Asia Defense | Security | East Asia

South Korea’s Army Plans to Upgrade K1A2 Main Battle Tank

Upgrade work will reportedly include enhancing the K1A2s situational awareness and protection against enemy anti-tank missiles.

Franz-Stefan Gady
South Korea’s Army Plans to Upgrade K1A2 Main Battle Tank
Credit: Army Recognition

The Republic of Korea Army’s (ROKA) K1A2 main battle tank (MBT) fleet is slated to undergo upgrade work to enhance its overall operational performance, the Korean Ministry of National Defense’s (MND) Defense Agency for Technology and Quality (DATQ) announced last month.

According to Jane’s, DATQ stated that it will conduct “advanced research” between June and October 2020 to determine precise modernization requirements. Upgrades under consideration include the installment of a new situational awareness system, a new high-performance special armor, a remote weapon station, and a modern environmental control system, as well as upgrading the tank’s existing engine.

DATQ did not announce a start date for the upgrade work.

The ROKA currently operates around 480 K1A2 MBTs. The service also deploys the Hyundai Rotem K2 (Black Panther) MBT. To date, around 100 K2 MBTs fitted with a license-built German MTU 883 diesel engine and Renk transmission system as an interim measure have entered service.

Hyundai Rotem re-commenced mass production of a second batch of 106 K2 MBTs in May 2019. These tanks were originally supposed to be fitted with an indigenously designed and developed automatic transmission system along with the Doosan DV27K diesel engine. However, following repeated failures of the system during durability tests, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) once more selected the German Renk transmission system.

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As I reported previously:

Overall, the ROKA has a requirement for over 600 K2 tanks (…) 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.

 The K2 MBT has an overall length of 10.8 meters, width of 3.6 meters, and a combat weight of around 55 tons.

Production of the second batch of K2 MBTs is expected to be completed by 2021, which might also be time when work on the K1A2 fleet will begin. A follow-on contract for a third batch of K2 MBTs is also under consideration by the MND.