In zoology, a Black Panther is either a leopard (Panthera pardus) or a jaguar (Panthera orca).
It has a distinctive black-colored-fur is the result of rare mutation, called melanism.
That increases the pigmentation of the dark color in the skin or hair.
In military terms, the term is synonymous with South Korea’s homegrown main battle tank, the K2 Black Panther.
K2 Black Panther Early History and Specifications
According to Military Today, “The K2 Black Panther main battle tank evolved from the XK2 programme. This next-generation MBT was developed in South Korea using indigenous technology only. Its development began in 1995. First prototype was revealed in 2007. Since then this tank was trialed and evaluated. Production contract for the first 100 K2 tanks was signed in 2014. In 2016 a first batch of 100 tanks was reportedly delivered and additional tanks were being built.”
That reliance on completely indigenous technology sets the tank apart from the K1 series of MBTs, which were based on the American M1 Abrams.
The K2 weighs in at 55 tons, with a hull length of 7.5 meters, an overall length of 10.8 meters, a height of 2.4 meters, and a width of 3.6 meters. Armament consists of a Hyundai WIA CN08 120mm smoothbore main gun, backed up by the “Ma Deuce” Browning M2 .50 caliber machine gun and a 7.62x51mm NATO coaxial machine gun. The three-person crew (commander, gunner and driver) can traverse paved roads in their beloved beast at a max speed of 70 km/h, and they can offroad at 50 km/h.
The K2 hasn’t been tested in combat yet, since the 1953 armistice that paused the Korean War has held for most the most part (not counting periodic incursions by DPRK commandos here and there).
Nonetheless, it has already left an impression among many experts who believe it is one of the most advanced main battle tanks in the world.
The Black Panther is certainly the most expensive MBT to date, overtaking the Japanese Type 90 MBT in that regard.
The K2 has left a sufficiently positive impression that it’s earned export customers in Turkey — beating out the French Leclerc and German Leopard 2 — and in Poland. Warsaw made a deal least year to acquire 980 Black Panthers, the first of which have already been delivered.
One of the major selling points for this mechanical Panther is its survivability.
With its combination of modular composite armor and Explosive Reactive Armor blocks, the frontal glacis can reportedly withstand direct hits from 120mm tank rounds.
Moreover, as my colleague Harrison Kass points out, the K2 has a snorkel system that can take in 500 gallons of water, helping the tank sink down and maintain traction on the muddy river bottom while the turret stays watertight.
Comparison to North Korean Tanks?
To put it bluntly, North Korea has nothing that compares to the K2. To quote Military Today again, “Currently the K2 is one of the most advanced main battle tanks in the world, outclassing anything North Korea or China have.”
Arguably the best tank in the so-called Korean People’s Army arsenal is the Pokpung-ho (“Storm Tiger”) IV, which some wags have claimed possesses the “most terrible firepower in the world.”
However, as Kyle Mizokami cleverly retorts, “The addition of weapons generally not seen on other, similar tanks is largely due to the tank’s inherent weaknesses, and doesn’t really translate into increased performance. Mounting two more weak headlights on a car with two weak headlights to begin with doesn’t make that car the best to drive at night.”
I can see Kyle’s point; after all, the Pokpung-ho contains elements or incorporates technology found in the Soviet-designed T-62 and T-72, and given the rather ignominious performance of these latter two MBTs in the Persian Gulf War and Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, that doesn’t exactly inspire a whole helluva lot of confidence in the so-called “Storm Tiger.”
In short, K2 Black Panther: Kamsa Hamnida (“Thank you very much”)!
Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force Security Forces officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon). Chris holds a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Southern California (USC) and an M.A. in Intelligence Studies (concentration in Terrorism Studies) from American Military University (AMU). He has also been published in The Daily Torch and The Journal of Intelligence and Cyber Security. Last but not least, he is a Companion of the Order of the Naval Order of the United States (NOUS). In his spare time, he enjoys shooting, dining out, cigars, Irish and British pubs, travel, USC Trojans college football, and Washington DC professional sports. If you’d like to pick his brain in-person about his writings, chances are you’ll be able to find him at the Green Turtle Pasadena in Maryland on Friday nights, singing his favorite karaoke tunes.