Monster Machines: South Korea's Black Panther Battle Tank Shoots Parachute Bombs

Korea's Black Panther Battle Tank Shoots Parachute Bombs

When your neighbours are Kim Jung-un level crazy, you'd better make sure your defenses are bigger and badder than anything they can throw at you. Or at least just as crazy, like the K2 Black Panther's parachute munitions.

It's called the K2 "Black Panther." This 50-tonne main battle tank (MBT) is the latest to join South Korea's ground forces, and is widely hailed as one of the most advanced (and expensive) MBT's ever produced. Produced by Korean automotive mega-corporation, the Hyundai Rotem Company, 400 or so Black Panthers are expected to replace the existing fleet of outdated M48 Patton tanks and complement the country's existing force of K1 MBTs by 2017.

Korea's Black Panther Battle Tank Shoots Parachute Bombs

Each $US8.8 million machine is powered by a primary 1500 HP, 12-cylinder diesel engine and supplemented by an auxilliary power pack that runs off a gas turbine and produces 100W of power for running accessories when the main engine is off. It's got room for a crew of three -- the commander, gunner and driver -- all of whom are protected by one of the most advanced active and passive armour suites on Earth. Similar to what protects the American M1A2 Abrams MBT, albeit a bit lighter, the K2's deforming active armour is more than capable of enduring a shaped charge round fired from short distances. In fact, the K2 is reportedly able to take a direct shot from a 120mm round fired by the same smooth bore L55 that it uses itself. That is, you could have a pair of Black Panthers shoot each other in the face without knocking either out of the fight.

The K2's main gun, the L55, is equipped with a 16-round auto-loading magazine which allows it to squeeze off up to 15 rounds a minute. With a total supply of 40 various rounds, the Black Panther can rain hellfire on an enemy position for nearly three minutes before needing a resupply. The tank is also equipped with a supplementary 12.7mm heavy machine gun and a slightly less terrifying 7.62mm machine gun as well as the standard assortment of electro-optical, IR and millimetre wave sensors to enable accurate targeting regardless of the prevailing battlefield conditions. Plus, its targeting system has a Lock-on mode that allows it to not only target moving ground units but low-flying helicopters as well.

The K2's coolest weapon, however, has got to be its Korean Smart Top-Attack Munition (KSTAM). It's fired from the main gun -- not directly at the enemy but on a high parabolic arc instead -- like a mortar. Once it has begun its decent, the munition will deploy a small parachute then activate a multi-band sensor suite (millimetre, IR, and radiometer) to identify, acquire, and engage enemy positions and armour, then fire a shaped penetrator round straight down on them. Since the lightest armour on a tank is typically its roof, the penetrator round can easily punch through with maximum effectiveness. [Defence Update - Wiki - Military Today - Army Tech]