SEOUL — South Korea’s K2 main battle tank is to be equipped with a German transmission system, a part of the tank’s powerpack that includes a locally-developed engine.
The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced Feb. 7 that its top decision-making body, presided over by Defense Minister Song Young-moo, made a decision to adopt the German RENK transmission system for the production of a second batch of 106 K2 tanks.
The second-batch production was originally started in 2014 but has been postponed due to repeated failures in evaluating reliability of the local transmission system built by S&T Dynamics.
“The field deployment of K2 tanks has long been delayed due to defects in the domestically-built transmission system,” the arms agency said in a press release. “We’ve made a conclusion that the second batch of K2s will be equipped with a powerpack consisting of a local engine plus a foreign transmission.”
Hanwha Defense Systems, formerly known as Doosan DST, is in charge of development of a 1,500hp engine for the K2 Black Panther, co-developed by the state-funded Agency for Defense Development and Hyundai-Rotem.
The second-batch of K2s is scheduled to be deployed with the Army units between 2019 and 2020, according to the DAPA.
The first batch of 100 K2s was equipped with the German MTU 883 diesel engine and RENK transmission system. In December 2014, Hyundai Rotem signed an $820 million contract to supply the additional K2 MBTs to the Army. But the plan hit a snag as S&T Dynamics’ automatic transmission failed in the durability tests six times.
Under the defense production standards, a tank transmission system is required to run without defects for 320 hours.
“Unfortunately S&T’s transmission system failed to prove its reliability and durability under the rules,” a Hyundai Rotem official said, requesting to remain anonymous. “With the hybrid powerpack of South Korea engine and German transmission, the stalled production of K2s is to resume to replace the Army’s aging inventories of US-made M47 Patton tanks and older versions of the K1 MBT, which have been in service since the 1980s.”
He added an additional contract for the production of the third batch of about 110 K2s is to follow in the coming years.
The Black Panther features advanced weapons systems. It is armed with a 120mm/L55 smoothbore gun indigenously developed by Hyundai Wia. It is also equipped with a state-of the-art fire-control system capable of acquiring and tracking specific targets up to a range of 9.8 km using a thermographic camera.
The tank can travel at speeds of up to 70 km/h on road surfaces and maintain speeds of up to 52 km/h in off-road conditions. It can also climb 60-degree slopes and vertical obstacles 1.8 meters in height.
In 2008, Hyndai Rotem signed a $540 million contract with Turkey’s Otokar for technological transfer and design assistance of the K2. The technology was incorporated to Turkey’s main battle tank, dubbed Altay.
Jeff Jeong was the South Korea correspondent for Defense News.