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M-2002 Pokpung-Ho / Songun-915

A report in Chosun Ibo on June 17, 2002 indicated that North Korea might have developed a new tank with capabilities similar or nearly identical to the Russian T-90 that was developed in the 1990s. Changes took place in the development of new tanks from the mid-2000s. Specifically, it completely abandoned the Cheonma line that imitated the Russian T-64 and T-72, and changed the name of the tank to Songun-915, also known as P'okp'ung-ho [P'okpoong-ho or Pokpung-Ho, meaning Storm or Storm Tiger.)

Naturally, the standard was higher. It is not known how many "tigers" are in service with the Korean People's Army, but intelligence officials believe that the new tank entered all 15 North Korean tank divisions, with possibly as many as 200 such tanks in service by 2010. According to Yonhap News Agency "In 2013 news surfaced that North Korea fielded 900 new MBTs" most of which are assumed to be of the Chonma-Ho V and Songun-Ho types.

The tank, which did not have an official designation, but was believed to be called the M-2002 (for the year it was produced) was developed by the Ryu Kyong-su Tank Factory, located in Shinhung, South Hamhgyong Province. Later the name Pokpung-Ho, or Storm Tiger in Korean, became associated with the tank.

Some confusion is brought about by the similarity of the Songun-915 design with the late modification of the Cheonmaho MBT “Cheonmaho-216”, created in 2004. According to the exhibition of the military museum in Pyongyang, which had at its disposal one sample of "Songun-915", the tank has a mass of 44 tons, a width of 3.502 m, a height of 2.416 m, while the tank is able to overcome a trench 2.8 m wide, a ford 1.2 m and a river 5 m deep.

In spite of the status of North Korea’s economy, reports concerning an even newer tank developed by North Korea began to appear in the defense-related press during July 2002. Reportedly, this new tank was developed by the Ryu Kyong-su tank plant in Shinhung and completed performance trials on 16 February 2002.

These reports followed a well-publicized trip to Russia by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in August 2001. The focus of this trip may have been on shopping since, after traveling to Russia in his 21-car armored train, Kim visited the Omsk TransMash tank plant, the makers of the Russian T-80U tank series. According to published reports, this new North Korean tank has capabilities that “are nearly identical to those of the T-90 tank Russia developed in the early 1990s.” It was also reported during Kim’s trip to Russia that North Korea wanted to buy an “upgraded” T-90 recently developed by the Russians.

As is well known, Chairman Kim Jong-il visited Russia several times in the late 1990s and early 2000s. At this time, at the request of Chairman Kim Jong-il, the Russian side opened the T-90 tank factory in Sibiri. The reason that North Korea planned this factory as an important tour course is that the T-90, unlike the T-80, is similar to the T-72 and uses a diesel engine. For North Korea, it would have been the purpose of finding anything that could be used as a reference for the development of the 3rd generation new tank. Looking at the performance indicators of the T-90 promoted in the arms market, the tank's height was relatively low, its armor defense was excellent, and it was particularly high in overcoming vertical obstacles, which attracted the attention of many countries. In the name of repaying the loan, the ROK military also piloted the T-80 and T-90 from Russia for some time.

North Korea's interest in the T-90 was demonstrated in August 2001 when Kim Jong-il, during his trip to Russia, visited the Transmesh defense plant which builds the T-90. Reports indicated that Kim either tried to purchase a T-90 or was trying to have one donated to North Korea, though it was unclear if those efforts were successful. Chairman Kim Jong-il completely cancelled the visit at the entrance of the T-90 tank factory, which confused the Russian side.

It would be unbelievable to say this, but as the equipment level of the T-90 tank factory in Russia was much lower than that of the component tank factory in North Korea, and the specific performance of the T-90 tank has been shown, North Korea has already produced a few experimentally, let alone the level North Korea wants. It was worse than the stopped Cheonma-98 tank. Through this observation, North Korea became convinced that it was firmly ahead of Russia in the development of new tanks and that it was no longer necessary to imitate Russian tanks. The North Korean leadership is more aware of the T-90 tank than they do, but the Russians, who were so surprised, broke diplomatic customs and urgently organized a visit to the Sukhoi Fighter Factory, which was not even planned.

This fact reveals an important point. It is said that the design standard of the 3rd generation tank that North Korea intends to develop is so high that it is difficult to measure it according to the standards of the West or Russia. Nobody could say that it was an imitation of Russian or Western tanks, and it was the top tank that could only be described as a North Korean-type 3rd-generation new tank. Also, for that reason, it must have been a arduous path for over 10 years. In other words, from North Korea's point of view, it is a third-generation tank, but in terms of other countries' standards, it is equivalent to a fourth-generation tank, and in some performance indicators, it would surpass it. At that time, although North Korea was going through a series of twists and turns in the process of developing a third-generation tank, there is no need to conceal or disregard the fact that if this goal set by North Korea is achieved, the world's best tank will be born that no country has.

The tank was reported to have undergone performance tests outside Pyongyang on 16 February 2002. As of mid-2008 no visual confirmation of the vehicle had emerged and its final specifications were unclear.

Some confusion is brought about by the similarity of the Songun-915 design with the late modification of the Cheonmaho MBT “Cheonmaho-216”, created in 2004. According to the exhibition of the military museum in Pyongyang, which has at its disposal one sample of "Songun-915", the tank has a mass of 44 tons, a width of 3.502 m, a height of 2.416 m, while the tank is able to overcome a trench 2.8 m wide, a ford 1.2 m and a river 5 m deep.

According to military analyst Joseph Bermudez, the tank is an evolution of the Cheonmaho. In favor of this, in his opinion, speak the features of the T-62, such as: 115-mm cannon, chassis identical to the T-62 and the location of the driver on the left. At the same time, another military analyst, Jim Warford, analyzing the history of the Korean versions of the T-62, drew attention to the clear features of the Romanian modification of the Soviet T-72 TR-125 and the Chinese Type 85.

While the North Koreans had apparently been attempting to get additional help from Russia to develop their tanks for some time, Russian sources report these new 125mm-armed MBTs were developed by the North Koreans with help from Iran. In spite of these reports, the relationship between Russia and North Korea remains strong; as seen by the participation of a senior North Korean military officer during Russian celebrations in May 2005, marking the anniversary of the victory in World War II. Perhaps the highlight of these celebrations was the tra ditional military parade in Red Square, which included, for the first time, Russian T-80BV MBTs. Exactly why that particular Cold War-era tank was paraded during that particular parade remains a mystery.

This tank is usually the so-called M2002 or "Storm Tiger" tank. It was previously reported that this tank is a replica of the Russian T72 tank, but images showed that the tank shell is only a conceptual reference to the T72, and although it is somewhat similar to the Type 85 tank produced in China, this tank is more likely to be On the basis of the Russian T62 tank, it has been elongated and greatly improved. The turret also seems to refer to the T62 tank, and the suspension used T-62 components.

Although the production or final assembly of the "Storm Tiger" tank is said to have been entrusted to the Ryukyong Shou Tank Plant, several other factories in North Korea can also produce tanks and may also participate in the "Storm Tiger" program. All these factories belong to the Second Machinery Industry Bureau of the Second Economic Commission and are located in Xinxing, South Hamgyong Province.

The components and subsystems are believed to originate from China, Russia and Eastern Europe. The total number of "Storm Tiger" tanks in service in the Korean People's Army is unknown, but it is believed that there are not many. It is understood that this type of tank is only equipped with the 105th Tank Division of the People's Army Guard "Seoul Liu Jingshou".

The turret of the "Storm Tiger" tank seems to be a lot of improvements on the basis of the T62 tank turret. The front part is bolted with a huge wedge-shaped armor module, the two sides are equipped with inclined armor guards, and the rear part is It is a fixed huge turret skirt. This design is conceptually similar to modern Chinese tanks (such as Type 85, Type 88 and Type 96 G). The purpose of the rear skirt of the turret is not clear, but it is likely to be used to store equipment and ammunition for the crew, and it can also provide additional protection against anti-tank high-explosive bombs.

The images at hand does not provide enough detail to determine the caliber of the main gun of the "Storm Tiger" tank, but the main gun model is either a 2A20 115mm smoothbore gun or a 2A26/2A46 125mm smoothbore gun. Although due to the caliber and recoil, it is a technical challenge to install a 125mm gun on the T62 tank turret. Both guns can be used to fire a variety of shells, including high-explosive shells, anti-personnel grenades, anti-tank high-explosive shells, and tail-stabilized armor-piercing shells.

It is worth mentioning that there is no image showing that the main guns are equipped with heat-insulating sleeves, but usually T-72 and 85, 88 and 96 tanks are equipped with heat-insulating sleeves. Although the basic ammunition capacity of the standard T62M tank is 40 rounds, at least part of the function of the rear skirt of the "Storm Tiger" tank is to store ammunition, so how many ammunition this tank can carry The medicine is still uncertain. In addition to the main gun, the "Storm Tiger" tank is also equipped with a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun, and a 14.5 mm caliber KPV anti-aircraft heavy machine gun mounted on the manual base on the top of the turret.

On both sides of the turret are two sets of double-barreled smoke, High explosive grenade launcher. The use of 14.5mm KPV anti-aircraft heavy machine guns instead of the more common 12.7mm DSHK heavy machine guns is likely to be used against attack helicopters in the United States and South Korea, but its manual base limits the effectiveness of attack helicopters. The images that people have seen strongly indicate that although the "Storm Tiger" tank body and engine compartment refer to the T72, it is more likely that this tank belongs to the same family as the Russian T62. It has only been expanded and greatly improved. Perhaps the Chinese-made Type 85 tank was used as a conceptual model.

It took almost five years to develop the Songun-915 tank. The first prototype will be unveiled in October 2010. In 2010, three new types of tanks, 55 new types of tanks produced at the Guseong Tank Factory, appeared at the rowing ceremony in October of that year. However, these tanks also failed to enter mass production and ended up with pilot equipment on several brigades of the 105th Tank Division. In the North Korean-related videos, when Chairman Kim Jong-un is leading the 105th Tank Division, it is instantly seen that non-military people are around the tank. These people will surely be tank shop engineers. This means that tank factory engineers are resident in the 105th Tank Division and are conducting actual deployment tests. Perhaps in the history of the North Korean military, the development, pilot introduction, and improvement of a single piece of equipment like this has been repeated for nearly 20 years in the development process of the 3rd generation tank and the'Lightning-5'.

In December 2011, Chairman Kim Jong-il died without finishing the completion of the 3rd generation tank and'Lightning-5' he had hoped for in his lifetime. The answer to the question of what the thoughts of Chairman Kim Jong-un and North Korean defense workers, who appeared as his successors in the battle of the predecessor. During the 2012 New Year's Day, Chairman Kim Jong-un was instructing the 105th Tank Division to develop and complete the 3rd generation tank that Kim Jong-il had hoped for in his lifetime, but was not finished. The results showed that the Songun-915 tank still had a lot of room for improvement.

In April 2012, during the annual paradar, North Korea again unveiled the improved Songun-915-2012 tank, but it is still within the range of the 105th Tank Division. Nevertheless, the Songun-915 tanks that appear in the North Korean military's fervor from 2012 to the present show a sense of basic stability, although there are some changes as they continue to improve. In other words, it shows that the tank development has reached the completion stage. In January 2013, something dramatic happened at the tank test site at the Guseong Tank Factory. After nearly 10 years of development and improvement, the 3rd generation North Korean-made new tank, the Songun-915, showed its appearance. Chairman Kim Jong-un will lead the performance test of this new tank.

The division commander of the 105th Tank Division protested that if such good tanks were supplied to Chairman Kim Jong-un, they would actually be troubled. When Chairman Kim Jong-un asked what the words meant, the division commander accepted that such a tank that only engineers could handle was the bread of the picture. Chairman Kim Jong-un, who has grasped the intent of the division leader, instructs the workers to increase the treatment of the 105th Tank Division, and in particular, recruits who graduated from the College of Engineering should be assigned to the 105th Tank Division.

The synthesized Songun-915 first adopts triple armor and has excellent protection. The triple armor of special material steel plate, chobam composite armor, and reactive armor are all powerful anti-tank missiles equipped with tandem warheads, which are powerful for destroying tanks in street fighting, RPG7, cobras of the U.S. forces, and Hellfire anti-tank missiles launched from Apache helicopters.

Unlike the previous Songun-915, the newly introduced Songun-915 further strengthened the protective power of the turret, and also showed a more powerful appearance, such as the use of twin-engine cannons. Of course, it is unknown how many Songun-915 North Korea has supplied to the site, but considering the North’s heavy and chemical industry and large equipment production capacity, if it has been intensively produced for five years since 2012, when the development of the Songun was completed, the amount will never be just a few.

Two types of new Jungtank Seongun-915 tanks appeared in the April 15th ceremony in 2017, on the 105th anniversary of the birth of North Korean President Kim Il-sung. The tanks are prepared to perform perfectly until street fighting. One variant features a turret twin mount of surface-to-air missile on the right, and the Firebird anti-tank missiles on the left. The turret has a plate that looks like composite armor instead of reactive armor, and the side of the turret is angular, unlike the early Sungun-915 model.

Outside the range of the 105th Tank Division, the 2nd Corps Tank Brigade equipped the Songun-915 tank. This is a single example showing that the Songun-915 has been standardized as a 3rd-generation tank in the North Korean army and is being mass-produced and deployed in combat.

Considering the potential of North Korea's military industry, all tanks could be replaced with Songun-915 within a few years, but the new tanks will be gradually replaced as they take over as reserves, as it is directly related to the issue of disposing of the already equipped Type 68 and Cheonma tanks.

The Songun-915 is a key weapon to pioneer the assault routes such as the Gaema Musa unit in Goguryeo, the Turtle Ship of General Yi Sun-sin, and the 105th Tank Division Ryu Gyeong-su during the Korean War. the North's mechanized infantry maneuvering route must be opened by someone at the fore, and it is argued by the North that the Songun-915 developed it so that it could perform perfectly. Of course, since the North has yet to disclose the performance of the Songun-915 tank except for underwater crossing capability and artillery artillery, it is not clear how far to believe the North’s claims.

Page last modified: 30-06-2021 11:42:38 ZULU