Armor: Hot Wheels

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May 12, 2012: Although South Korea began introducing a new tracked IFV (Infantry Fighting Vehicle), the K21, only three years ago, it is now looking to buy some wheeled IFVs (like the U.S. Stryker) for peacekeeping and internal security duties (as in North Korea, eventually). There are already some domestic designs available (developed for export markets) and most follow the usual convention and have a remotely controlled gun. But one model, the 18 ton, 8x8 Black Fox has been modified to carry the turret from the K21. This, in effect, creates a wheeled armored vehicle carrying light artillery (a 40mm autoloading cannon). This weapon fires up to 300 rounds per minute at speeds of 1,000 meters per second (3,100 fps). The anti-tank round can penetrate up to 220mm of armor. The 40mm can also fire a multipurpose shell, where the gunner can select proximity (exploding close to a target), air burst (exploding above the ground), as well as armor-piercing or fragmentation effect.

The Black Fox is being built in the hopes of snagging domestic or foreign sales. The Black Fox has a crew of three and carries nine passengers.

The K21 IFV (Infantry Fighting Vehicle) is a 26 ton vehicle, similar to the 33 ton U.S. M-2. The K-21 has a crew of three and carries nine infantry in the back. The two man turret carries a 40mm autocannon with 200 rounds, as well as two ATGM (Anti-Tank Guided Missile) launchers and a coaxial (with the 40mm) 7.62mm machine-gun. Top speed is 70 kilometers an hour.

The big difference between the K21 and M-2 is weight and that is mainly because the chassis of the K-21 is made of fiberglass. This material is as strong as metal but much lighter. Armor protection of the two vehicles is equal. The K21 armor can stop 14.5mm bullets and most artillery fragments (it is vulnerable to 152mm shells exploding closer than 10 meters but at that distance the blast effect alone would do serious damage).

Like the M-2 the K21 carries an extensive load of electronics, for fire control, navigation, and diagnostics. The K21 designers learned from other recent IFV designs and attempted to improve on their best characteristics. The K21 costs less than $3 million each. But the K21 is not expected to have much more protection from roadside bombs than the M-2. This may prove to be an intractable problem, given that the MRAP gets its protection from its V shaped underside, specific design elements that cannot be incorporated in a vehicle like the K21.

 


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