South Korea continues to push K2 MBT for Norwegian tank requirement

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

South Korean and Norwegian officials have gathered in Seoul on 2 May to continue bilateral discussions on defence industrial co-operation.

The ninth session of the three-day joint committee meetings, which is aimed at exploring local partnerships to increase defence exports to the Nordic country, included South Korea’s bid to export Hyundai Rotem K2 Black Panther main battle tanks (MBTs) to Norway, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) stated.

The session was chaired by Kim Saeng, Director-General of International Co-operation Bureau at DAPA, and Morten Tiller, National Armaments Director of the Norwegian Ministry of Defence (MoD). Besides Seoul’s competitive bid to supply K2 MBTs to Norway, the two parties will also discuss potential joint-development of advanced weapon systems and technologies.

South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook had earlier visited Norway in February and held talks with his Norwegian counterpart, Odd Roger Enoksen, with the trip generating cautious optimism for Seoul’s export ambitions for the K2 MBT. However, the latter had eventually resigned from his post in April. The latest joint committee meeting is seen as a vital engagement following that unexpected hiccup.

South Korea had earlier won a contract to deliver 24 Hanwha Land Systems 155 mm K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers (SPHs) in December 2017 along with six K10 armoured ammunition resupply vehicles worth around US$215 million.

The first batch of K9 Thunders arrived in Norway in late 2019. Once fully operationalised, the new SPH will replace the M109A3GNM systems currently in service with the Norwegian Army. The South Korean system had emerged victorious in a competitive tender which included the French CAESAR, German Panzerhaubitze 2000 (PzH-2000), and the Swiss RUAG M109 Krait upgrade.

Seoul no doubt hopes to ride on the momentum of its K9 Thunder win to help boost its prospects to supply Norway’s next-generation MBT, which will replace the army’s Leopard 2A4 platforms. Its only competitor is Germany’s Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), whose PzH-2000 system lost out against the Koreans in the SPH programme. KMW has entered its latest Leopard 2A7 MBT.

The Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency (NDMA) announced on 28 January that winter trials for the MBT programme have begun at the Rena camp in Østerdalen, with both companies deploying two tanks each to be evaluated for mobility and shooting performance. A contract is expected to be awarded by the end of the year with deliveries planned to commence from 2025.

by Jr Ng