Armor: Recession Cuts Production Plans


November 23,2008: The current global recession has hit the South Korean defense budget. One of the biggest hits is a one third cut in the budget for producing the new K-2 tank. These cost $5.7 million each. Two years ago, South Korea completed building the K-2 tank prototype and production was to begin about now. The K-2 will replace older American M-48 tanks. The army still hopes to get at least 400 of the new K-2s. A major problem with this is not economic recession, but the continued decline of the North Korean armed forces. Since the 1990s, North Korea has lacked the money to upgrade its forces, or even to enable the troops to train as much as they should. During the same period, South Korea has made great strides in upgrading its equipment and training.

Two decades ago, South Korea developed, and built, its own K1 tank. The 51 ton K1 is based on the American M1 design, but is somewhat smaller and equipped with the same 105mm gun used by the U.S. M60 tank. The K1 has a 1,200 horsepower diesel, instead of a 1,500 horsepower gas turbine engine in the M1. Production of the K1 ended in 1997, with about a thousand built. There have been some upgrades to the fire control and communications systems, as well as the development of the K1A1, which has the same 120mm gun as the M1, along with other equipment used by the M1, but not the K1. The K1A1 is apparently part of the K2 development project, as only two K1A1 prototypes were built, and successfully tested. There were plans to build 300 K1A1s by 2010, but this appears to have changed. The new K2 is to have an improved 120mm gun, capable of firing an anti-tank missile, as well as the usual gun munitions. The K2 will weigh 55 tons and will outclass anything North Korea, Japan or China have.

The K2 will have a number of new electronic defenses. It will have a laser detector that will instantly tell the crew the direction the enemy laser beam is coming from. A tank uses its laser range finder before it fires its main gun. The K2 fire control system will also enable the main gun (120mm) to be used to hit low flying aircraft. There are also numerous improvements to the K1 mechanical and electronic systems, as well as more armor (both composite and ERA). This will make the K2 easier to use and maintain. An autoloader will reduce the crew to three men.




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