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We take a closer look at the new North Korean tank

Desert Fox 1

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We Take A Closer Look At North Korea's New Prototype Main Battle Tank

New massive intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles were the clear stars of North Korea's recent military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the one-party dictatorship's Workers' Party of Korea. However, a number of major conventional weapons developments were also on display, as you can read in The War Zone's initial reporting on the event. This included prototypes of a new main battle tank that appeared similar, at least visually, to more modern tanks, such as Russia's T-14 Armata and China's Type 99, though its actual capabilities and basic performance are unclear.

KIM JONG UN JUST SHOWED THE WORLD THE WAR MACHINE HE BUILT WHILE FEINTING DIPLOMACY
At least nine of the tanks, a designation for which does not appear to have yet emerged, were part of the procession through Kim Il Sung Square in the North Korean capital Pyongyang on Oct. 10, 2020. All of them were wearing what looked to be a tan-and-brown desert camouflage scheme, which would not be particularly useful on the Korean Peninsula. The paint job seems more intended to further evoke comparisons to more modern Russia, Chinese, and western designs, which often do feature desert-focused camouflage.
Virtually no hard information exists about this tank so far, but a number of key details are readily visible. It notably has seven wheels on each side, meaning that it is longer than North Korea's other indigenous tank designs, including the most recent new type, the Songun-ho, which first emerged publicly in 2010.

A 2015 U.S. Army Threat Tactics Report on North Korea that the author previously obtained via the Freedom of Information Act describes that existing tank, also known as the Songun-915, as combining "technologies of the Soviet/Russian T-62, T-72, T-80, and T-90, and the Chinese-produced Type 88 main battle tank." However, despite continual updates and additions, it is clearly a dated design with the 1960s-era T-62 at its core, as its most evidenced by its dome-shaped turret.
The tank that appeared over the weekend has a distinctly new hull shape, at least outwardly, from those older tanks. Visually, it is similar, in broad strokes, to that of the T-14, including the presence of slat armor grills on either side of the rear of the hull where the engine is located. Slat armor is primarily intended to defeat infantry anti-tank rockets, causing their high-explosive anti-tank warheads (HEAT) warheads to detonate at a sub-optimal moment and reducing the amount of damage they are likely to produce. There are additional skirts hanging under the sides of the hull on either side to provide some additional protection for the road wheels, as well.


The turret has a distinct and more angular shape from previous North Korean tanks and has slat armor at the rear, as well. The main gun appears to be a 125mm type, likely the same weapon used on the Songun-ho and the later version of that tank's predecessor, the Pokpung-ho. The guns on those tanks are understood to be derived in some way from the Russian 2A46.

On the right side of the turret, there is a two-tube anti-tank guided missile launcher. This launcher appears somewhat similar to ones that North Korea has mounted on the top of the turrets of its existing tanks in the past and that may be used to fire "Firebird" missiles, derived from the Soviet-era 9K111.


AP
North Korean Pokpung-ho tanks with two-tube anti-tank missile launchers mounted on top of the left side of the turret take part in a previous parade.

The new tank's turret is otherwise covered in various boxes, typically associated with optics and range-finders, and has smoke grenade launchers at the rear. Most notably, however, is the addition of what appears to at least be meant to stand in for an active protection system (APS) consisting of four banks of three tubular launchers, positioned on the front corners and the left and right sides of the turret. An enclosure, which typically houses a radar sensor in similar APS systems, is positioned above each one.

This configuration overall is generally similar to that of the Russian Afghanit APS on the T-14. If the North Korean system is meant to function in the same way, it means that the sensors detect incoming anti-tank guided missiles or infantry anti-tank rockets and then fire interceptors from the tubular launchers at the appropriate moment, neutralizing the threat.


NORTH KOREAN STATE MEDIA CAPTURE
A close up of the turret on North Korea's new tank showing what appears to be an APS, among other features.


LIYA PITALEV/SPUTNIK VIA AP
A close-up of the turret on a T-14 showing the tubular countermeasures launchers along the base of the turret associated with the Afghanit APS

However, the positioning of the countermeasures launchers on North Korea's new tank raises questions about how much coverage this particular system offers, especially against more advanced top-attack anti-tank missiles, such as the American FGM-148 Javelin. Even the side-saddle missile launcher looks like it blocks some of the system's coverage on one of its sides. The reality is that, while the Soviet Union developed the first APS in the late 1970s, the technology behind the miniaturized radars and other sensors, as well as and interceptors found in more modern systems is complex and may still be beyond the reach of North Korea at present.

As such, it's very possible that what we're seeing on these prototype tanks is aspirational and just a mock-up of a system that North Korea is now in the process of developing. It is certainly something that the regime in Pyongyang would be interested in adding to its tanks. Countries around the world are pursuing similar efforts to integrate, or trying to integrate, APSs to their tanks and other heavy armored vehicles as anti-tank guided missiles, as well as infantry anti-tank rockets, continue to become more capable and those threats increasingly proliferate.

Despite the comparison to other tanks, such the T-14, and especially the latest version of the U.S. Army's M1 Abrams tank, it is hard to imagine that the North Korean design is anywhere near as advanced. Unlike, the T-14, for example, this North Korean tank still has a manned turret and wouldn't feature the Russian vehicle's complex remote vision system, seen in the video below, for its crew of three, who all sit together in the front hull.


When it comes to sensor, communications, and networking capabilities, in particular, this tank won't even approach that of either the T-14 or the Chinese Type 99, let alone the M1A2 SEPv3. The various boxes seen on the examples on parade could well be empty, meant to only reflect systems that North Korea hopes to integrate into the design as time goes on.

In addition, just having angular lines akin to those on the American tank also does not mean the North Korean one has anywhere near the same kind of complex composite passive armor, which includes layers of ceramics and depleted uranium, either. The armor packages for the Abrams, which have been continually improved upon over the years, are so advanced and sensitive that the development of the initial "special armor" configuration for the tank was originally conducted within a top-secret Special Access Program nicknamed Green Grape.

Since the side skirts obscure the road wheels, it not possible to tell for sure, but it seems very plausible that the underlying chassis over this new North Korean tank still owes much to old Soviet designs, as well. The Pokpung-ho, and subsequent Songun-Ho, both use an extended version of the chassis of the previous Chonma-ho, which was itself derived from the Soviet T-62. It's not hard to believe that the North Koreans built on that proven design, with which they now have great experience with, in developing this latest tank rather than starting entirely from scratch.
With all this in mind, the vehicle that North Korea put on parade is most likely to reflect what the country envisions as a "future tank" and not what they are fielding as an operationally useful design today.

All this being said, whatever its capabilities and performance, it is important to note that this new tank does highlight how North Korea's heavy machinery industries have been able to continue their work, with or without foreign assistance, in the face of international sanctions, especially from the United States. Even if a final version of this tank turns out to be heavily based on technical information acquired abroad and is full of foreign-made systems, sourced legally or illicitly, that would underscore the ability of the regime in Pyongyang to obtain the resources necessary to continue expanding and advancing the technological capabilities of its war machine.

North Korea is also known to be a relatively prolific arms exporter itself, in spite of the international community's attempts to curtail this trade. This means that this new tank, or portions of its design, may one day find its way into the arsenal of other countries that cannot afford or otherwise acquire more modern designs on the open market.
 
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Saudang

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Impressive first look. Have to understand what capabilities it brings on to the table. Given the foe it will face with best in class drones and ATGM, will be interesting to see it in a real battle
 

Fawadqasim1

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Apparently a modern tank but we don't know anything about its engine, suspension, optics and electronics type of armour used etc so we cant say much about its performance, effectiveness and survivability
 

Desert Fox 1

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Yes the tanks look impressive but if we look closely it looks as if steel plates have been welded together especially the mud skirts and front hull.but the only thing that distinguishes it from other NK tanks is that it has 7 wheels while all others have 6
It is very difficult if not impossible for a country like NK to develop such a tank as Abrams or armata with features such as APS. If a country like India or even pakistan develop such a modern tank as the design and features of this tank than how can NK. The most close they can get to a good modern tank is to buy Chinese type 96 or 99A under cover and change a bit of features and visual structure and say that it was built by tgem
 
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Fawadqasim1

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Yes the tanks look impressive but if we look closely it looks as if steel plates have been welded together especially the mud skirts and front hull.but the only thing that distinguishes it from other NK tanks is that it has 7 wheels while all others have 6
It is very difficult if not impossible for a country like NK to develop such a tank as Abrams or armata with features such as APS. If a country like India or even pakistan develop such a modern tank as the design and features of this tank than how can NK. The most close they can get to a good modern tank is to buy Chinese type 96 or 99A under cover and change a bit of features and visual structure and say that it was built by tgem
As you have mentioned most of the outer turret is hollow without ERA a mediocre tandem shaped charge will have a field day do you think it's main armament is stabilized ?
 

Desert Fox 1

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As you have mentioned most of the outer turret is hollow without ERA a mediocre tandem shaped charge will have a field day do you think it's main armament is stabilized ?
That's the question everyone including the west is asking. I think that internally it will all be a t62 or if possible it will be proliferated type 99 96 including the main gun.moreover i also doubt the atgms "attached" to the turret
 

Fawadqasim1

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That's the question everyone including the west is asking. I think that internally it will all be a t62 or if possible it will be proliferated type 99 96 including the main gun.moreover i also doubt the atgms "attached" to the turret
You are right it's an al zarrar type upgrade of t62 and I fear more cosmetic rather than substantial. Whereas AL zarrar is a substantial upgrade.
BUT the size and number of wheels belies this hypothesis don't you think
 
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Desert Fox 1

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You are right it's an al zarrar type upgrade of t62 and I fear more cosmetic rather than substantial. Whereas AL zarrar is a substantial upgrade.
BUT the size and number of wheels belies this hypothesis don't you think
The only thing that is troubling everyone is the the number of wheels.I think china has provided some assistance to NK in fitting that 7th wheel. Rest of the tank as u have mentioned appears to be cosmetic and might not be producedrin numbers.However if a country is able to develop ICBMs or SLBMs then a "prototype" is no issue the problem lies in its mass production
 

Fawadqasim1

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The only thing that is troubling everyone is the the number of wheels.I think china has provided some assistance to NK in fitting that 7th wheel. Rest of the tank as u have mentioned appears to be cosmetic and might not be producedrin numbers.However if a country is able to develop ICBMs or SLBMs then a "prototype" is no issue the problem lies in its mass production
Yes not just the number but the guag and size of wheels and the whole suspension system is different . And a new hull design

This article may help still a substantial portion of it can be t62
 

Desert Fox 1

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Yes not just the number but the guag and size of wheels and the whole suspension system is different . And a new hull design

This article may help still a substantial portion of it can be t62
The NK have not released any info about this tank which shows that it might not have anything particular(AESA APS electronics optronics engine etc) to be a good Third gen tank as NK has a history of showing off and boasting its new weapons systems
 

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