South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) last week awarded a contract worth nearly KRW533 billion (USD481.4 million) to South Korea’s Hyundai Rotem to commence production of the third batch of K2 Black Panther main battle tanks (MBT) for the Republic of Korea Army (RoKA). Hyundai Rotem started serial production of the first batch of K2 tanks in 2010 and completed delivery of 100 tanks in 2015. A second batch of 106 tanks that was ordered in 2014 is expected to be completed in 2021. The Hyundai Rotem said delivery of the main battle tanks is set to be completed by 2023 but don’t provide any details about the number of tanks set to be built.
The new 2 Black Panther main battle tanks 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 DAPA made the decision November 25, 2019 during a committee meeting led by Defense Minister Suh Wook, ahead of mass production of 50 more K2 tanks. Under the latest contract, all of the tanks are to be delivered to the Republic of Korea Army by 2023. 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 K2 Black Panther is a next generation South Korean main battle tank designed by the South Korean Agency for Defense Development and manufactured by Hyundai Rotem. Developed as a modern main battle tank that will replace most of the remaining M48 Patton tanks and complement the K1 series of main battle tanks currently fielded by the South Korean military, the K2 Black Panther combines an auto-loaded 55 calibre 120 mm main gun, advanced composite armour along with hard and soft-kill active protection systems. Mass production commenced in 2013 and the first K2s were deployed with the armed forces in June 2014.
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 ammunition for the main gun is loaded in a 16-shell magazine. Secondary weapons include a 12.7 mm K6 Machine Gun heavy machine gun and a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun. 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.