By Jung Sung-ki
South Korea has signed a contract regarding the transfer of tank development technology with Turkey, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced Tuesday.
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, Lee Jae-nam, senior vice president of Hyundai Rotem Company, the developer of the indigenous battle tanks, told reporters.
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, said Lee.
Seoul will provide more than 60 percent of the technology required to build the Turkish tanks, he noted.
``This contract has a significant meaning, more than just arms sales, given we're exporting our state-of-the-art arms technologies,'' DAPA spokesman Kim Hyung-taek said. ``This means the Turkish government has recognized our capability and experience in terms of tank development, and our arms technologies have reached a top class level.''
The latest tank deal will also help further boost defense ties between Seoul and Ankara, he added.
Turkey is a major arms partner for South Korea. Last year, South Korea's state-run Korea Aerospace Industries signed a $350 million contract with Turkey to export 55 upgraded versions of the KT-1 Woongbi basic trainer.
The XK2, jointly built by the state-owned Agency for Defense Development and 20 other domestic manufacturers, bears an indigenous 120mm/50-caliber smoothbore gun, and is considered a peer of the U.S. M1A2 SEP and the French Leclerc tanks.
It can reach speeds of up to 70 kilometers per hour on surface roads and 50 kilometers per hour off-road with gun stabilization and can cross rivers as deep as 4.1 meters using a snorkel, a considerable improvement over the K1 and K1A1, with the ability to fire as soon as it resurfaces.
The main armament of the tank includes a 12.7mm K-6 heavy machine gun, a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun, and an indigenous 120mm/55-caliber smooth-bore gun with better muzzle velocity than the 120mm/44-caliber gun equipping a K1A1.
The tank is to be operational with the Army by 2010.