K2 Black Panther tank
By Jung Sung-ki
The planned production of homegrown K2 Black Panther main battle tanks this year has suffered a major setback due to a reduction of the related budget.
The National Assembly passed its 292-trillion-won (some $251 billion) spending plan for 2010, which included 29.5 trillion won in funding for defense, on Dec. 31.
The defense budget represents a 3.6-percent increase from last year but a decrease from the original plan proposed by the Ministry of National Defense, which called for a 7.9-percent increase.
Among the arms improvement programs, K2 tank production was hit the hardest by the cut. The Assembly slashed 50 billion from the proposed 88.2 billion won for producing the new tanks this year amid reports over technical problems with the tank's "power pack" system.
The Agency for Defense Development began field trials of the domestically-built engine and transmission system in July last year but problems emerged during the tests, according to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration.
Originally, the production of some 390 K2 tanks was scheduled to begin after field trials to replace the Army's K1 tanks and its aging M48 Patton tanks.
In a parliamentary session on Dec. 10, Defense Minister Kim Tae-young admitted the problem with the K2 power pack, which is comprised of a 1,500-horsepower, 12-cylinder diesel engine and transmission.
"The K2 program will be delayed by one year, but the production of 100 tanks in 2014 will be possible," Kim said.
Unveiled in 2007, the K2 is a major defense product for domestic needs and overseas sales. The K2 technology has already been exported to Turkey.
The K2 carries a three-person crew supported by an auto-loading system and a locally-developed 120-millimeter/55-caliber stabilized smoothbore gun. The fully-digitalized vehicle has an electric gun/turret driving system, automatic sensor input and power monitoring and control system.
Its 1,500-horsepower engine can power the tank to 70 kilometers per hour on paved roads and 50 kilometers off-road. It can cross rivers as deep as 4.1 meters, a considerable improvement over the K1 and K1A1, and fire as soon as it resurfaces.
The budgetary plans endorsed by the legislature include 14.2 billion won to introduce a presidential jet; 10 billion won to build Type 214 submarines; 9.1 billion won to build a KDX-III Aegis destroyer; and 5 billion to construct a naval base on Jeju Island.