Armor: Black Fox Outsmarts The Competition

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April 25, 2016: In 2009 South Korean troops began receiving a new tracked IFV (Infantry Fighting Vehicle), the K21. It was hoped this would be a big export item, that didn’t happen. The K21 was cheaper (at $3.5 million) than the competition (the American M2 and European CV90.) Undeterred South Korean manufacturers took another look at what potential customers wanted. This is the attitude that made South Korea such a huge success in automobiles, consumer electronics and much else. South Korea has been developing a domestic weapons industry since the 1990s with the intention of meeting their own needs and gaining a lot of export sales. South Korea found the arms export market different, difficult but not impossible, to get into. Progress has been slow and manufacturers have had to adapt. For example the K21 manufacturer found that the market wanted even cheaper, and less capable (as in “complex”) IFVs. The K21 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 M2 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 $4 million each. But the K21 is not expected to have much more protection from roadside bombs than the M2. 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.

In response to the lack of export sales the K21 manufacturer (Doosan) realized that it also made cheaper IFVs which it exported for peacekeeping and internal security duties. These were doing quite well in the export market. One Doosan model, the 18 ton, 8x8 Black Fox was even 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 has a crew of three and carries nine passengers. Fox was built in the hopes of snagging domestic or foreign sales and it, and similar Doosan wheeled armored vehicles, have done just that. But Doosan found that cheaper was always an easier sell so vehicles like Black Fox also come in cheaper (and lighter) 6x6 versions.

 


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