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South Korea Unveils Underwater Tank

South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun (center) inspects the new battle tank, XK2, during its unveiling cereomny in Changwon. South Korea unveiled its new battle tank, which it claims is the world's best in terms of operating under water. With three crew on board, the 55-tonne tank has a road speed of more than 70 kph. XK2 will enter mass production in three years and the South Korean army will take delivery in 2011. AFP Image
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) March 2, 2007
South Korea on Friday unveiled what it calls the world's best tank, capable of fording shallow rivers, defending itself against missiles and firing "smart" projectiles. The XK2 Black Panther is a main battle tank of "the highest technical level all over the world," said its developer, the state-run Agency for Defence Development.

Key features include an active defence system against incoming missiles and aircraft, automatic tracking and ammunition loading systems, an active suspension unit and high underwater manoeuvrability.

"We have stolen a march over other developed countries in developing ground weaponry. The Black Panther proves it," agency president Ahn Dong-Mahn told journalists.

Kim Eui-Hwan, the official in charge of the project, said the Black Panther has "more superb capabilities than any other existing tank."

Its armament includes a 120-mm smooth bore main gun which is automatically loaded and capable of firing up to 15 rounds per minute.

A unique system enables it to fire on the move and compensates for errors caused by bumpy terrain. A special suspension unit enables the tank to "sit", "stand" and "kneel," allowing it to fire its main gun downhill.

Another key feature is Korean Smart Top-attack Munition rounds, which have their own guidance and obstacle-avoidance systems to hit hidden targets.

In another claimed world first, the agency said the tank -- using a special snorkel -- can manoeuvre quickly in up to 4.1 metres (13.5 feet) of water and is ready for combat immediately after it surfaces.

With three crew on board, the 55-tonne tank with a 1,500 horsepower engine has a road speed of more than 70 kilometres (44 miles) per hour and cross-country speed of more than 50 kph.

The Black Panther will enter mass production in three years and the army will take delivery of an unknown number in 2011. The price tag is estimated at 8.8 million dollars each and developers will also seek export orders.

The tank has been developed by researchers at ADD and Rotem, a unit of Hyundai Motor, along with defence industry firms.

South Korea's 680,000-strong military, assisted by a 29,500-strong US contingent, faces off against North Korea's 1.1 million-strong armed forces.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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