Korea Main Battle Tank programs

Ghost soldier

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South Korea’s locally-made 1500 HP engine for its K2 battle tank is ready for launch and could be exported to the Middle East and Europe.

Developed by the government’s Agency for Defence Development (ADD), the 1500 horsepower powertrain is the third such product in the world after Germany and the United States, Wang Jung-hong, chief of South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), revealed in an interview with Korea Herald earlier this week.

“Some rules have hampered a product launch, but we’ve cleared that up now,” he said, noting the agency was eyeing countries in Europe and the Middle East as potential customers for the locally manufactured component.
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The engine will form the basis for the powerplant of Turkey’s Altay main battle tank (MBT) and the progress on the engine should be good news for Turkey’s defence industry directorate which is planning to manufacture over 500 tanks and is also talking to Indonesia to export these machines.

Poland is another likely customer for these engines. In January 2020, local reports stated that the Polish government was looking to place an order for 800 K2 MBTs from Hyundai Rotem.

South Korea has a domestically assembled modified Abrams tank, the K1. It is powered by a diesel, rather than a gas turbine engine.
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Since Seoul owns very little of the technology behind the K1, it set out to develop the K2 Black Panther, taking inspiration from technology worldwide, in order to be able to export the machines.

From France, South Korea adopted its own version of the Leclerc’s autoloader besides incorporating Thales fire control system. From Germany, the country developed its own version of the Rheinmetall 120-millimeter L55 gun and looked into MTU-890 V12 diesel 1,500 horsepower engine. According to a report by National Interest, domestically designed engine has slightly worse acceleration versus the MTU — 0–32kmph at nearly eight seconds, up from seven seconds. The first 100 K2s produced will have MTU engines and successive batches will sport Korean engines.
 

Gary

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Indonesian defence minister consider Altay as an addition to Indonesian Army fleet of Leopard's , however without the engine this will remain a big hurdle, potentially a repeat of the ATAK attack helo fiasco between Turkey and the Philippines. We shall see if S.Korea could deliver the engine fast enough and in numbers.
 

guest12

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If this engine any good Altay project may finally start mass production.
 
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Saithan

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What about the transmission ? I think we still have a problem with the transmission.

Also I hope TEI hands pver the TS1400 sooner to be fitted in ATAK so we can conduct tests for a whole year before timelimit for delivery to Pakistan runs out.
 

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Hyundai Rotem is offering Polish defense industry players to jointly produce the K2PL main battle tank, a variant of its K2 Black Panther. (Hyundai)

KIELCE, Poland — Hyundai Rotem is offering Polish defense industry players the opportunity to jointly produce the K2PL main battle tank, a variant of its K2 Black Panther.
The South Korean company hopes it could benefit from the current lull in Warsaw’s talks with Berlin and Paris.
Last year, Poland’s Ministry of Defence declared it was ready to join the European Main Battle Tank project, an initiative spearheaded by Germany and France, but talks between the three countries have since stalled. A Polish military official told Defense News that Warsaw is unlikely to cooperate with Paris and Berlin on a joint tank program, and the Defence Ministry is looking for alternative partners.

“We’re open to cooperating with Polish companies, such as [the leading state-run group] PGZ. The tank would be produced in Poland, and we would provide Polish plants with our technology,” Lee Han-Soo, a senior manager at Hyundai Rotem’s global defense sales and marketing team, told Defense News at the MSPO defense industry show. “Production of this tank began a few years ago, and our technology is cutting-edge in comparison with our rivals' products.”

The Polish land forces operate some 247 Leopard 2 A4 and A5 tanks acquired from the German Bundeswehr, but the country’s military urgently need to procure new gear to replace its Soviet-designed 500 T-72 and PT-91 tanks. Local observers said Warsaw could purchase up to 800 new tanks.

Poland’s plan to modernize its tank fleet is part of a regional trend. In the aftermath of Russia’s invasion on Ukraine and Moscow’s annexation of the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula in 2014, a number of Eastern European allies have launched similar efforts. Hyundai Rotem aims to offer the K2PL in other tenders across the region.
“We’re looking to offer our product in other tenders if the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and also other countries, decide to order new tanks," Lee said. “This is why the Polish project is so important to us.”
 

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The sight, which serves as the tank's'eye', plays a pivotal role in accurately observing day and night targets and increasing the attack success rate of enemy tanks by aiming, and is an important device that is directly connected to the survival of the tank in wartime situations.

When the latest thermal imaging device of the K2 tank class is applied to the K1A1 tank, it is expected that the'Hunter Killer' function, which was difficult to properly operate due to the deterioration of the equipment so far, can be operated in earnest, and the combat power and survivability of the tank are expected to improve dramatically. . The'Hunter Killer' function is a key operational function of the tank that enables the commander to quickly and immediately engage a large number of targets by transmitting the target information observed and acquired to the gunner.

In addition, it is expected that the efficiency of equipment operation and maintenance will increase as the overall performance for the operation will be improved, such as improvement of the striped noise phenomenon, glare improvement, and convenience of observation.

Hanwha Systems has already carried out the'K1A1 gunner and commander's sight technology change project' under the supervision of the Army Logistics and Staff in 19 years, and succeeded in applying the same latest thermal imaging device to the K1A1 tank as the K2 tank, improving the performance to enable combat in all weather conditions. I have improved it.

An official from Hanwha Systems said, “Through the'Technology Change' project for the K1A1 gunner and commander's sight, we were able to reduce costs, shorten the power-up period, and improve the performance of the thermal imaging device.” “Through future military policy decisions and verification tests, “We look forward to installing the latest thermal imaging devices on the K1 tank, which is operated on the same platform as the K1A1, in a'technology change' method.”

On the other hand, Hanwha Systems has been manufacturing gunner sights, commander's sights, and ballistic calculators for K1 tanks since '90, and has jurisdiction over the entire shooting control process, including target acquisition, shooting, and verification using sights from K1A1 to K2 tanks. It is recognized as a company specialized in'Fire Control System'.

* Thermal imaging device: This is a device that detects infrared rays emitted by a target at night, converts them into electrical signals, and observes them through an optimal image signal processing technique. It is the most important device that can observe the image at night and supports aiming and shooting targets based on this.


 

Isa Khan

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SEOUL — South Korea’s arms acquisition agency has decided to equip third batch of K2 Black Panther main battle tanks with a German transmission system, a part of the tank’s power pack that includes a locally developed engine.
The decision is a blow to a 15-yearlong effort to replace the German RENK transmission system with an indigenous one, which local industry expected would pave the way for exporting the tank.

The Defense Acquisition Program Administration, or DAPA, made the decision Nov. 25 during a committee meeting led by Defense Minister Suh Wook, ahead of mass production of 50 more K2 tanks.
“Around 50 units of K2 tanks will be built by 2023 with an investment of 2.83 trillion won,” the agency said in a statement. (That’s about $2.56 billion in U.S. currency.)
The new units will be fitted with a “hybrid powerpack” consisting of the RENK transmission and an engine developed by Doosan Infracore, as the homegrown automatic transmission developed by S&T Dynamics has failed in durability tests, the statement said.

A history of delays

The failure in local transmission development has also caused setbacks for the tank’s deployment in the South Korean Army.
The Black Panther was co-developed by the state-run Agency for Defense Development and Hyundai Rotem, a defense business arm of Hyundai Motor, to replace M48 Patton tanks and earlier models of K1 tanks that have been service since the 1980s. Prototypes were unveiled in 2007.

Mass production of the first 100 units was approved in 2011, with deployment scheduled for the following year, but the effort was delayed over a faulty engine and a lack of progress on a locally produced transmission. The government then decided to use the German-made power pack consisting of the MTU 883 diesel engine and RENK transmission system for the first batch.

The tanks entered service in 2014, and in that same year, local developers announced they succeeded in developing a 1,500-horsepower power pack that could be installed on the second batch of 100 tanks. However, the deployment of the second batch also faced delays, as the S&T Dynamics-made transmission system repeatedly failed to prove its reliability and durability under transmission production standards, which require a system to run without issue for 320 hours. The second batch of K2s were eventually delivered in 2019.

Export potential

The fate of the locally made power pack is a key concern for the tank’s potential foreign customers, including Turkey.
In 2008, Hyundai Rotem signed a $540 million contract with Turkey’s Otokar for technological transfer and design assistance of the K2. The technology was incorporated into Turkey’s main battle tank in the making, dubbed Altay. Defense News recently learned that Turkish procurement and military officials have been in talks with Hyundai Rotem to salvage its delayed program.

Poland has also reportedly shown interest in developing its own main battle tank in cooperation with Hyundai Rotem using technology from the Black Panther.
The Black Panther is armed with a 120mm L55 smoothbore gun indigenously developed by Hyundai Wia. It is also equipped with a fire control system capable of acquiring and tracking specific targets up to a range of 9.8 kilometers using a thermographic camera.
The tank can travel at speeds of up to 70 kph on road surfaces and maintain speeds of up to 52 kph in off-road conditions. It can also climb 60-degree slopes and overcome vertical obstacles at up to 1.8 meters in height.

 
E

ekemenirtu

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I suppose there is some element of truth to the stereotype that East Asians excel at electronics or IT hardware industries while Europeans, or descendants, excel at mechanical engineering.

Canadian Kinetics Drive Inc was sold to Singapore's ST Kinetics so now they have the means for selling 'indigenous' transmissions.
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Seeing how Korea has been struggling to develop engines and transmissions for their land vehicles reminds me of that story.

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South Korean company Hyundai Rotem announced on 22 December that it has been awarded a KRW533 billion (USD481.4 million) contract by the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) for the production of a third batch of K2 Black Panther main battle tanks (MBTs) for the Republic of Korea Army (RoKA).

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Hyundai Rotem announced on 22 December that it has been awarded a KRW533 billion contract for the production of a third batch of K2 MBTs for the RoKA. (Hyundai Rotem)


The company provided no details about the number of MBTs set to be built but sources told Janes that the third batch is expected to comprise a total of 54 K2s, with the new tanks set to feature a locally developed engine and a German-made transmission system, like those made under the second batch.

The company said delivery of the MBTs is set to be completed by 2023.

In 2015 Hyundai Rotem completed delivery of the 100 K2s ordered in 2010 as part of the first production batch and is expected to complete in 2021 delivery of the 106 K2s ordered in 2014 as part of the second batch.

According to Janes Land Warfare Platforms: Armoured Fighting Vehicles , the K2, which is operated by a crew of three, is 10.8 m long and 3.6 m wide. The tank, development of which was completed in 2007, has a combat weight of 56 tonnes and, when fitted with the German-produced engine and transmission system, a maximum road speed of 70 km/h. It is equipped with an in-arm suspension system that allows its ground clearance to be adjusted.

 

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The Soviet T-80U Main Battle Tank in South Korean service is one of the most popular and best known cases of a pro-west country using Soviet equipment.

The way this happened was relatively simple and straightforward. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation inherited not only its vast armories, but also its debts to other countries and South Korea was one of the creditors. The Soviet Union was importing, amongst other things, South Korean consumer products in the late 1980s and, despite typically paying in natural resources such as timber and oil, accrued a debt of roughly 1.5 billion USD due to its poor economic situation.

T-80U tank in parking

The thing was, Russia was struggling economically in the 1990s and South Korea was keenly aware of the fact. That is why, after some lengthy negotiations, a deal was struck in 1995, allowing Russia to repay a half of its debt in military technologies. As a result of this deal called “Brown bear business project-1” (or 1차 불곰사업), South Korea received 300 million USD worth of modern Soviet weapons between 1996 and 1998, including:

33 T-80U tanks
30 BMP-3 IFVs
8 Ka-32 helicopters
Dozens of ATGM and MANPADS weapon systems (Metis-M, Igla)

This only paid for a portion of the debt, but it was what Russia could afford at the time. When its economic situation improved in the early 2000s, another deal (“Brown bear business project-2”) was made in 2002 regarding further arms exports worth roughly 267 million USD. These arms were exported to South Korea between 2005 and 2006 and included:

23 Il-103 training aircraft
37 more BMP-3 IFVs (bringing the total to 67)
10 more T-80U MBTs (bringing the total to 43)
7 more Ka-32 helicopters (bringing the total to 15)
3 Tsapliya-class landing craft
2000 Metis-M guided missiles
S-300 missiles (Technology Transfer)

The political implications of the first deal were rather interesting. South Korea (already an industrial powerhouse) did want to obtain access to (at the time) cutting edge military technologies, but didn’t want to cross the United States and the U.S. military complex wasn’t exactly keen on providing them with access to the newest toys. However, since the USA managed to obtain 5 T-80Us via Britain in 1992, there was no real danger of political backlash and the whole thing went through. Anyway, the T-80U tanks introduced at this time were too many to be used for research, and there were not enough tanks to organize units. However, since it was introduced for research purposes, the researchers thoroughly dismantled and analyzed the tanks.

ROK ARMY T-80U Tank Cross a River Training

And through this project, the introduction of Russian-made weapons enabled the South Korean military to acquire Russian military technology, which greatly helped the South Korean military develop its own weapons. Although it is not well known, through this project, South Korea was given the opportunity to acquire the technology of Russia's S-400 and 9K720 Iskander missiles.

And most of the technologies that South Korea acquired from producing and upgrading K1 and K1A1 tanks for 30 years and studying T-80U tanks were used to develop K2 tanks.

The T-80Us have been in Korean service since 1996 and, even after more than two decades they are still actively used by the military, even though they are by now technologically inferior to the indigenous South Korean tanks such as the K1 series(K1E1, K1A1, K1A2) and the K2 series. The reason for that is that while the K1 series had been continuously upgrade over the years, the T-80U tanks remain in “Stock” condition.

A driving video right after South Korea introduced the T-80U tank in 1998

The South Korean military likes the tanks more or less, even though they have a reputation of not being exactly reliable and the crews complain about their cramped interiors. Of the two, the maintenance is actually a serious problem for the Koreans because while some parts are actually domestically produced, the more sensitive components have to be imported from Russia. This also goes for the ammunition (setting up a production line for such a limited number of tanks would not make any sense). The prices of spare parts do ever keep increasing.

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US military M1 Abrams tank and Korean T-80U tank in joint training

The tanks have several advantages over the K1A1 MBTs. For one, they are lighter, allowing them to better operate in South Korea’s mountains. Because 70% of South Korea's land is made up of mountains. They also have excellent mobility in general thanks to their powerful turbine engines. On the downside, aside from the abovementioned reliability issues, they are relatively fuel-hungry and generally obsolete. They are also nowhere near as comfortable as the indigenous Korean MBTs.

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The back of the South Korean T-80U tank

The skin is fitted with typical Korean markings as well as parts of a wading kit and the crew’s belongings in various stowage bins. The lower frontal plate is also covered with a “skirt”, although it does not act like armor.

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T-80U tank of the South Korean military in training

With that being said, their time is almost done. The T-80U MBTs are being gradually phased out from service. Of the original 43 vehicles, only roughly 30 to 35 are still operational and that share continues to decrease. In 2016, Russia actually offered to buy those tanks back and, presumably, selling them to other potential customers (Cyprus seems the most likely option here) since the T-80U isn’t one of the main service types. But South Korea officially rejected Russia's offer and is still expected to continue operating T-80U tanks.
 
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Baljak

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Also Its story is quite interesting.
In fact, the opportunity to see this tank is not common in Korea. The tanks that can be seen frequently in Korea are mainly K1 and K2 tanks and sometimes M1 Abrams tanks of the U.S. military 😁
 

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A prototype of the CN08 120mm L/55 smoothbore gun co-developed by Hyundai WIA and Agency for Defense Development(ADD) in 2007.


1) Hyundai WIA CN08 120 mm 55 caliber smoothbore gun


Hyundai WIA, which was in charge of producing the main guns of K2 tanks, decided to jointly develop them with Agency for Defense Development(ADD), judging that it is marketable to develop 120 mm L/55 smoothbore gun.

Since then, it has completed the development of 120 mm L/55 smoothbore gun in 2007 with chrome plating technology obtained through technical cooperation with Cotec, a South Korean surface treatment solution company, and after the last prototype(PV2) of the K2 tank was developed in 2008, the this 120 mm 55 caliber smoothbore gun was officially named CN08 (This name means cannons developed in 2008).

The CN08 120mm L/55 smoothbore gun of the K2 tank is applied with Internal chrome plating technology for large-caliber gun. Although internal chrome plating technology for large-caliber gun has already been developed and used in advanced countries such as the United States, Germany, and Italy.

At the time of developing the K2 tank, Agency for Defense Development attempted to transfer the technology from Hartchrom AG, which provides surface treatment solutions located in Switzerland, but was denied the technology transfer. After that, in October 2007, Cotec, a South Korean surface treatment solution company, invested $5 million to develop Internal chrome plating technology for large-caliber gun.

The internal chromium plating of a long-axis tube is widely used in military and industrial application, with the thick hard plating formed using a mixed solution of Chromium acid and catalytic H₂SO₄. A large-caliber gun can endure a high explosive force as a result of the increased stiffness and wear resistance provided by this internal hard chromium surface.

The main gun is connected to an autoloader system, with a chamber pressure of the main gun is 668 MPa, and muzzle velocity is 1760 m/s(K279 APFSDS). It depends on the type of ammunition, but the maximum range of the main gun is 2.5 km. And the 120 mm L/55 CN08 smoothbore gun has increased penetration and maximum range than the 120 mm L/44 KM256 smoothbore gun mounted on the K1A2.

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K2 Tank's Dynamic muzzle reference system (DMRS)


2) Fire Control System & Dynamic muzzle reference system (DMRS)


The K2 is equipped with an advanced fire-control system linked to an Extremely High Frequency radar system deployed on the frontal arc of the turret, along with a traditional laser rangefinder and crosswind sensor. The system is capable of a "lock-on" mode, which can acquire and track specific targets up to a range of 9.8 km (6.1 mi) using a thermographic camera. This allows the crew to fire accurately while moving as well as engage low-flying aircraft.

The fire-control system is also linked to an advanced gun stabilizer and trigger-delay mechanism to optimise accuracy while moving in uneven terrain.

If the trigger on the main gun is pulled at the same time the tank encounters an irregularity in the terrain, oscillation of the gun barrel will cause temporary misalignment between a laser emitter at the top of the barrel and a sensor at the base. This will delay the fire-control system from activating until the beam is re-aligned, improving the chances of hitting the intended target.

The VSU(Vertical Sensor Unit) mounted on the K2 tank is a mechanical gyro sensor that measures the posture(Roll/Pitch) of the tank gun and has been used in most tanks to improve the accuracy of the main gun even though it is an expensive equipment. The tank's fire control system improves the accuracy rate, especially on slopes, by using the posture of a tank gun measured by a vertical sensor unit to calculate the lead angle and ultrahigh angle.

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K2 Tank's autoloader system


3) Autoloader system


ADD(Agency for Defense Development) developed an autoloader based on data obtained by referring to the autoloader system of Leclerc tanks in France.

Kim Seok-jae, a researcher at ADD, who developed the autoloader system for K2 tanks, said, "The most reliable data was the video data of foreign tanks, and i had to work all night every day to make parts that work properly."

This autoloader system can reload ammunition within 6 seconds, and can fire up to 10 shots per minute.

Of the 40 ammunition loaded in the tank's ammunition compartment, 16 ammunition can be loaded into the autoloader. It is possible to replenish ammunition from the outside of the tank, and barcodes are present in the ammunition of the tank, and the barcode identifier of the autoloader system distinguishes the type of ammunition(APFSDS or HEAT-MP).

As soon as the gunner presses the ammunition selection button, the tank's control computer can quickly load the tank shells into the main gun by selecting the closest ammunition from the autoloader.

In the event of a malfunction in the autoloader system, it is designed to reduce the loading speed or allow the crew aboard the tank to manually load the ammunition.



This post is based on interviews with developers of K2 tanks and information from Korean military technology research papers. If you have any questions about my post, feel free to ask me. You're always welcome.

Interview video of ADD's K2 tank developer

Interview on the development process of Internal chrome plating technology for large-caliber gun
Interview on the development process of 120 mm 55 caliber smoothbore gun
Interview on the development process of Autoloader system

Military Technology Research Paper

Study On Effect of Fe Density on Electrolyte Exfoliation of Chromium Plating Layer
A Study on Measurement of Gun's Attitude of K2 MBT Using Inertial Navigation System and Its Effects on the Hit Probability
 
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Baljak

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A K2NO developed by Hyundai Rotem of Korea to export to Norway has arrived in Norway to undergo a cold weather test. The K2NO is an improved tank based on the K2 Black Panther tank that meets the requirements of the Norwegian military. "NO" means Norway. According to the ship tracking site Marine Traffic, K2NO arrived at the port of the eastern Norwegian industrial city of Drammen on the 29th of last month on the vehicle carrier ship Platinum Ray.

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Norwegian K2NO

In November 2020, Norwegian Minister of Defense Frank Bakke-Jensen has presented Norwegian defense plans for the renewal of the country’s MBTs. According to these plans, Norway intends to field the new tanks from 2025.

So far, it has already selected two possible contenders, after having evaluated up to nine options, the last of which were to acquire new platforms or upgrade the current fleet of Leopard 2A4 tanks currently operated by the Norwegian army. Norway purchased 52 Leopard 2 A4 MBTs from the Netherlands in 2001 and adapted them to Norwegian requirements, with 36 currently active.


K2NO has arrived in Drammen, Norway's eastern city

Norway has rejected the option to upgrade its fleet of Leopard 2A4 Finally and has opted for the acquisition of a new main battle tank. Two candidates are shortlisted: the South Korean K-2 Black Panther tank and the German Leopard 2A7V . Norway plans to acquire 200 MBTs and the winner could be selected in 2025. The performance test of K2NO will be conducted for about a month in a city in eastern Norway. (There's something I need to correct. The test is only conducted in Norway, not Germany)

According to technical features published by the South Korean company Hyundai Rotem, the K2NO will be based on the original South Korean K2 MBT but modified according to specific requirements of the Norwegian armed forces. The K2NO has a crew of three including a commander, gunner, and driver. The tank has a combat weight of 61.5 tons with a length of 10.8 m, a width of 3.6 m, and a height of 2.4 m.

The K2NO seems to keep the design of the K2 MBT but combat weight was 61.5 tons, up 6.5 tons from K2 and fitted with a new turret fitted with additional active protection armor as well as the Israeli APS (Active Protection System) with radar antennas mounted on each side at the front of the turret. The trophy is a military active protection system (APS) designed by the Israeli company Rafael to protect combat vehicles from ATGMs (Anti-Tank Guided Missile), RPGs (Rocket Propelled Grenades, anti-tank rockets, and tank HEAT (High-explosive Anti-Tank) rounds.

The K2NO is armed with a CN08 120 mm 55 caliber smoothbore gun indigenously developed by Agency for Defense Development and Hyundai Wia. The 120mm gun can fire about 10 rounds per minute. A total of 16 rounds are stored in the autoloader and 24 rounds are stored inside the hull. The top of the turret is fitted with a remotely operated weapon station from the Norwegian company Kongsberg which is armed with a 12.7mm heavy machine gun.

The K2 is motorized with an MTU MT-883 Ka-501 4-cycle, 12-cylinder water-cooled diesel engine developing 1,500 hp. coupled to an automatic transmission. The tank can reach a maximum road speed of 65 km/h and 50 km/h in off-road conditions with a maximum cruising range of 450 km. The suspension on each side consists of six dual rubber-tired road wheels, track-return rollers with the drive sprocket at the rear, and idler at the front.



 
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