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M-2020 MBT

The main battle tank is still required for the mission and threat analysis. For symmetrical combat scenarios, he must have a powerful and long-range weapon with various types of ammunition. Firepower, agility, survivability and controllability are decisive components of a main battle tank. North Korea unveiled a new version of its main battle tank during an unusual predawn military parade and public rally in Pyongyang early on 10 October 2020 marking the 75th anniversary of the country’s ruling party. For the first time, were displayed the new modification of local-made main battle tanks is similar to Russia’s Armata main battle tanks by their visual design.

Joseph Trevithick noted "This new North Korean tank is a significant development, especially because of what it says about the country’s domestic industrial capabilities in spite of all these sanctions, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves."

Dylan Malyasov noted : "Photographs of the new tank look remarkably like those of a Russian-produced Armata. The design of the tank has many similarities and repeats the image presented at the military parade in Moscow in 2019 and 2020. Reportedly, the upgraded North-Korea tank received a new reactive armor system, a new anti-tank missile system, and some experts indicate the possible installation of an active protection system."

Mark Episkopos noted " the chassis shares numerous design principles with Russia’s new T-14 Armata MBT and, to a lesser extent, China’s MBT-3000.... The rest of the MBT showcases an eclectic mix of modern tank features. Defense outlet Military Recognition observed that the turret is designed in a similar fashion to the one found on the latest generation of the US M1A2 Abrams, but also boasts rows of tubes resembling Armata’s Afghanit Active Protection System. The main armament is very likely a 125mm gun- in keeping with other recent North Korean tanks, it is possibly a derivative of the Soviet 2A46 smoothbore cannon.... The turret also boasts a mounted machine gun and two anti-tank missile launchers for firing what observers believe to be Bulsae-3 missiles, which themselves are a copy of Russian Kornet missiles. The rear hull is outfitted with slat armor, mainly for protection against infantry anti-tank weapons. It remains unclear which of these features are fully functional, and how many-- if any-- are purely for display purposes."

North korean armies have long had a reputation for being equipped with severely obsolete equipment. The aging inventory of its armor fleet, consisting primarily of Soviet and Chinese models from the 1960s and 1970s such as the T62, helped susteain this perception, even if North Korean engineers had made the most of these platforms in modernized, locally produced versions such as the Pokpung-ho tank derived from the T-62. But Pyongyang surprised many observers by presenting a new generation of armored vehicles with marked similarities with the most modern armoured vehicles of Russian industry.

The new battle tank was presented, never before observed, with a classification that was initially unknown. Unlike previous models implemented by the North Korean People's Army, this tank visually features many of the new generation tanks, seemingly with composite armor in form of the angular shapes of the turret, and an advanced armament incorporating a large-calibre gun (probably 125 m like the latest export versions of the Pokpung-Ho), a turret machine gun, as well as a missile-launching module armed with what appeared to be two anti-tank missiles resembling the Bulsae-3 missile, a local copy of the Russian Kornet-E.

The development of this model is uncertain. The Chonma-Ho [Pegasus], a family of locally designed and produced tanks, could be a Syrian T-62 copy, while the modernized Type 2 was probably based on a reverse-engineered Soviet T-62D. The Second machine industry Bureau was in charge of the project by 1976. The suffix 'ho' means 'model, type', and is optional in the designation. The Ch'onma-ho V modernization program was conducted after North Korea received a T-72 in 1992 and a T-90 in August 2001. The Ch'onma-ho VI had a stretched chassis with 6 roadwheels per side, modified armor including rubber plates skirts to defend against shaped-charge warheads.

The subsequent Pokpung-ho ["Storm Tiger"] is the US DoD designator for the tank that North Koreans call 'Chonma-215' if armed with the usual 115 mm gun, or 'Chonma-216' if armed with the more powerful 125 mm gun. Another name used by DOD is M-2002, because the tank underwent performance trials in February 2002. The chassis of the Pokpung-ho is similar to that of a T-62, but are heavily modified with greater length and an additional pair of roadwheels. The tank remained fundamentally a grown-up and angular T-62.

The chassis of the 2020 MBT is original, with 7 road wheels, not 6 as traditionally in North Korea, a feature that is most often found on the most modern heavy tanks, such as the Abrams M1, the Leopard 2 or the T-14 armada. Note that, as on the T-14, the first wheel seemed shifted on the front and more spaced from the rest of the moving train. A protective ventilation grille protects the rear of the armored vehicle, which reinforces the resemblance to the latest Russian products.

Numerous types of vehicles are frequently used in terrain in which it is difficult for pneumatic tires to operate. Both military vehicles, such as tanks and amphibious vehicles, and civilian vehicles, such as tractors and recreational vehicles, are sometime utilized on terrains which are very soft, for example sand surfaces. Pneumatic tires are not capable of efficient operation on such soft surfaces, as they tend to burrow into the surface, rather than riding across the surface. The weight of such vehicles for difficult terrain is transferred on its tracks. Each track is guided around road wheels and at least one idler wheel as well as at least one sprocket drive. To enable the area of the tracks in contact with the ground to adjust to irregularities of the ground, the road wheels and the idler wheel are sprung.

The increased number of road wheels will increase the length of the track in contact with the ground, and consequently reduce the nominal ground pressure (NGP). More importantly, it will reduce the peaks of the ground pressure which occur under the road wheels and which govern, to a large extent, performance on soft ground.

The new tank looked remarkably like the Russian-produced Armata. The design of the tank has many similarities and repeats the image presented at the military parade in Moscow in 2019 and 2020. Reportedly, the upgraded North-Korea tank received a new reactive armor system, a new anti-tank missile system, and some experts indicate the possible installation of an active protection system.

However, the turret crew's position during the parade, and the position of the sensors and optics, indicate that the new North Korean tank did not take up one of the main features of the armada, namely an automated turret. In the event of an enemy hit in the ammunition area, the crew has no chance of survival due to the mixing room. Despite ongoing modernization, including the increase in protection, the crew always remained in a mixed room. This is where the ammunition, some of which is housed in an ammunition bunker, and the crew are together. This is the case with all battle tanks currently in service, despite their high weight, some over 70 t, and thus apparently good armor protection.

The T-72, with a 125 mm tank cannon, has a combat load of 44 rounds, of which 22 rounds are stored in the loading carousel in the bottom of the turret, the rest in different places within the combat area without partitioning. In addition, due to the two-part ammunition, the theoretical rate of fire, 8 rounds per minute, is not as high as when using one-part ammunition. Another disadvantage of the T-72 is the lack of blow-off panels to vent flames in case of ammo cook-off.

The most modern battle tank currently available is the Russian ARMATA T-14. Its 3-man crew sits in its own safety cell in the front area of the chassis. In the unmanned tower, the 125 mm smooth barrel cannon, the automatic loading system and the ammunition bunker are arranged in a top mount arrangement. However, as with all newer Russian main battle tanks, two-part ammunition is used with the disadvantage of a low rate of fire. He also carries the secondary armament and sensors. The advantage of the unmanned and less heavily armored tower is shown in the weight savings. For this, the chassis and / or the bow can have thicker armor with the same maximum weight specification.

The Armata features accommodating the crew in the safety cell in the front area of the chassis and by separating the ammunition for the tank cannon in a tape loader on the rear of the tower and the other ammunition for the tank gun in the tape loader in the chassis behind the tower, a high level of security for the crew is achieved. The protection is further increased by a partition between the crew room and the turret hood and between the turret hood and the ammunition belt loader in the chassis behind the turret. Anti-tank weapons that do not fight the main battle tank with direct hits, but from above through the tower ceiling, do not pose a threat to the crew. There is no mixing room in which the crew and the ammunition of the tank cannon are located together.




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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 11:42:39 ZULU