R.O.K. Army K2 "Black Panther"
The development of the modern South Korean counterpart to the American M1 Abrams, French LeClerc, and German Leopard II began in 1995 as an effort to replace the existing tanks in the R.O.K. Army's inventory and to better enable the country to defend itself. The statistics on this impressive vehicle are as follows:
- In service: 2014-present
- Manufacturer: Hyundai Rotem
- Weight: 55 tons
- Crew: 3 (commander, gunner, driver)
- Armor: classified type of composite armor with ERA and NERA modular add-on armor.
- Main Armament: L55 120 mm smooth bore gun
- Secondary Armament: 1 x 12.7 mm heavy machine gun and 1 x 7.62 coaxial machine gun
- Engine: 4 cycle, 12-cylinder water-cooled diesel - 1,500 hp
- Speed: Paved road: 43 mph, Cross country: 31 mph
That the K2 requires only a 3 man crew is due to the fact that it is equipped with an auto-loader designed for the French LeClerc tank. The tank can fire 10 rounds a minute and the ammunition for the main gun is loaded in a 16-shell magazine. However, the K2 has an ammunition capacity of only 40 rounds.
The Fire-control, optics, and munitions features are similar to those used in U.S. and European tanks. Other state of the art systems are designed for protection and survivability. First, the hull incorporates multi-layered protection, with a welded hardened steel core, covered by modules of composite armour, which of course are classified. The latter is Non-explosive reactive armor, also included on the turret front. Tests show that the frontal armor could withstand hits from the 120 mm round fired from an L55 gun. Second, a millimeter band radar system is installed, providing the Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS). It is a three dimensional detection and tracking radar and a thermal imager to detect incoming threats. It incorporates sensors to send data to the computer so that it can track and triangulate incoming missiles and enable automatic release of Visual and infrared screening smoke grenades to block the respective signatures. Currently under development, the Korean Active Protection System (KAPS) eventually will be able to fire a defensive rocket to destroy incoming missiles 10-15 meters away. Third, the K2 fields an advanced suspension system. The system allows the K2 to "sit", "stand", "kneel", and "lean" for better handling over roads, rough terrain, or getting into a hull down defensive position, depending on the situation.
What's in the Box
Surprisingly, this large box includes only six dark yellow sprues containing individual parts for the model in addition to two turret halves (top and bottom clam shell) and an upper hull. The gun barrel found on Sprue B sprue includes three parts which are all slide molded so no halves have to be glued together. I might add that this is a major plus for this kit. Kit tracks are individual links which consist of four parts each plus two end connectors. This will probably present the biggest challenge of building this model. These tracks are workable but no track forming jig is provided. Also included are photo-etch screens for the bustle rack, a colorful set of decals giving several options, and red Polaroid stickers to attach to periscopes which will give them the right color. This is a new feature I have not seen on many kits in the past.
Instructions are divided into Manual 1 and Manual 2, which is another unusual feature. The instructions appear to be well illustrated and clear and are not too complex.
Sprue E (X 2)
Individual Tracks Sprues (x 11)
Color and Markings Guide
Building the Kit
The instructions in this kit are well illustrated and easy to follow but contain no description of the parts comprising the components of the tank. The builder is left to infer what these components are from references and instructions from other kits. I used some references on the Abrams tank and instructions for several modern vehicles to make educated guesses for the components. I think I got most of them right but, being a new vehicle, the K2 includes some equipment that isn't present on these other tanks. I had to take a stab at it based on references found online for the K2. If you have better information, please let me know.
With that being said, instruction Manual 1 begins, interestingly, with construction of the turret. In Step 1, red polaroid stickers are applied to commander and loader periscopes to represent anti-reflection coating lenses. This is a nice addition and eliminates the necessity to paint the lenses whether clear or non-clear. My question involved masking over the stickers before painting. Would removal of the masks take the stickers with them. Lacking a better method, I cut Tamiya tape to the proper size and covered the stickers. I will discuss the results later. Step 1 continues with installation of the periscope units, assembly and installation of the gun breech, and mating of the top and bottom turret halves. Step 2 includes attachment of the photo-etched screens to the bottom of the bustle rack, installation of side stowage bins, and the rear plate of the turret.
Bustle Rack and Polaroid Stickers
Step 3 continues with installation of the left and rear bustle rack railing, assembly of some jerry cans and installation on the left railing, and attachment of antenna bases to the back of the turret. Step 4 includes construction and attachment of a 5 piece snorkel base. Railing is attached around the base and the assembly fits on the rear right bottom extension of the bustle rack. All railing pieces are molded plastic but fit easily together. The completion of steps 3 and 4 are shown below.
Bustle Rack with Snorkel Housing
Step 5 includes attachment of tow cables but I chose to do this after painting of the tank. Step 6 instructs construction and attachment of smoke grenade launchers to the front of the turret. Step 7 includes construction of the 5 piece gun mantlet and installation of the mantlet to the breech piece added earlier. Also, stowage boxes, explosive reactive armor, and lifting rings are added. Step 8 includes construction of the commander's hatch and periscope cover including the machine gun mount, spare tracks, and side reactive armor.
Commander's Hatch and Reactive Armor (Above Two)
Spare Tracks and Non-slip Surfaces
Step 9 includes construction and installation of the range finder in front of the gunner's hatch and construction of the gunner's hatch itself. The range finder can be posed open or closed and includes polaroid stickers. Also, installed are smoke grenade launchers, the gun sight and, and additional reactive armor on the left side of the turret. All of these parts go together well.
Range Finder, Gunner's Hatch, Side Armor, and Smoke Grenade Launchers
Step 10 continues with construction of the turret. First, you are instructed to assemble the three piece L55 gun barrel. It consists of a slide molded base, gun tube, and muzzle. As stated previously, there is no assembly of gun halves so there is no irritating and time consuming filling seams and sanding. Also shown in this step is building and installment of two four-piece modules on either side of the gun mantlet. There are additional sensor like devices above the smoke grenades. I would suspect that these are all components of the Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS) described in the introduction. Additional parts in this step include antennae on the rear of the turret.
MAWS System with Gun Sight and Coaxial Machinegun
Step 11 concludes construction of the turret. Here, the Commander's Independent Thermal Viewer (CITV), the heavy machine gun, a three pronged antenna, and equipment that is probably an infrared screening smoke grenade launcher are added. The machine gun has a nice hollowed out barrel thus eliminating the necessity of doing it yourself. Step 11
CITV and Commander's Machine Gun
Grenade Launcher and Antennae
Step 12 begins the construction of the lower hull. Here, two bulkheads are attached to the hull bottom and sprocket housings are added to the side sponsons. The bulkheads include pins on the top to locate the engine deck, which will be installed later. In step 13, the side sponsons are attached to the bottom hull using the pins on the sides of the bulkheads for alignment. This is a straightforward assembly with no problems. Step 14 covers construction of the rear hull plate including lights, towing apparatus, and radiator grill. In step 15, this plate is attached to the rear and bottom of the lower hull. Step 16 steps you through construction of the idler arms and attachment of the roadwheel assemblies for the right side of the vehicle. There are six sets of double road wheels and an idler set on each side. Road wheels include a poly cap to facilitate removal for painting. Step 17 and 18 complete the right side suspension with the installation of return rollers, side skirt spacing braces, the sprocket wheel, and some other miscellaneous parts. In the photograph below, I have excluded the roadwheels in order to present a clearer picture of the lower suspension components. Steps 19 to 21 are a repeat of steps 16 to 18 except that they are performed on the left side of the vehicle.
Lower suspension with idler arms and skirt braces.
Rear Hull with lights
Steps 22 to 24 cover detailing of the upper deck of the vehicle. In these steps polaroid sticker are attached to the driver's hatch and periscopes, headlights, engine vents, and reactive armor are glued to various places. There is some nice detail here as shown below but no clear parts are provided for the headlights.
Rear deck with well detailed grill covers
Headlights and Driver's Hatch - Note the No Slip Surfaces
Viewed From in Front
Now I come to the step that I had long been dreading - construction of the individual link tracks. Step 25 details construction of the tracks very clearly. Essentially, each link contains 6 parts - the link itself, two pads for the outer surface that will touch the ground, a guide horn, and two end connectors. There are two ejector pin indentations at the top of each link but these are covered after attachment of the pads and require no filling. There is actually no clean-up of the parts other than sanding the nubs where they have been clipped off the sprues. After clean-up, construction is done by inserting the guidehorns between two links and lining up the holes in the end connectors with the pins on two adjoining links. At first, this may go slowly but the builder can build up speed by attaching several end connectors at one time. Since these are workable tracks, no glue is used in construction which simplifies things considerably. Instructions call for 78 links per side but I was able to accomplish construction with only 75 links.
A Run of Tracks Completed
This is a long and tedious process so take frequent breaks and only do a run of maybe 20 links at a time. As you learn to attach several end connectors at a time, it will go much faster. When fully constructed, the tracks may seem a little stiff and clumsy so take your time in attaching them to the road wheels and sprockets. Finally, in step 25, the hull top is glued to the hull bottom. In total, construction of the tracks involves about 800 pieces.
Steps 26 to 28 cover the construction and attachment of the side skirts. You can do two versions of the tank here - one with side skirts only and one with side skirts and reactive armor. The reactive armor is comprised of three units for each side. There are plenty of attachment points for the side skirts - several on the side of the fenders and several with the braces installed earlier. The final step (29) involves lining up the tabs on the bottom of the turret with the openings on the turret ring and twisting the turret on.
Painting and Weathering
Modern South Korean tanks are painted in a camouflage pattern similar to the MERDC Winter Europe scheme used in U.S. tanks in the late 70s and 80s. The predominant colors are forest green and field drab with bands of sand and black on the vertical surfaces and only black on horizontal surfaces. I did my camouflage with Tamiya brand paints for the green and brown and Vallejo for the sand and black. The field drab is an orange brown color that is mixed from Tamiya Dark Earth and Flat Yellow with a drop or two of orange added.
The correct pattern is difficult to duplicate completely but I did my best by using Silly Putty to mask off the camo patterns. First, I applied the field drab to the whole model, then masked off what I wanted to remain brown before I applied the green. The black and sand were applied with paint brushes or Sharpie pens. I didn't over-weather but covered much of the lower hull and skirts with Liquitex ceramic stucco texture gel to similate dried mud. Brown and buff paint was then applied lightly with an airbrush.
Pros: The subject matter is particularly timely but we hope this vehicle will not go into action any time soon. As said before, this kit has a lot of attractive features such as a relatively low parts count, workable individual tracks, polaroid stickers provided for periscopes and other clear parts, a slide molded barrel, drilled out barrels on the machine guns, and clear instructions. There are no problems with fit and alignment and the tracks assemble nicely. Even though marking used are sparse, a decal sheet includes a lot of decals that won't be used.
Cons: The main concern is the complexity of building the tracks. The instructions give you good guidance on how to approach this but until I built a few links, I found this a bit daunting. Construction includes two pads to go on one side of each link plus a center guide. End pieces can be attached several at a time if they are left on a section of the sprue sprues. Aside from the bustle rack screens, there are no other photo-etch detail parts but this could be as much of an advantage as a drawback depending on your preference. Strings are provided for the cables so you might decide to use an after market set for this. A couple of figures to put in the hatches might also have been nice.
Highly Recommended for Intermediate to Advanced builders.
Thanks goes out to Model Rectifier Corp for this review kit.
Reviewed by Alex ValzValz
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