The K1 main battle tank (MBT) of South Korea has been in service since 1987 and is still in current use as an upgraded tank named the K1A1 with notable design improvements and upgrades. It originally replaced (Type 88 K1 MBT) the Sherman, an outdated tank which fought during the ERA of World War II. Urgently needing a replacement for the South Korean armed forces; the K1 MBT was created. Having been developed by Hyundai Precision who later changed their name to Hyundai Rotem after several mergers with other similar companies. The design of the tank was based upon the American M1 series tanks produced by General Dynamics Corp, as previously the South Korean’s did not have the knowledge to produce a uniquely designed indigenous tank; thus had to learn and outsource the design.
The tanks (K1A1) internal systems were developed by Samsung Electronics. Such as the fire control system (FCS), ballistic controllers and electronics within the tank. Today the tank has assumed development with Hyundai Rotem and several interests of exports have been made by Malaysia, creating the K1-M, which thus far has not been exported yet.
K1 MBT: 47 rounds, fired from a KM68A1 105 mm smooth bore gun.
K1A1 MBT: 32 rounds, fired from a KM256 120 mm smooth bore gun.
12.7 mm (50 cal) K6 Heavy machine gun (HMG on the right hand side mounted for the commander)
7.62 mm M60D Light machine gun) (LMG on the left hand side mounted for the loader)
As with most modern tanks, the tanks features a coaxial 7.62 mm M60-E2, next to the main cannon.
Composite Chobham Armour, similar Armour that is used on the Challenger 2 and M1A2.
The tank and its other variants have never been used in real world military combat however it is similarly compared to the M1 series of tanks due to similar design of the tanks system and design. Though has improved systems such as suspension, river ford capabilities as it is wholly water proof and can be submerged into rivers; which there are systems developed to support this. The tank also has a crew of four, the commander, loader, driver and of course the gunner. The Type 88 K1 MBT has a 23.4 hp/ton power to weight ratio while the later K1A1 has a 22.0 hp/ton power to weight ratio. The K1A1 also features a 10-cyl. water-cooled diesel MTU 871 Ka-501 1200 hp (890 kW) at 2600 rpm engine. With this engine, the K1A1 can achieve speeds of up to 65 km/h on road and up to 40 km/h across country; making this one of the fastest tanks in the world.
The vehicles air conditioning unit does not protect against nuclear, biological, or chemical warfare as it does not account have an overpressure system installed. Which means the crew of the 4 manned vehicle have to get into protective clothing in the event of chemical, biological or even nuclear warfare. North Korea, the South’s closest foe has said to have had by the South Korean parliament in 2009 over 5,000 tonnes of chemical weapons. In August 2010 in Paju, a K1’s 105 mm fired in a live exercise however the round blew up and exploded in the barrel, destroying the gun. – None of the crew were injured however. You can critisize the tank for not having a modern day auto-loader, however several battle proven tanks such as the M1A2 and Challenger 2 have proved succesful without an auto-loader. There is on-going debate to whether an auto-loader is better or not, as many factors take into place when on the actual battlefield. However in tank to tank combat the tank would outperform the ageing Soviet-era tanks which the the North Koreans possess.