August 22, 2010:
North Korean TV recently showed video of a new tank, called the Storm Tiger. South Korean officials call it the M2002, after the year they first became aware of it. The new North Korean tank appears to be based on the Russian T-62, an unsuccessful design that North Korea produced under license. The M2002/Storm Tiger was apparently developed in the 1990s, based on 1980s technology. It appears to be a 40 ton vehicle, a little longer than the T-62 and may have some modern electronics (beyond a laser range finder.) The North Koreans describe the vehicle as "modern", but even if they have modern fire control (which China or Russia won't give away and which North Korea cannot really afford to buy), they are several decades behind Western (and South Korean) tank technology. North Korea has about 4,000 tanks, most of them based on 1950s and 60s technology. About half of them are Russian T-62s (or North Korea variants of that design). Against modern tanks, the North Korea vehicles perform more as targets than adversaries.
North Korea imported 500 T-62s in the 1970s. Then, in the 1980s, North Korea produced 1,200 lighter and modified versions of the T-62 (as the Chonmaho). There were five different models, with later ones having the ERA (Explosive Reactive Armor) and laser range finder.
Most Chonmaho tanks have since died of old age and lack of spare parts, with about 500 still available for service. This vehicle weighed 40 tons, had a four man crew, a 115mm gun (plus a 14.5mm and 7.62mm machine-guns) and added ERA. Top speed was 50 kilometers an hour and range on fuel carried was 450 kilometers. The original T-62 was an improved T-55, weighed 41.5 tons, entered service in 1961. Over 22,000 were eventually built, when production ended in 1975. There have been many improvements since. It is a simple tank, and over a thousand remain in service around the world. Russian T-62s most recently saw combat two years ago in Georgia. The T-62 can trace its design back to World War II. That's because the T-54, which the T-62 evolved from (via the T-55), was developed in 1944. The basis for the T-54 was the T-44, an advanced model of the legendary T-34. The T-62, however, was the end of the line, in more ways than one.