Armor: South Korea Builds A Better IFV


December 12, 2009:  The South Korean Army has received its first (of about a thousand) production model K-21 Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV). The 26 ton vehicle is similar to the 33 ton U.S. M-2. The K-21 has a crew of three and carries nine infantry in the back. The two man turret carries a 40mm autocannon, with 200 rounds, as well as two ATGM (Anti-Tank Guided Missile) launchers and a coaxial (with the 40mm) 7.62mm machine-gun. Top speed is 70 kilometers an hour.

The big difference between the K-21 and M-2 is weight, and that is mainly because the chassis of the K-21 is made of fiberglass. This material is as strong as metal, but much lighter. Armor protection of the two vehicles is equal. The K-21 armor can stop 14.5mm bullets and most artillery fragments (it is vulnerable to 152mm shells exploding closer than 10 meters, but at that distance, the blast effect would do serious damage).

The 40mm autocannon fires up to 300 rounds per minute, at speeds of 1,000 meters per second (3,100 fps). The anti-tank round can penetrate up to 220mm of armor. The 40mm can also fire a multipurpose shell, where the gunner can select proximity (exploding close to a target), air burst (exploding above the ground), as well as armor-piercing or fragmentation effect.

Like the M-2, the K-21 carries an extensive load of electronics, for fire control, navigation and diagnostics. The K-21 designers learned from other recent IFV designs and attempted to improve on their best characteristics. The K-21 costs less than $3 million each. This is a competitive price, and South Korea hopes to obtain export customers.





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