The South Korean tank called the X-K2 was a development of which came about the K2 “Black Panther” main battle tank. It is an armoured vehicle which is currently being mass produced for the South Korean army.The project of the “XK2″ started in 1995, it is reported that the vehicle was created so it could compete in the export market as it was near wholly domestically built. The tank is considered comparable to modern tanks such as the Challenger 2, M1A2 and Leclerc as it features all the latest technology as such like its counterparts in the West. The K1A1 is considered by most to be more than adequate to counter South Korea’s main threat, who are North Korea, who they themselves operate Soviet-era tanks with upgrades.
Though it is thought it was a design fault that the K2 main battle tank was needed. Since the South Korean parliament in 2009 stated that North Korea had over 5,000 tonnes of chemical weapons. The K1A1 does not by standard have an overpressure system to protect itself from nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) weaponry and the only protection offered is for the crew to where Biohazard suits. Where the K2 Black Panther incorporates a protection overpressure system, they have learned from older tanks such as the K1 and K1A1 and have added essential improvements as a procurement from previous South Korean forces tanks.
The tank is not fully indigenous as the design of the tanks turret-gun was outsourced to German company Rheinmetall who also designed the same gun manufactured by South Korea in the K1A1, the L/44 Rheinmetall Smooth bore 120-mm. However the K2 Black Panther features the later model L/55 Rheinmetall Smooth bore 120-mm. Originally the K2 Black Panther design specification was aimed at having an 140-mm gun however was later redacted as Rheinmetall stated that there was nothing that the L/55 couldn’t beat though the option for the 140-mm gun is there if Rheinmetall are tasked by South Korea to continue development. The tank also features an auto-loader similar in design to that of the one placed in French Leclerc main battle tanks; confirmed by the defense contractor Giat Industries.
Primary: L/55 Rheinmetal Smooth bore 120-mm gun. A 55 caliber smooth bore gun which the tank can hold 40 rounds of varying ammunition from SABOT to HEAT rounds. More notably it fires a Korean made round called the KSTAM or Korean Smart Top-Attack Munition. Essentially it can fire this munition at tanks which are using terrain as cover or which are entrenched, it is guided by four stabilizing fins to then when it finally reaches nearly over its target a parachute drops and descends at a slower rate on top of its target. – The round is powered purely from the kinetic energy of the of the round exiting the tanks gun. To support this munition the vehicle has a millimeter band radar system installed.
Secondary: 1 x 7.62-mm coaxial machine gun of which it holds 12,000 rounds.
Secondary: 1 x 12.7-mm heavy machine, derived from the M2 Browning heavy machine gun (HMG), but indigenously produced called the K6 heavy machine gun; under license.
The XK2, the projects name for the tank, was first given the go ahead of design which took place in 1995 at a cost of $230 million ($USD) during its design & development period that lasted until 2006. (11 years) Production of the tank began in March 2nd 2007 of which 3 production models came out of the assembly line.
In 2008 South Korea signed a deal with Turkey whom a trusted partner on the sale of arms signed a deal worth $400 million ($USD) over the transfer of technology procured from the “XK2″ project for the Turkish future main battle tank; M?TÜP Altay. However in 2001 South Korea and Turkey had a much larger deal worth $1 billion ($USD) on the export of the K-9 self-propelled artillery making the XK2 transfer of technology the second largest defense deal by South Korea.
Originally, the South Korean forces were to see 680 of these main battle tanks on the field however due to the world economic downturn this amount was scaled down to 400. Production of the vehicle is to start in 2011 of which Hyundai Rotem will develop 100 tanks during this period however the development was scaled at a later stage as in 2010 a problem was identified with a deficit in the power transmission from the engine.
Unlike the 4-manned crew K1A1 with manual loader, there is decrease in the amount of crew in the K2 Black Panther since it has an auto-loader. This means there is a crew of 3 in each tank being the commander, gunner and driver.
The K2 is powered by a MTU MB-883 Ka500 diesel engine, which provides 1,500 horse power (HP), an additional 400 horse power is gained through a gas turbine power unit. The vehicle in its generic state has a power to weight ratio of 27.3 hp/tonne. The K2 also has an operational range of 280 miles in comparison to the M1A2′s 279 miles. The “K2 Black Panther” is also able to reach speeds of 44 mph on road and 30.07 mph; off road.
The tank weighs 55-tonnes. Furthermore there is a unique state of the art hydro-pneumatic suspension system installed, meaning the tank can change angle and depression if it needs to. For example if in a hull down position it can lean, sit, kneel and stand to get better angles which no other tank has in the world. The tank is also complements a digital battlefield management system for increased coordination between friendly vehicles in the area.
The Black Panther also has kits which allow the vehicle to wade through deep rivers of up to 4.2 meters. The system works on a snorkel attached to the turret opening, which allows the armoured vehicle to fully submerge.
The vehicle has a “In-arm Suspension Unit” (INS) which according to Doosen:
“The In-arm Suspension Unit minimizes the shock and vibration from the ground, using the attenuation characteristics of damper and the nonlinear spring characteristics of N2 gas. This system improves field travelling performance, ride comfort, and maneuverability of armoured cars.” — Source