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South Korea’s Hyundai Rotem has taken the opportunity of MSPO 2020 to unveil its vision of how a Polish version of the K2 BLACK Panther tank might look.

Warsaw is currently seeking to replace the ageing T-72MI and PT-91 TWARDYs in its tank fleet with an unspecified number of next-generation vehicles under the project name WILK (WOLF). These tanks cannot compete with likely adversaries any longer, including Russia’s T-72B3. The programme remains a high priority on the list of Poland’s modernization efforts, but no binding decisions have yet been made.

The K2 debuted at MSPO in 2018, when it was presented in conjunction with Poznań-based H Cegielski. This year, Hyundai Rotem showcased a scale model of a possible Polish variant. The most important difference between a standard K2 and a Polish version (designated K2PL), based on general requirements and aspirations issued to potential suppliers by Warsaw, include enhanced side armour. According to Polish experts and military decision-makers, the biggest weakness of the standard version was poor ballistic protection on the sides. To cope with this problem, Hyundai Rotem has increased the armour on both chassis and turret. In order to cope with the additional weight (the tank now runs 60t rather than 55), an additional running wheel has been added.

The proposal now incorporates an active protection system. A South Korean variant seen at MSPO 2020 features a soft-kill solution the K2PL has a hard-kill system, although final configuration would depend on customer requirements. Moreover, the Polish K2 could be enhanced with reactive (ERA) armour. Both variants feature a 120mm smoothbore cannon with autoloader.

Hyundai Rotem sees itself not merely as a system provider but rather as a long-term strategic partner, willing to satisfy Polish needs and cooperate with the local defense industry through the process of ‘Polonization’ and technology transfer. The company’s representative at MSPO 2020 divided potential cooperation into three main phases: in the first, of approximately three years, Polish industry would be involved in preparing the required modifications stemming from the nation’s as yet unconfirmed needs; the second phase would involve initial production in South Korea; while in the third phase, Polish companies would become responsible for manufacturing the K2PLs.

The company confirmed that it sees any contract with Poland as an opportunity to attract other customers in Central-Eastern Europe, especially the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Robert Czulda in Kielce for MON

Hyundai Rotem showed a scale model of an interesting but currently hypothetical Polish variant of its K2 BLACK PANTHER MBT. (Photo via author)

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