DX Korea 2022: Hyundai Rotem readies for next stage of K2 MBT evolution

Hyundai Rotem K2 MBT display
Hyundai Rotem K2 MBT display

South Korea’s Hyundai Rotem is poised to commence manufacture of new batches of K2 main battle tanks (MBTs) for the Republic of Korea Army (RoKA) that could eventually feature a fully indigenous powerpack during the latter stages of production, company officials told AMR at the DX Korea 2022 exhibition.

According to a company representative, production of the second batch of MBTs was completed in early 2022, and a third batch of approximately 50 vehicles will be provisioned for through the government’s 2023 defence budget. A fourth batch of MBTs is also expected to be acquired by the RoKA in the mid-2020s depending on available funding.

The representative added that a locally developed transmission could be incorporated into the third and fourth batches depending on its maturity and reliability. The requirement for a fully indigenous powerpack – comprising the engine and transmission – has been stipulated by the government’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), the country’s top defence procurement agency.

The first batch of K2 tanks is equipped with a German MTU 883 V12 diesel engine rated at 1,500 hp and coupled with a German Renk transmission with five forward and three reverse gears. The second-batch tanks feature the locally developed Doosan DV27K V12 diesel engine with the Renk transmission.

The domestic transmission system is being developed by SNT Dynamics, which has been working on its 1,500 hp-class EST15K system for the “past several years”. The transmission system features six forward and three reverse gears and is designed to support engines rated at between 1,500 and 1,650 hp with a maximum input speed range of 2,000-3,000 rpm.

SNT Dynamics EST15K transmission system
SNT Dynamics EST15K transmission system.

The K2 MBT has a combat weight of 56 tonnes and is operated by a crew of three, with a maximum road speed of 70 km/h. Its main armament comprises a 120 mm L/55 smoothbore gun with an autoloader, a co-axial 7.62 mm machine gun, as well as a roof-mounted 12.7 mm heavy machine gun.

Hyundai Rotem was awarded a US$3.4 billion contract in late August to supply Poland with 180 K2 tanks from 2022 to 2025. Under a broader agreement with Warsaw, the company is also expected to transfer technology and production know-how to enable local production of up to 820 K2 MBTs – an improved version designated K2PL – in Poland under a separate contract.

The company would not comment on its plans for the Polish contract, but noted that the K2 MBT design is continuously being updated to address current and future battlefield threats. Being showcased at its pavilion is an updated tank featuring what appears to be Rafael’s Trophy Active Protection System (APS), although the representative said any type of advanced active and passive protection suites can be integrated to the platform.

Indeed, several K2 MBT models are also displayed in front of the full-sized tank, each featuring additional armour modules on the hull and turret’s frontal arc and flanks, as well as a range of sensors and electronic countermeasure systems. A representation of what appears to be the locally developed Korean APS (KAPS) is also prominently shown on the central tank model.

“We believe that the K2 MBT is a world-class platform that is competitive with the incumbent European designs, and look forward to demonstrating its performance and growth potential internationally,” said the representative.

by Jr Ng