Asia Defense

South Korea Moves Forward With Production of 106 New Main Battle Tanks

South Korea’s next batch of K2 main battle tanks will run on a German-made transmission system.

South Korea Moves Forward With Production of 106 New Main Battle Tanks
Credit: wikimedia commons/Simta

South Korea is moving ahead with plans to produce a second batch of 106 Hyundai Rotem K2 (Black Panther) main battle tanks (MBTs) for the Republic of Korea Army (ROKA).

The production of the second batch of K2 MBTs had to be postponed by three years due to technical problems related to the K2s automatic transmission system designed and produced by S&T Dynamics. According to South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), S&Ts transmission system failed durability tests six times.

“The field deployment of K2 tanks has long been delayed due to defects in the domestically-built transmission system,” DAPA said in press release cited by Defense News. “We’ve made a conclusion that the second batch of K2s will be equipped with a powerpack consisting of a local engine plus a foreign transmission.”

DAPA has now selected the German Renk transmission system for the new K2s, which has also been installed on the previous batch of K2 MBTs officially inducted into service in 2016. As of 2018, the ROKA operated around 100 K2 MBTs fitted with a license-built German MTU 883 diesel engine and Renk transmission system.

Originally, production of the second batch of 106 K2 MBTs was scheduled to start in 2014 and finish in 2017. DAPA now aims for a 2019-2020 completion date. A follow-on contract for a third batch of K2 MBTs is expected to be signed in the near future. As I reported in October 2017:

Overall, the ROKA has a requirement for over 600 K2 tanks (some sources say 400) complementing its K1 MBT force and replacing its aging fleet of M48 Patton MBTs as they are being slowly phased out. Armed with a license-produced Rheinmetall 120 mm/L55 smoothbore gun and fitted with both modular composite armor of undisclosed type and Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) blocks, the 55-ton K2 is reportedly one of the world’s most advanced MBTs.

The tank’s main gun, featuring an automatic loader, has a maximum rate of fire of 10 rounds per minute and can shoot the Korean Smart Top-Attack Munition— top-attack fire-and-forget projectiles fitted with their own guidance system. This new munition enables the tank to engage targets from covered positions. The MBT is equipped with an advanced fire-control system linked to an extremely high frequency radar system.

There are also plans to export the K2 MBT and Hyundai Rotem, among other things, has offered technological transfer and design assistance to Turkish military vehicles manufacturer Otokar under a $540 million contract signed in 2008. “Both tanks share the same base design including the chassis, although the Altay is purportedly slightly longer, equipped with heavier armor, and, in comparison to the K2 MBT also sports a modified turret with composite armor,” I explained.