The Koreans call this the "Bad Ass Little Tank." Not really, but it actually is quite the innovation.
The Koreans looked all over the world for inspiration, technology and know-how — and combined it all into a formidable machine that is distinctively Korean.
From Germany, South Korea developed its own version of the Rheinmetall 120-millimeter L55 gun, which is a full 1.3 meters longer than the 120-millimeter L44 caliber gun used on all Abrams tanks and older Leopard 2s. With a longer gun comes greater internal pressure, so the L55 gun has superior muzzle velocity.
From France, South Korea adopted its own version of the Leclerc’s autoloader. Shells are loaded from the back of the turret, via a machine gun-like belt, allowing it to fire 15 rounds a minute — if rounds are continuously fired and not accounting for target acquisition, reacquisition and lazing.
The tank’s fire control system is a technology transfer from France’s Thales, so it is likely again using some Leclerc technology. As an advanced fire control system it is highly automated so even Korea’s conscript crews can learn it quickly. Once a target is acquired, the gun and turret can automatically track it without further human intervention.
The K2 can also ford rivers up to 4.2 meters deep via a snorkel kit that doubles as a “conning” tower, something the Korean army learned from the 35 T-80Us it acquired from Russia back in the late ’90s.
Although the heart of a tank is its gun, the next most important component is its engine and transmission, collectively known as the “powerpack.” For this, South Korea again looked to Germany and its excellent MTU-890 V12 diesel 1,500 horsepower engine.
The most noticeable is the tank’s hydropneumatic suspension. Originally developed on the K1, an improved version allows the K2 to lower or raise its profile. Like a “low riding” street car it can kneel, sit or “lean” in any direction.
With lots of hills there are lots of little valleys for enemy tanks to hide in. When the K2 uses its suspension to “sit,” it can elevate its gun to a near mortar-like angle to indirectly fire a millimeter band radar-guided “top attack” round.
Once fired, the round deploys a parachute, selects a target and shoots a molten projectile into the thin top of an enemy vehicle. Germany and Israel have similar rounds, but only for artillery because their tank guns cannot reach the necessary elevation angle. Called the Korean Smart Top-Attack Munition, or “KSTAM,” it can reach out and touch someone eight kilometers away.
Pretty darn cool. We ought to buy enough of these to make ourselves a battalion of them, and test them vigorously to see how they do versus our own tanks. Might learn something, plus give our adversaries something new to worry about.