More K2 Black Panther tanks for the South Korean army

A K2 Black Panther main battle tank fires its 120 mm main gun during a firepower demonstration.

South Korean defence and engineering prime Hyundai Rotem announced on 22 December that it has been awarded a ₩533 billion (US$481.4 million) contract by the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) to produce a third batch of K2 Black Panther main battle tanks (MBTs) for the Republic of Korea Army (RoKA).

Hyundai Rotem stated that delivery of the 56-ton MBTs, the number of which is undisclosed, is expected to be completed by 2023. The company delivered the first batch of around 100 tanks to the RoKA in 2015 and expects to complete delivery of a second batch 106 tanks by 2021.

It is understood that the third production batch will also feature an indigenously developed engine believed to be the twin-turbocharged Doosan DV27K V12 engine rated at 1,500 hp and the German-made Renk HSWL 295 automatic transmission system, comparable to those constructed under the second batch.

The South Korean government is expected to order more than 600 K2 MBTs to replace its ageing inventories of M48 Patton tanks and earlier models of the in-service K1 MBT.

However, years-long efforts to develop a locally made transmission system – which would have boosted the company’s efforts to export the MBT – has yet to produce viable results, with the S&T Dynamics EST15K automatic transmission failing to meet reliability and durability under government-mandated standards that call for 320 hours of continued operation without faults.

The company is taking aim at potential opportunities in the Middle East, having earlier unveiled a desert-optimised variant of the K2 MBT, which incorporates features such as a turret shade, dust covers, and an additional air-conditioning unit installed on the turret bustle to provide enhanced cooling.

The K2 MBT is operated by a crew of three and is armed with a 120 mm L/55 smoothbore gun, a co-axial 7.62 mm machine gun, and a roof-mounted 12.7 mm machine gun. The main gun is fed by a bustle-mounted automatic loader, which can hold 16 ready use rounds, with another 24 rounds protectively stored in the main hull.

by Jr Ng