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Type 88 K1 Main Battle Tank

North Korea quantitatively leads South Korea in most classes of military equipment, such as number of personnel, tanks, artilleries, tactical missiles and operational aircraft. However, the South is qualitatively considerably stronger. It operates modern tanks such as the Hyundai-built Type 88 introduced in 1988, compared to North Korea's T-62, which made up the major component of the former Soviet Union's tank force during the 1970's. The K1A1 remained in production at Rotem until 2010 to meet the needs of the ROK Army, in 2011 production of the new XK2 Black Panther tank then commenced.

Tank developments in Korea show how the capabilities of the Korean defence industry have evolved. In the 1970s the ROK Army was looking for a new tank that would meet its exact operational requirements under the name of ROKIT (ROK Indigenous Tank). In 1980 they negotiated an agreement with Chrysler (now General Dynamics Land Systems), which had designed the M1 Abrams tank, whereby the US company would design a tank to meet the ROKIT requirements and then transfer the technology to Korea to allow local manufacture. The ROKIT prototype was completed in 1983 and went into production at Hyundai (now Rotem) in 1984 as the K1 tank.

The K1 tank made its first appearance in September 1987, by which time several battalions had been equipped with it. The first production batch of 210 vehicles was completed in 1987 with the second batch consisting of 325 vehicles. The South Korean Type 88 K1 Main Battle Tank, which was developed indigenously, is system-integrated in Korea by Hyundai Precision using major components from several different countries. Ssangyong Heavy Industries' military diesel engines for K1 tank are manufactured under license from MTU of Germany. In May 1996 Hughes Aircraft Company awarded a contract to Kuchera Defense Systems to manufacture electronic assemblies for programs such as the the Korean K-1 Tank Program.

Deliveries of the 105-mm K1 to the South Korean army were completed in 1997. Hyundai also successfully undertook the development of the K-1 Armored Recovery Vehicle and Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge both based on the K-1 main battle tank. Rotem would manufacture in excess of 535 K1 tanks, as well as a family of special vehicles based on the K1 chassis including a recovery vehicle and a bridgelayer. In the South Korean inventory, K1 replaced a part of the fleet of the M47/M48 and one estimates that approximately a thousand of K1 and variants were produced. K1 ARV is a tank of breakdown service which uses the components hydraulics of the German BPZ3: winches, crane of 30 T and shovel of anchoring. It was produced with 149 specimens. K1 AVLB is a layer of bridge. It launches under ballistic protection a bridge scissors of design Vickers Defence Systems (VDS) making it possible the armoured tanks to cross breaches of 20 m width. The two vehicles were developed and produced by Hyundaï precision and Industry Company Ltd.

This set the stage for the next evolution in the ROK tank program with the development of the K1A1 tank, which entered service in the South Korean Army in 2001. Work on the K1A1 program started in 1991 with the aim of providing the ROK Army with a tank that offered increased firepower (the 120 mm M256 44-calibre gun was selected) and more protection, the fire control system of the K1A1 was developed in Korea by Samsung Thales. The evolution from the K1 to the K1A1 saw the evolution of tank design and building skills in Korea, this was a true indigenous tank. Equally important was the development of Korean capabilities at the systems and sub-systems level. This further enhanced the local technology base and provided the basis for future growth. By one account, the total requirement was for about 300 K1A1 tanks, scheduled to be in service by 2010. K1A1 production ended in 2010, with 484 units produced.

K1 tank - 105mm gun

The K1 tank was developed incorporating the latest technologies in fire power, armor protection and mobility. The K1's unique compact design, low-profile and state-of-the-art fire control system coupled with its extraordinary maneuverability make it exceptionally suitable to any tactical mission. The K1 tank is operated by a crew of four: a commander, a gunner and a loader are seated in the turret while the driver is positioned in the front section of the hull.

The K-1 rolls across the ground on hard rubber tracks at 40 miles per hour. Its crew sits inside a four-inch thick aluminum alloy shell. The laser sighting system guarantees the highest level of accuracy in any conditions. This "hunt or kill" targeting system can even account for wind velocity. The targeting system is proven to be perfect between 400 and 8,000 meters.

To deliver the maneuverability on demand, the K1 is equipped with a turbo-charged 1200 horsepower diesel engine providing a power to weight ratio of 23 hp/ton. The transmission has a planetary gear train with 4 forward and 2 reverse speed-modes. Shifting the transmission through the various speed ranges requires only a slight force applied to the shift selector. This shifting arrangement allows the driver to concentrate completely on his driving and tactical maneuvers. In high gear, the K1 can attain a maximum road speed of approximately 65km/h. However, for lower speed maneuvering, the low gear provides a continuous speed of 4km/h.

To further enhance the K1's maneuvering capability, the vehicle can pivot around its vertical axis within its own length at the driver's discretion. This maneuver is accomplished by permitting one track to move in the forward direction while reversing the other. Also, its ground pressure of 0.90kg/per square centimeter, which is equivalent to or lower than that of any 40 tonne-class tanks, enables it to successfully maneuver in swamp/marsh zones.

The K1 is a fully tracked vehicle supported by hybrid suspension system (combination of hydropneumatic suspension and torsion bar springs). This unique suspension system provides the capability of high speed cross-country travel and vehicle attitude control (kneeling) capability which increases the main gun depression angle to a maximum of minus 10 degrees. With its extraordinary maneuvering ability and low profile, the K1 can ford rivers up to 1.2 meters deep. With an additional kit, the K1's fording depth can be increased to 2.2 meters.

The K1 tank supported by the state-of-the art dual-axis stabilized fire control system which is combined with the electro-hydraulic gun laying system makes it capable of acquiring and destroying even a moving a target accurately in a short time on the move. The Gunner's Primary Sight Subsystem (GPSS) consists of laser range finder, thermal imaging and daylight visual imaging subsystems integrated with a 2 axis space-stabilized sight platform which permits the gunner to detect, identify, acquire and track a target during day and night combat conditions, The thermal imaging system can acquire aoo targets within the K1's firing envelop in all weather conditions. The laser range finder can accurately measure distances up to 8,000meters.

The Commander's Panoramic sight (CPS) mounted on the turret roof provides day vision and a dual-axis stabilized head mirror assembly with 360 degree panoramic observational viewing independent of turret orientation. Combined with the GPS, the CPS assembly provides the hunter-killer capability which allows the K1's crew to rapidly acquire and destroy multiple targets ; while the gunner is engaged in destroying his primary target, the commander can automatically bring the main gun in line with the next target for the gunner to engage while continuing to seek out yet other targets to destroy.

The Gun/Turret Drive System (GTDS) provides control of the main gun and coax in the stabilized, emergency, and manual modes of operation. In the stabilized (normal) mode, the gun and turret are electrically slaved to the GPS, in the target designate override mode, to the commander's panoramic sight. The electrically controlled emergency mode provides a highly reliable powered backup for manual commands performance.

The digital Ballistic Computer System provides point-mass solution for SABOT, HEAT, and HEP ammunition and polynomial solution for BH ammunition, by processing a mixed set of information generated by up-to-date subsystems; Vertical Sensor Unit (VSU) senses the roll(cant) and pitch; Crosswind Sensor measures the crosswind components of the wind at the vehicle; Azimuth Encoder produces a serial digital signal in Gray code that represents the angle of the turret with respect to the hull; Muzzle Reference Sensor (MRS) compensates for gun barrel droop.

The K1's main armament is a 105mm (KM68A1) cannon supported by a 7.62mm (M60E2-1) coaxial machine gun and turret mounted 7.62mm (M60D) and 12.7mm (K6) machine guns. The 88 Tank's 105mm gun is an improved version of the same caliber gun that was standard on South Korea's M-48A5 tanks. Normally the commander operates the 12.7mm weapon while the loader fires the 7.62mm weapon. Additionally, the K1 tank has two smoke grenade launchers, mounted on each side of the turret for instant concealment.

The K1's unique compact configuration provides the tank with a low silhouette, total height of 2.25m from the ground to the top of turret roof. It has a chassis ground clearance of 0.46 m, exceptionally high in comparison with other tanks. ballistic protection. Crew survivability is maximized by the adoption of the Special Armor Package in major areas, which offers greater protection for crew and equipment against chemical and kinetic energy projectiles.

With an Automatic Fire Suppression System built-in, any fire in the crew compartment is automatically detected by Infrared Detectors and is automatically suppressed within 0.025 second by a Halon fire extinguishing system. The engine compartment has a two-shot system automatically actuated by a Firewire detector fitted around the compartment. As a back-up system, the vehicle is also equipped with manual extinguishers located in the driver's station and outside the vehicle.

Foreign Sales

In 1997 Malaysia announced a plan to purchase about 210 tanks worth $730 million by the end of the century. Hyundai Precision offered to sell 105 mm K1 tanks. Its competitors were Poland"s T-72 and Germany"s Mark 3 (M). As of early 1999, the K1 MBT and its variants had not been exported. A variant of the vehicle, designated the K1-M, has been designed and manufactured to meet the future Malaysian MBT requirement. Malaysia is the other operator of the K1 series, this in the form of the K1M.

By 2010 the Malaysian defense chief expressed keen interest in establishing a mid- to long-term partnership with Hyundai Rotem over the country's defense modernization program. Saudi Arabian delegates showed their interest in the K1A1, which will be further upgraded by 2012, she said. Under the upgrade program, the K1A1 will have network-centric battlefield management systems that allow the vehicle to share its data with friendly units and other vehicles on a real-time basis.

South Korea signed a contract regarding the transfer of tank development technology with Turkey, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced 29 July 2008. The deal, valued at $400 million, is the nation's second largest arms export after a $1-billion license deal over the indigenous K-9 self-propelled howitzer, again with Turkey in 2001. Under the deal, South Korea will help Turkey develop a semi-indigenous main battle tank by 2015 through the transfer of its technology related to the design and development of K1A1 and XK2 tanks. South Korea will transfer key technologies regarding engine, gunnery and snorkeling systems to Turkey, which initially wants to build about 250 advanced main battle tanks.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 13:09:43 ZULU