Yonhap News Agency reports today that South Korea has succeeded in developing an indigenous hardkill active protection system for its tanks and armored vehicles. The system is currently being tested on South Korea’s K2 battle tanks ( K2 ‘흑표’), set to debut in 2013:
As seen in the above video, the radar and thermal imaging systems are housed on the front-right side of the turret, with two rocket-launching projectile devices on the top sides of the tank turret. The launcher capacities are limited at two projectiles each, giving the system the ability to stop four incoming missiles or rockets before expending their magazines. The side-facing nature of the launchers may produce some limits to the arc of defense coverage, though they do appear to swivel to some degree to meet oncoming projectiles. The system has a reported reaction time of 0.2 or 0.3 seconds and a detection range of 150 meters.
It looked for a while that South Korea might go in the direction of procuring Russian Arena-E protection systems instead of indigenous designs, after a 2006 agreement with Russia’s KB Mashinostroyeniya (KBM, КБ Машиностроения). The Arena system carried a far heftier projectile load of 20-30 protective munitions, a cost base cost of around $300,000 USD, a potential 270 degree protection zone, 50 meter detection rage, and 0.07 second reaction time. At the time, it seemed like the perfect fit for the K2 tank.
South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA, 방위사업청) appears to have weighed the costs of doing business with foreign firms against developing their own indigenous technology. While it’s obvious that the $300,000 cost of the Arena-E would have been inflated by trade issues, license agreements, and the magical rise in costs that occurs when selling weapons across nation lines, it’s likely that the Arena system would still have been cheaper than the indigenous system, which currently costs about $600,000 USD per kit, or about double that of the Arena, for what appears to be a less effective system.
Fortunately, the beauty of developing technology in-house is that South Korea has started from the ground up and now possesses a firm base to work with. As Korean defense firms compete with one another to create better systems at cheaper costs, these systems should improve exponentially.
It’s not quite as glamorous as Russian and Israeli hardkill protection systems, and the system is nearly one tenth the estimated cost of an entire K2 tank (Around $8.5 million USD), but it’s a good start for a country that still uses obsolete M48 Patton tanks.
Unfortunately, only actual combat will tell if this system, mounted on the most expensive tank in the world, will succeed in preserving the K2′s combat life, or make the K2 the world’s most expensive sitting duck.
Craig was born & raised in the United States, having recently returned there after over five years in Asia. He is currently pursuing further education in the realms of East Asian Studies and Politics. Craig is an avid fan of the political, economic, and military machinations occurring throughout the Asian continent and how those turning gears affect the rest of the world. He's currently covering both North and South Korea for Asia Security Watch, enjoying shedding light on to this far-too-often ignored slice of Asia.
Craig Scanlan has 82 post(s) on Asia Security Watch