Military Review

South Korean main battle tanks K1, K1A1 and K2

Until now, rare armored vehicles can be found in the armored parts of South Korea: Tanks M48A3 and M48A5 Patton are American-made. For their time, they were good cars, but their production ended half a century ago and now these tanks cannot be called modern, even with a very big stretch. One can imagine what the combat prospects of these tanks are, even in a collision with obsolete North Korean armored vehicles. The command of the South Korean armed forces understood this at the beginning of the eighties and took appropriate measures. As a result, at the moment, the number of old "Patton" has dropped to 800-850 units, which is less than a third of the total number of tanks in the South Korean army.


The possibilities of its own industry allowed South Korea to build tanks, but there was no corresponding design school in the country. Therefore, to develop a promising armored vehicles had to turn to foreign engineers. In 1979, the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Korea signed a contract with the American company Chrysler, at that time engaged in preparing for the mass production of the main tank M1 Abrams. Probably, the South Korean military hoped that the American designers would use in the new project the developments obtained during the creation of the MBT for the American army, thanks to which the promising tank would not be inferior to the world's leading models.

The development of the new tank, which received the Korean designation “Type 88” and the American XK1 ROKIT (Republic of Korea Indigenious Tank - “Tank adapted to the conditions of South Korea”), took a few months. Already in 1981, the customer was shown the layout of the future car. However, next year, for a number of economic and production reasons, Chrysler transferred all the design documentation to General Dynamics. She completed all the necessary work and helped the Koreans to organize the production of a new tank.

The calculation of the South Korean military to use the developments on the project M1 was justified. The “88 type” was a lot like an American tank. The similarity primarily affected the appearance and some features of the design. The new tank XK1 ROKIT had a classic layout with a control compartment in front of the armored hull, fighting in the middle and engine-transmission in the aft. A characteristic feature of the tank was a relatively small height. At the request of the customer, this parameter has become one of the main. As a result, the finished tank "Type 88" was almost 20 centimeters lower than the American Abrams and 23 cm below the German Leopard 2. One of the factors that had a beneficial effect on the success of the “lowering” of a new tank is considered to be the relatively small average growth of Koreans. Even in a low tank, Korean fighters feel good and are able to perform all tasks. Nevertheless, the space saving forced the developers to apply the layout of the driver’s workplace, which was new for that time. As in the American M1, with the hatch closed, he had to sit reclining.

According to the American project, Chobham armor was chosen as frontal protection, installed at high angles. According to some estimates, the frontal parts of the tank "Type 88" had protection against cumulative ammunition, equivalent to 600 mm homogeneous armor. The thickness of the Chobham frontal packages, as well as the hull side and stern sheets, was not announced. Probably, the boards and feed were protected only from small weapons and small-caliber artillery. For additional protection, anti-cumulative screens have been suspended on the fences.

In the stern of the armored hull housed the engine and transmission. As the basis of the power plant, Chrysler’s engineers chose German diesel liquid-cooled MTU MB-871 Ka-501 horsepower 1200. In a single unit with the engine performed hydromechanical transmission model ZF LSG 3000 with four forward gears and two rear. With a tank's battle mass in 51,1 tons, such a power plant gave the tank an acceptable power density: about 23,5 HP. per ton of weight. Because of this, the "Type 88" had a good driving performance. On the highway, it could accelerate to 65 kilometers per hour and to 40 km / h over rough terrain. Own fuel tanks were enough for a march up to 500 kilometers.

South Korean main battle tanks K1, K1A1 and K2

As with the design of the armored hull, when creating a chassis "Type 88" used existing practices. Therefore, the new Korean tank received six road wheels and three supporting rollers on board. Interesting suspension tank. The first, second and sixth rollers from each side had a hydropneumatic suspension, the others - a torsion bar. It is noteworthy that the driver could control the pressure in the suspension cylinders and thereby regulate the longitudinal inclination of the housing. With this know-how, the declination angle of the gun has increased to 10 °. A similar opportunity provided for the expansion of the combat capabilities of the armored vehicle in the mountains.

The turret of the “Type 88” / XK1 tank was also made based on previous experience, but in the end got a shape different from the lines of the Abrams tower. The design of the armored tower resembles the design of the hull: frontal protection from Chobham and armored panels of the sides, stern and roof. Inside the crew compartment are jobs of three crew members. Modeled on American tanks on the "Type 88" gunner and commander are to the right of the gun, loader - to the left. The tower houses all fire control devices and ammunition from 47 shells.

The main weapon of serial tanks "Type 88" - 105-mm rifled gun KM68A1, closed protective casing. This gun is an American version of the English gun L7, produced in South Korea. The gun is stabilized in two planes with the help of an electro-hydraulic system. The KM68A1 ammunition includes armor-piercing sub-caliber, cumulative, armor-piercing-high-explosive and smoke unitary projectiles of Korean production. On some units with a gun was mounted twin machine gun M60 caliber 7,62 millimeter. In the box of this machine gun was placed up to 7200 cartridges. The second M60 with ammunition in 1400 cartridges provided above the loader hatch. Finally, in front of a small commander's turret, they installed mounts for the 12,7-mm machine gun K6 (Korean licensed version M2HB) with a box of 2000 cartridges. On the front sides of the tower, near the sides, there were two smoke grenade launchers with six barrels each.

Hughes Aircraft was the lead enterprise for the development of the sighting system for the ROKIT tank. She coordinated the actions of several third-party organizations, was engaged in interfacing ready-made systems, and also developed several instruments. The basis of the complex was a ballistic computer developed by the Computing Device. On tanks "Type 88" of the first series at the workplace of the gunner installed a combination of dual-channel (day and night) periscopic sights with built-in laser range finders, created by the company "Hughes". Later, in accordance with the updated requirements of the South Korean Ministry of Defense, they were replaced with Texas Instrument GPTTS instruments with a thermal imaging channel. The GPTTS was a retrofit of the AN / VSG-2 sight, made specifically for use on Type 88 tanks with 105-mm KM68A1 guns. After updating the sighting equipment, the capabilities of the gunner significantly increased. The thermal channel of the new sight provided detection and attack of targets at a distance of up to two kilometers, and the built-in laser rangefinder allowed working with objects at a distance of up to eight. As a spare sight, the gunner had a telescopic optical device with eight-fold magnification. On the tanks of all series, the commander’s workplace was equipped with a French-made SFIM VS580-13 sight.

To ensure accurate firing, the 88 Type tank received a set of sensors that collected data on environmental conditions: wind speed and direction, temperature outside and inside the crew compartment, machine movement parameters and trunk bend. The obtained data were transferred to the tank's ballistic computer and were taken into account when calculating corrections. The speed of the sighting system made it possible to conduct full preparation for the shot in 15-17 seconds. Thus, under favorable conditions, the practical rate of fire was limited only by the physical capabilities of the loader. For communication between themselves and other tanks, the crew of the "Type 88" received an AN / VIC-1 intercom and AN / VRC-12 radio station, also developed in the USA.

In 1983, the new developer of the Type 88 tank, General Dynamics, built two prototypes that were soon tested at the Aberdeen Proving Ground. During trips to the tank course and test shooting, some design flaws were identified. However, their elimination did not take much time - the components already used in production were widely used on the 88 Type / ROKIT tank, so the finishing was relatively simple. After testing at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, prototypes of the new tank went to South Korea, where they were checked under local conditions. At the same time, American specialists arrived at the Hyundai concern plant, where they were supposed to help South Korean machine builders master the production of a new tank. At the end of autumn 1985, the first Korean-made 88 type tank came out of the workshop.

Over the next year and a half, South Korean industrialists continued to master the technology and build new tanks. In addition, in accordance with the supplementary agreements, US companies provided South Korea with documentation on most electronic devices. Thus, almost all the units of new combat vehicles could be produced by South Korean industrialists. Shortly after the pre-production lot was completed, the new tank was put into service under the designation “Type 88”. In addition, the first appearance of another name formed from the project index K1 also dates back to this time. Currently, both of these names are used, and the code name of the project ROKIT is in the past.

Production of the main tank "Type 88" / K1 continued until 1998 year. During this time, data on the number of armored vehicles were not disclosed, but later they still became public. In total, slightly more than 1000 tanks were assembled. Simultaneously with the serial production and transfer of the K1 tanks to the troops, the existing M48 machines were gradually decommissioned. As a result, the new "Type 88" became the most massive model of the tank in the armed forces of South Korea. On the basis of the tank, the K1 AVLB bridges and the K1 ARV armored recovery vehicle were developed.

In 1997, Malaysia showed a desire to acquire not less than two hundred K1 tanks with the condition of their completion in accordance with the requirements set. The modernization project was named K1M. As a result, based on economic considerations, in 2003, the Malaysian military purchased the less expensive Polish tanks PT-91M. The K1M project was closed and no longer resumed.


The K1 tank completely satisfied the customer, but soon there was a need for a new armored vehicle with heavy weapons. Despite the fact that the DPRK did not have modern tanks, the combat capabilities of which were superior to K1, the South Korean Defense Ministry decided to increase the potential of its tank. The development of its modification with the designation K1A1 began in the year 1996. The project again attracted American companies. First of all, the tower had to undergo modernization. It was the alteration of the combat module and its elements that influenced the change in the overall appearance of the vehicle and its fighting qualities.

During the upgrade, the updated K1 received a turret, strongly resembling the corresponding unit of the American tank M1A1 Abrams. The old 105-mm rifled gun was replaced with a smooth-bore gun of 120 caliber of millimeters. The new KM256 cannon is similar to those used on Western tanks Leopard 2 and M1A1 Abrams, but differs in the place of production. As before, the South Korean military and industrialists agreed to license the production of tools at their factories. A larger caliber and a larger size of unitary shots led to a reduction in ammunition. In a piling placed in the rear of the turret, only an 32 shot can fit. Auxiliary weapons remained the same.

The aim complex underwent considerable corrections. For obvious reasons, most of the information regarding its updating has not been published, but we know about the creation of sights, called KCPS (Korean Commander's Panoramic Sight - Korean Panoramic Sight Commander) and KGPS (Korean Gunner's Primary Sight - Korean Korean Gunner's Sight) . According to reports, the characteristics of these sights significantly higher in comparison with previous models. The sighting system also received an updated ballistic computer, designed to work with a larger caliber gun, and a set of sensors. The laser rangefinder remained the same and can determine the distance to the target at a distance of up to eight kilometers.

Some improvements have undergone booking an updated tank. Specially for K1A1, the South Korean designers together with the Americans created the KSAP (Korean Special Armor Plate - “Special Korean Armored Plate”) armor. It is used in the frontal parts of the armored hull and turret and, apparently, is a modified English armor Chobham. As a result of all the improvements, the combat weight of the tank increased to 53 tons. Since the engine, transmission and suspension remained the same, the specific power and, as a result, the ride quality deteriorated slightly, but on the whole remained at the same level.

Serial production of new K1A1 tanks began in 1999 and continued until the end of the next decade. According to open data, in just over ten years, all 484 combat vehicles were produced. They did not replace the original K1 tanks, but supplemented them. By the end of the mass production of the K1A1, the share of American M48 has decreased and now there are no more 800-850 of such vehicles in the armored units of the South Korean army. This is almost two times less than the total number of K1 and K1A1. Thus, in recent years, South Korea has been able to significantly update the fleet of armored vehicles and at times increase its combat potential.

K2 Black Panther

The characteristics of the South Korean tank K1A1 allow us to speak with great confidence about the results of its collision with the DPRK armored vehicles. However, South Korea continued to develop its MBT. This was probably affected by China’s rapid economic and industrial growth. This country has a long time armored vehicles, in their characteristics are not inferior, at least, tanks K1. It is worth noting that the results of the war between China and South Korea look predictable. However, simultaneously with the K1 tank modernization project, the development of a new combat vehicle began in the mid-nineties, which received the K2 index and the codename Black Panther (Black Panther).

As before, foreign companies were involved in the creation of a new main tank. However, this time South Korea’s plans included reducing the degree of dependence on foreign partners. During the project, everything was done so that our own defense industry could master the production of a tank without outside help. Such a seemingly correct and useful approach ultimately affected the appearance of the tank. The fact is that in the early stages two variants of the combat vehicle were considered. In the first, the tank had to have a traditional layout with a turret and be a solidly reworked K1A1 with the appropriate weapons and equipment. The second concept was more daring: a tank with an uninhabited tower and an 140-mm gun. It was assumed that such a K2 will get a smoothbore NPzK-140 gun from the German company Rheinmetall. However, the draft of the new instrument turned out to be very difficult and eventually it was closed. At Rheinmetall, it was considered that the advantages of the 140-mm gun would not pay back the money and effort invested in the fine-tuning. So one of the variants of the Black Panther project was left without a main weapon and soon also ceased to exist.

It is worth noting that the course for independent development and production of a new tank had several unpleasant consequences. Because of them, the development of the K2 tank took more than ten years. Nevertheless, in the end it turned out not to make a deep modernization of the previous K1A1, but in fact a new tank. Almost everything has changed. For example, the armored hull became longer by a meter, and the combat mass increased to 55 tons. Probably, the increase in size was primarily due to the use of new armor. According to reports, the Black Panther used a combined booking, which is a further development of the KSAP system. There is information about the possibility of using additional protection modules, including dynamic. It is alleged that the frontal armor of the tank is able to withstand a hit of a sabot projectile fired by the cannon used on it.

The K2 tanks use a German-made MTU MB-883 Ka-500 diesel engine with XHUMX horsepower and a five-speed automatic transmission. Thus, the specific power of the tank exceeds 1500 hp per ton of weight, which may even be excessive for a modern MBT. In addition to the main diesel engine, the Panther has an additional gas turbine engine with an 27 horsepower. It is coupled to the generator and provides the tank with electricity when the main engine is off. The chassis of the K400 tank continued the ideology embodied in the K2 project. The first, second and sixth of the six road wheels on each side have a hydropneumatic suspension, the rest are torsion. In addition, the tank uses the original semi-automatic hydropneumatic ISU suspension system. It adapts to the conditions of the terrain and minimizes vibrations during movement. Thanks to its suspension, the K1 tank can arbitrarily increase or decrease the clearance, as well as change the longitudinal and transverse slope of the hull. This increases the permeability and angles of the vertical guidance of the gun.

According to official data, the Black Panther is capable of accelerating on the highway to 70 kilometers per hour and traveling at a single fuel station to 450 km. High power density allows the car to accelerate from zero to 32 km / h in just seven seconds and travel over rough terrain at speeds up to 50 km / h. South Korean designers literally boast of these indicators, because they managed to create a tank, whose running characteristics are at the level of the world's leading models.

As a weapon for the K2 tank, the German gun Rheinmetall L55 of millimeter 120 caliber was chosen, which is a further development of the family of smooth-bore guns. From its predecessors, this gun differs barrel length 55 calibers. Currently, the tool is licensed in South Korea. Stabilizer guns - two-plane, electro-hydraulic. Inside the turret there is an ammunition of 40 shots, of which 16 are in the cells of the automatic loader. It is argued that, if necessary, the machine provides a practical rate of fire to 15 shots per minute, regardless of the angle of elevation and the position of the gun. Due to the presence of the automatic loader, the loader was excluded from the crew. Thus, the crew of the Panther consists of a commander, a gunner and a driver.

An interesting range of ammunition for the gun L55. In addition to the standard shots used in NATO countries, the use of Korean developments is possible. South Korea has independently created several new types of sub-caliber and cumulative shells. The reason for pride of the South Korean defense industry are the KSTAM projectiles (Korean Smart Top-Attack Munition - “Korean controlled ammunition for attacking from above”). This munition is equipped with active radar and infrared homing heads and is designed for firing with large elevation angles. To improve the accuracy of the hit, the KSTAM projectile is equipped with a braking parachute designed to reduce speed at the final point of impact. Manual control is possible if necessary.

Additional armament of the tank Black Panther consists of two machine guns. The 7,62 mm M60 is paired with a cannon and has 12000 ammunition ammunition. Anti-aircraft K6 caliber 12,7 mm is placed on the roof of the tower, its ammunition - 3200 cartridges. The K2 tank has the ability to install smoke screens with grenade launchers.

According to reports, on the prototypes of the K2 tank was installed the same sighting system, as well as on the later-produced K1A1 tanks. These are the KCPS and KGPS sights, as well as a ballistic computer, a laser range finder and a set of sensors. There is information about the creation of a special millimeter-wave radar station, designed to track the front hemisphere of the tower and collect information about targets. In this case, the detection range of objects is close to 9-10 kilometers. Electronic equipment of the new tank also includes the crew intercom, satellite GPS navigation system receiver, voice communication and data transmission equipment, as well as “friend-foe” identification equipment. It is noteworthy that the latter is made in accordance with the NATO standard STANAG 4578.

The first prototype of the K2 tank was built only in 2007 year. Over the next few months, at least four pre-production Panthers were produced. Two variants of these tanks can be distinguished: one of them is represented by three machines, the other by only one. From each other, these versions of the tank differ in the frontal details of the hull and turret. For example, a tank with a mask of a typical box-shaped form, a relatively large angle of inclination of the frontal front part of the hull and smoke-rocket grenade launchers arranged in one row was assembled in only one copy. Three other prototypes (perhaps more of them) have a wedge-shaped mask and body forehead, similar to the corresponding parts of the K1A1 tank and smoke grenade launchers with two rows of barrels.

Probably, the development of the new tank took more time than originally planned and the same can be said about the tests and refinement. At the end of the 2000th, it was claimed that the mass production of the new K2 Black Panther MBT would begin in 2012. Then it was planned to purchase at least 600 combat vehicles. However, in March, 2011 of the South Korean Defense Ministry announced that, due to engine and transmission problems, the assembly of production tanks would begin no earlier than two years later. In addition, the first batches of tanks will be equipped with original German-made diesel engines, since the Korean engine builders cannot yet ensure the proper quality of their licensed copies.

The project K2 PIP (Product Improvement Program - “Product Improvement Program”) is already being developed. During its implementation, the new Korean MBT should receive more advanced electronics, new systems of additional protection, including active, as well as new means of communication and data transmission. There is information about the intention of Korean engineers to modify the suspension of the tank. Instead of the passive ISU system, it is planned to make its active counterpart, which will significantly increase the driving performance of the car.


Now no one has any doubt that the newest South Korean tanks are among the best, at least in East Asia. According to their characteristics, only the latest Chinese and Japanese developments can be compared with them. However, benefits have a downside. Already, before the start of mass production, the Black Panther tank became the “leader” in terms of price. One K2 will cost the customer at least 8,5-9 million US dollars. For comparison, K1 and K1A1 cost about two and four million, respectively. At a price, the K2 is second only to the French MBT AMX-56 Leclerc. One of the reasons that South Korean tank builders sought to produce as many components as possible at their enterprises was their desire to give their Panther export prospects. With such a high price of the finished tank, these prospects look dubious, and the strange situation with the start of production only exacerbates the situation.

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  1. Tan4ik
    Tan4ik April 8 2013 09: 11
    From one tank I saw that the tower was from Abrams and the chassis from our tanks laughing
  2. as3wresdf
    as3wresdf April 8 2013 09: 55
    The base of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of all citizens of the Russian Federation on this site and the main thing was done as if to search for lost relatives, but here is all the information about each of us: correspondence with friends, addresses, phones, place of work, and the worst thing is even mine nudity photo (though I do not know from where ...). In general, I was very scared - but there is such a function as "hide data" of course I used it and I advise everyone not to hesitate, you never know
  3. self-propelled
    self-propelled April 8 2013 10: 02
    Quote: Tan4ik
    chassis from our tanks

    now in service with the army of the Republic of Kazakhstan is 80pcs T-80. I think the Koreans did not miss the opportunity to study the design of our tank and use some solutions for their K2
    1. MRomanovich
      MRomanovich April 8 2013 10: 58
      I agree, unequivocally the Koreans thoroughly studied their T-80s and squeezed out the most useful for themselves. The mere presence of an automaton leads to certain thoughts. Even if they did not copy it, then they definitely used a lot of solutions when creating not only an automaton, but also many other things.
      1. BruderV
        BruderV April 8 2013 20: 34
        The mere presence of an automaton leads to certain thoughts. Even if they did not copy it, then they definitely used a lot of solutions when creating not only an automaton, but also many other things.

        There is never a kakbe machine at all with the carousel, they rather copied it from the Japanese or French, but not with the T-80.
  4. Canep
    Canep April 8 2013 10: 49
    Quote: self-propelled
    chassis from our tanks

    And what appeared on our tanks hydropneumatic suspension with the ability to adjust the angle of the hull? I don’t remember such a gadget on Russian tanks, and in the mountains such a chip would really be useful.
    1. bask
      bask April 8 2013 23: 19
      Quote: Canep
      I’m a nude of such a gadget on Russian tanks, but in the mountains I really came in handy

      Yes, we don’t have a mountain tank. But the hydropneumatic suspension is used on the GSh. GM.579.
      [media = https: //
      5-gaozN_s / s640 / IMG_4254.JPG]
      1. AlNikolaich
        AlNikolaich April 8 2013 23: 39
        Quote: bask
        hydropneumatic suspension is applied on GSh .GM.579.

        Greetings! Guys, have you forgotten about BMD? On all BMDs, starting with the first, there is a hydropneumatic suspension with adjustable clearance! Already thirty years worth it!
  5. Russian knight
    Russian knight April 8 2013 11: 27
    In this, Koreans are great. They will buy technology, for not owning it, and will develop it slowly.
  6. Kars
    Kars April 8 2013 13: 25
    In addition to the Panther’s main diesel engine, it has an additional 400 hp gas turbine engine.

    Something too much for
    1. Hon
      Hon April 8 2013 13: 39
      I also thought that there was an excess for such purposes.
    2. BruderV
      BruderV April 8 2013 20: 38
      Quote: Kars
      Something too much for

      There is a little one, actually 100 nags or 75 kilowatts.
  7. Canep
    Canep April 8 2013 15: 12
    I think they took all the best (what could) from their point of view from all the tanks of the leading countries. The tank resembles both Leopard 2 and Leclerc, and of course the Abrams. T-90 they will not succeed. Our tower is cast, and they probably cannot cast such parts. So they make a welded angular structure. By the way, observation devices are a gift for a sniper.
    1. Kars
      Kars April 8 2013 17: 53
      Quote: Canep
      Our tower is cast

      In fact, the cast tower on modern tanks is no longer welcome.
    2. BruderV
      BruderV April 8 2013 20: 41
      By the way, surveillance devices are a gift for a sniper

      Well, yes, remove them by a hair dryer, let the commander lean out of the hatch with binoculars or squint through the viewing slits like on a T-34.
    3. olosors
      olosors 3 June 2013 20: 59
      in the t-90 the tower is not cast only in the t-54 t-55 t-62 t-64 t-72 and t-80
  8. Genady1976
    Genady1976 April 8 2013 16: 42
    And still our tanks are cooler than the trash of NATO and their allies
    1. Ilyukha
      Ilyukha April 9 2013 11: 33
      Technically illiterate hatred.
      Our Tagil pride (I have been to UVZ) is a car with multilayer armor only in the "forehead" projection, an engine (Oh, pride!) Of the B-2 series, produced since the mid-30s with minimal changes, and antediluvian electrics and electronics.
      Compare with Korean cars.
      Koreans are making little progress in exporting, since South Korea does not set out to export arms. Such is their policy.
  9. MacTavish
    MacTavish April 8 2013 19: 03
    And now I would like to read an article about tanks in North Korea
    1. BruderV
      BruderV April 8 2013 20: 42
      Now I would like to read an article about tanks in North Korea

      Read about the T-62, all the same.
  10. MacTavish
    MacTavish April 8 2013 19: 04
    And now I would like to read about tanks in North Korea
  11. Nayhas
    Nayhas April 8 2013 21: 17
    A good review, though about the automatic loader could be more detailed ...
    PS: so here you are what Hyundai Solaris ...
  12. Alexey M
    Alexey M April 9 2013 11: 45
    It will be cool if the Koreans unite. The army of the north is the weapon of the south and nothing will stop them.
    1. kaprall
      kaprall April 9 2013 18: 03
      Not soon the South will roll the North, and then they will unite
  13. washi
    washi April 10 2013 05: 38
    Rather, the opposite. The southern ones were morally ruined.
  14. olosors
    olosors 3 June 2013 20: 56
    oblique tank turned
  15. Peacemaker
    Peacemaker 4 August 2014 06: 27
    Not not oblique! They are with a wise Korean squint ;-)