South Korea greenlights fourth K2 MBT tranche

K2 Black Panther
The indigenous K2 Black Panther development has not only provided the ROK with one of the most highly advanced MBTs but has also generated potential export opportunities. (ROK Army)

The South Korean government has approved the production of a fourth batch of Hyundai Rotem K2 main battle tanks (MBTs) for the Republic of Korea Army (RoKA).

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced on 25 May that ₩1.94 trillion (US$1.47 billion) has been earmarked to manufacture an undisclosed number of K2 tanks between 2024 and 2028.

It is believed that around 260 K2 tanks were ordered in the third batch.

DAPA earlier announced in March 2011 that mass production would be delayed due to the unsatisfactory performance of the local powerpack then under development by Doosan Infracore (now Hyundai Doosan Infracore) and SNT Dynamics.

The first production batch of K2 MBTs were thus equipped with Renk HSWL 295 transmissions coupled to the German MTU MT883 Ka-500 V12 diesel engine as a stopgap measure.

Hyundai Rotem was able to equip tanks from the second production batch with the Hyundai Doosan Infracore DV27K engine, although the SNT Dynamics was again unable to prove the maturity of its EST15K transmission and the resultant powerpack for this production tranche combined the local DV27K engine with Renk’s HSWL 295 transmissions. The second batch of K2 MBTs were delivered in 2019.

According to SNT Dynamics, the EST15K transmission has a dry weight of 2,500 kg and features six forward and three reverse gears and can support engines rated at between 1,500 and 1,650 hp at a maximum input speed range of 2,000 to 3,000 rpm. AMR understands from the company that it aims to introduce the new transmission in the latter stages of the third K2 production run, and fully from the fourth batch of tanks although this ultimately depended on DAPA’s decision.

The repeated delays of a fully indigenous powerpack for the K2 MBT has become a concern for DAPA, given that the effort is closely linked to broader imperatives to reduce reliance on foreign components and systems for critical military programmes.

However, DAPA has not clarified whether the fourth-batch vehicles will feature this local transmission.

by Jr Ng