It was said to be outdated or too vulnerable, yet battle tanks have seen a remarkable revival of interest in recent years from the world's major armies. After having presented the main Western, Russian and Chinese tanks in the two previous articles, we will, in this final analysis, focus on lesser known models, yet efficient and promising, on the operational scene as well as in the field of export.
Today we have the South Korean K2 Black Panther , the Turkish Atlay, the Japanese Type 10 and the Ukrainian BM Oplot.
South Korea: K2 Black Panther
Considered by many specialists as the most modern and attractive tank in the Western bloc, the K2 Black Panther has nevertheless had a difficult development, and some of its elements, notably its transmission and its engine, are still in the process of being made more reliable.
Development of the K2 began in 1995 to replace the obsolete M48 Patton tanks of the South Korean armed forces, and was based on a first locally designed tank model, the K1-88 developed on a Chrysler XM1 base, a model which served as the basis for the design of the American M1 Abrams.
It is, with the Japanese Type 10 and the Turkish Altay, one of the only Western tank models which is not an evolution of an older model, as in the case of the German Leopard 2A7 or Abrams M1A2C Americans. 10.8 meters long with a combat mass of 55 tonnes, the K2 is a rather light tank compared to its European or American counterparts.
Due to its recent design, the K2 has many perfectly modern technologies. Firstly, its MIL-12560H composite armor gives it basic protection similar to that of other heavy tanks, although lighter. In addition, it carries a complete range of complementary defensive systems, ranging from reactive armor bricks to locally made soft-kill and hard-kill systems, natively integrated into the armor, and not added as for Western tanks.
Its armament is also perfectly up to standard, with a 120 mm CN08 smoothbore cannon and an automatic loading system allowing it to sustain a rate of fire of 10 rounds per minute comparable to that of the French Leclerc, a benchmark in the field.
In addition to the traditional arrow, hollow charge or shattering shells, the cannon can also fire a missile designated KSTAM with a range of 8 km , following a parabolic trajectory before deploying a parachute in order to locate its target with a mixed infrared and radar homing device. , and come and hit it from above, like the Franco-Swedish BONUS shells.
The 3-man crew has a most modern detection and aiming system, combining traditional infrared vetronic systems and laser rangefinder with very high frequency radar, allowing the tank to engage targets up to nearly 10 km, if a line of sight is available.
Like the Leclerc, the K2 can fire with great precision on the move, while maintaining a high rate of fire. The system is designed so that the tank can remain operational with a crew of only two personnel, compared to 3 in normal staffing.
On the other hand, the Black Panther encountered significant difficulties with the development of a locally made engine and distribution, forcing the first batch of 100 tanks to be equipped with an MTU MT-883 engine and a German-made RENK transmission, the second batch of 106 receiving a local Doosan DV27K engine but retaining the German distribution . Only the third batch of 54 units will be equipped with an entirely South Korean propulsion system, with a Doosan DV27K transmission and the Doosan engine.
This defect does not seem to be prohibitive on the international scene, since Poland ordered more than 1,000 of these tanks a few months ago, alongside K9 self-propelled guns and K239 multiple rocket launchers, with an important industrial and technology transfer.
Barely three months after the order was signed, the first K2s intended for the Polish forces were delivered, while a second batch will arrive in Warsaw in February. The South Korean industrial potential, in the current context following the surge in tensions after the Russian attack on Ukraine, today constitutes, alongside the incontestable qualities of the Black Panther , a remarkable asset for this model, including included in Europe.
Japan: Type 10 battle tanks
Due to its low international exposure, and in particular its absence from international competitions, Japanese armor production is most often ignored by a large part of the public. However, Japanese companies have produced, over recent decades, numerous models of high-performance armored vehicles, including battle tanks. Entering service from 2012, the Type battle tank is one of them, and the lightest of the Western battle tanks.
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