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Kim Jong Un’s New Tank – Is It the World’s Most Powerful?

Kim Jong Un, the Chairman of the National Defense Commission and General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of North Korea, attempted military drills targeting South Korea five times in March alone.

These actions seem to respond to the joint U.S.-South Korea military exercise conducted from the 4th to the 14th of the month. North Korea announced the development of new weapons through military parades and arms exhibitions, which appeared to be propaganda to show off their power and strengthen internal unity.

On the 6th, North Korea conducted a training exercise at a major Western operational training base, targeting a South Korean military observation post at the front line. On the 7th, they practiced the capital area bombing through a joint artillery firing drill. On the 13th, they simulated the capture of Seoul via a tank unit drill. On the 15th, they simulated infiltrating the rear of South Korea through an airborne landing troop drill. The launch of a super-large artillery shell on the 18th was interpreted as an attempt to collapse Seoul and the military structure.

The military drills conducted earlier appear to be training with steps aimed at breaking through the defense lines of South Korean forces near the ceasefire line in the event of a war on the Korean Peninsula.

This includes the tank unit capturing the capital area and the airborne troops infiltrating the rear of South Korea, causing chaos and anxiety and destroying major facilities in Seoul with missiles.

At the Workers’ Party meeting last year, Kim Jong Un stated, “We will accelerate preparations for a major transformation to conquer the entire territory of South Korea.” This appears to be a step-by-step training to increase the level of readiness for this purpose.

The plan is to gradually reveal each weapon, not only nuclear weapons but also traditional forces such as artillery and tanks, to show that they can overwhelm South Korea.

In particular, North Korea unveiled a new tank during the “Tank Unit Competition” on the 13th. Kim Jong Un himself rode the new tank, attracting attention. The Rodong Sinmun reported that Kim expressed satisfaction with the new main battle tank, stating that it excellently demonstrated its striking power and maneuverability and that it was great pride that our army was equipped with the most powerful tank in the world.

The “new main battle tank” that Kim Jong Un is proud of is a tank that was first revealed at the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party in October 2020. South Korean military experts speculate that the new tank unveiled by North Korea is a decorative weapon.

Although Kim Jong Un revealed his personal test drive of the “most powerful tank” and boasted about it, multiple defects were exposed in his promotion of it.

The new tank was found to be lower in height and longer in body compared to North Korea’s existing tanks. Its main gun is a 125mm smoothbore gun, the largest caliber among those possessed by the North Korean military. It is speculated to be a copy of the Russian 2A 46 or the illegally duplicated Chinese ZPT-98.

The Russian smoothbore gun has a larger caliber than Western smoothbore guns, but its structural limitations significantly reduce its power. The 120mm smoothbore guns of Western countries and South Korea are integrated with the warhead and propellant, with a long penetrator wrapped by a husk filled with a propelling charge, allowing the penetrator to be as long as 1 meter.

However, the Russian 125mm smoothbore gun is made separately from the warhead and propellant, limiting the propellant chamber’s size and the penetrator’s length.

To overcome these limitations, increasing the velocity energy by firing the shell as fast as possible with a powerful propellant requires a high level of gun barrel processing technology. Without this technology, the gun barrel itself becomes weak. It cannot withstand the explosive energy of the propellant, leading to a situation where the main gun explodes.

Currently, the only countries that have the technological capability that North Korea needs are South Korea, the United States, Germany, France, Russia, and China, which are enemies of North Korea. Therefore, it is concluded that the main gun of the North Korean tank, which uses separate loading ammunition, cannot achieve a high muzzle velocity due to poor gun barrel processing technology.

Experts believe it would be difficult to destroy even the K1 tank, released quite a while ago, let alone the South Korean K2 tank, with such a main gun. The fact that they have attached a “Bulsae” anti-tank missile launcher, which was captured from the side of the tank, is also proof that the North Korean side knows that the offensive power of the main gun is poor.

Along with the offensive power, it is also likely that the defensive power is a mess. It is known that North Korea’s new tank, the M-2020, is equipped with an Active Protection System (APS) made by referring to the Drozd developed and discarded by the Soviet Union.

APS is a technology that intercepts missiles and shells flying towards the tank. APS usually installs a small interceptor launcher on the top of the turret. Still, the North Korean military has inserted it into a separate space created between the main armor plate of the turret’s front and side. As a result, it is speculated that the defensive power will naturally decrease because the interceptor launcher is installed in a space where thick armor plates should be.

North Korea also seems aware of this situation, as it appeared with explosive reactive armor blocks attached all over the front and sides of the turret, which were not there when they were first revealed.

Experts have identified the biggest problem with North Korea’s new tank as its poor offensive and defensive capabilities.

However, countless risks remain in North Korea’s new tank. One is the possibility of facing fuel shortages in actual combat due to economic difficulties and economic sanctions. It is speculated that North Korea, currently facing economic difficulties and economic sanctions, will have difficulty securing fuel.

In the case of South Korea and the United States, if a full-scale war breaks out with North Korea, it is predicted that North Korean military equipment will operate limitedly due to the destruction of fuel storage facilities by South Korean and American attacks.

According to experts’ analysis, the “most powerful tank in the world” that Kim Jong Un talks about seems to be nowhere to be found. The M-2020, made hastily by copying other countries’ combat weapons, should be called the “most struggling tank in the world.”

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