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Rules tweaked to equip K2 tanks with controversial domestic part

Hyundai Rotem’s K2 tank (Hyundai Rotem)
Hyundai Rotem’s K2 tank (Hyundai Rotem)

Controversy is brewing over the South Korean military’s decision to alter rules in relation to key parts for K2 tanks that had failed previous test numerous times.

According to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration on Thursday, it will run another test on a tank transmission system built by a domestic company S&T Dynamics based on revised terms. The system failed performance tests six times in 2014.

DAPA’s change of test rules is seen as an attempt to materialize the goal for the third batch of K2 tanks manufactured by Hyundai Rotem to be made 100 percent of Korean parts.

For the first batch of 100 K2 tanks and the second batch of 106 K2 tanks, Hyundai Rotem, the rolling stock and arms manufacturing unit of Hyundai Motor Group, signed a contract with S&T Dynamics to supply the tank transmission system. However, S&T failed to deliver a proper system for both batches, forcing Hyundai Rotem to opt for a German transmission system for all 206 tanks.

“To make the third batch of K2 tanks 100 percent with Korean parts, we will run additional tests on S&T’s transmission system. Though we changed the way we run the test, the threshold stays the same. The transmission system is required to run 320 hours or 9,600 kilometers without any defects,” a DAPA official said.

According to DAPA’s changed rules, a defect refers to a case when a basic function (shifting, steering, braking) of the transmission is lost or when the test can no longer continue due to a “serious” drop in performance.

Simply put, test results depend entirely on how military interprets the term “serious.”

“If S&T Dynamics’ transmission system fails upcoming tests because of a loose bolt, for instance, it’s not counted as a serious defect,” the DAPA official said.

A S&T Dynamics transmission system stopped running at 237 hours in the previous tests.

S&T Dynamics is the only Korean company that can make a tank transmission system.

For DAPA’s lenient test rules, Hyundai Rotem, which actually has to make the K2 tanks, said it has no choice but to fall in line.

“If DAPA chooses S&T’s transmission system, Hydunai Rotem will do as DAPA says,” a Hyundai Rotem official said.

By Kim Byung-wook (