea’s Poongsan Corp which also supplies the South Korean army's K9 self-propelled howitzers (Picture source: South Korean MoD)

Canadian artillery’s M177 howitzer

The M777 lightweight 155-mm towed howitzer is lighter and smaller, yet more powerful than any gun of its kind. The M777 weighs 9,200 pounds compared to the M109 self-propelled howitzer at 49,940 pounds, making it highly mobile and easily transportable by C-130 Hercules, helicopter or a truck of at least 2.5 tonnes.

It can be equipped with a digital fire control system and loaded with precision-guided munitions that use location data from Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites and an inertial navigation unit to steer precisely to the target. This gives the artillery the ability to destroy targets with increased accuracy, leading to less collateral damage. The M777 can also be combined with the new Excalibur GPS-guided munitions, which allow an accurate fire to 30 km.

The M777 provides close and deep fire support without sacrificing range, stability, accuracy or durability. It is equipped with a highly advanced Digital Gun Management System which enables the crew to destroy targets in a very precise manner at all range distances.

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Canadian artillerymen firing M177 155mm howitzers in Afghanistan (Picture source: Canadian Army)