South Korea approves 4th batch of 150 K2 Black Panther tanks

According to a tweet by Mason published on August 27, 2023, the South Korean government has approved the procurement of a fourth batch comprising 150 units of the K2 Black Panther MBTs (Main Battle Tanks). This upcoming batch is expected to introduce significant improvements, potentially encompassing a domestically developed Korean Active Protection System (APS), an advanced transmission system, and a remote weapon station (RWS). It's worth noting that despite the Korean APS's commendable performance, its integration into military operations had been delayed due to concerns such as collateral damage and cost considerations.
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South Korea approves a fourth batch of 150 K2 Black Panther tanks (Picture sources: Hyundai Rotem and Wikimedia)

The K2 Main Battle Tank (MBT), often referred to as the Black Panther, has undergone three mass production phases: the first produced 100 units, the second 106 units, and the third 54 units. If the planned fourth mass production is realized, involving 150 units, the total count of K2 tanks would reach 410. The South Korean army has stated a requirement of 600 K2 Black Panther MBTs.

The development of the K2 began in 1995, and the initial prototype was revealed in 2007. Produced by Hyundai Rotem, the K2 was first presented to the public at the Defense Exhibition ADEX held at Seoul Airport in October 2009. It was officially introduced into service with the South Korean Army in 2016.

The K2 tank was conceptualized in 2008 as a successor to the outdated M48 tank, with the aim of bolstering the operational capabilities of ground forces. Presently, the third phase of mass production is underway. The K2's 120mm smoothbore cannon possesses formidable firepower capable of neutralizing most of the tanks currently possessed by North Korea. Furthermore, by implementing an automatic loading system, the crew requirement has been reduced to three members, allowing the tank to fire again within six seconds between maneuvers.

At the heart of the K2's armament is the Rheinmetall 120-mm/L55 smoothbore gun, produced under a South Korean license. Its notable feature is the automatic loader, facilitating projectile loading while on the move and over uneven terrain. This ensures a consistent firing rate of up to 10 rounds per minute, enabling the tank to sustain its fire for about three minutes with its 40-round ammunition capacity. The main gun supports various munitions types, including upgraded indigenous tungsten APFSDS kinetic energy penetrators and multi-purpose HEAT chemical energy rounds. This assortment of ammunition equips the tank to adapt its tactics to different combat scenarios.

In addition to its main armament, the K2 is equipped with a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun and a 12.7 mm K-6 heavy machine gun. These supplementary weapons expand the tank's capabilities in engaging infantry and lightly armored targets, enhancing its tactical versatility.

The tank's defense capabilities include composite armor and an Active Defense System employing Explosive Reactive Armor blocks. This layered approach enhances the tank's resilience against a range of threats. The K2 also utilizes a millimeter-band radar system, functioning as a Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS). This system detects incoming projectiles and permits the deployment of Visual and Infrared Screening Smoke (VIRSS) grenades to disrupt tracking mechanisms.

The tank's engine generates 1,500 horsepower, yielding a maximum road speed of 70 km/h and an off-road speed of 48 km/h. The K2 Black Panther incorporates the In-arm Suspension Unit (ISU) suspension system, which offers independent control over each bogie on the tracks. This capability enables the tank to lower its profile for enhanced firing positions and navigate challenging terrains, with the capacity to ascend slopes of up to 60 degrees and surmount vertical obstacles measuring up to 1.3 meters.

The K2's armament integrates advanced systems to enhance its combat effectiveness. An advanced fire-control system (FCS), in conjunction with a millimeter-band radar, laser range-finder, and crosswind sensor, ensures precise targeting. The tank's crew benefits from day/night and thermal vision capabilities, bolstering situational awareness. A collective nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) protection system safeguards the crew in hazardous environments. Additionally, an automatic fire suppression system and atmospheric sensors address internal fire risks and potential threats.