The Hanwha K21-105 Medium Tank Option for the Philippine Army

The South Koreans through the years forged a deal with the Philippine government especially the Department of National Defense through the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) regarding the sale of military technology that may help boost the overall capability and effectiveness of the AFP in conducting its mandated duties and responsibilities that involves protecting the nation from both domestic and foreign threats.

And with that comes the latest pitch from one of its Defense Industries which was also the supplier for some of the notable projects that have undertaken such as the Naval Shield ICMS fitted onboard the Jose Rizal-class Frigates for the Philippine Navy and the Amphibious Assault Vehicle procurement project in which this company supplanted the Marine Corps' need of obtaining 8 AAVs for its functions such as amphibious assault operations.

This is South Korea's bet for the Philippine Army's Light Tank
Acquisition Project.
Image Source.
The Philippine Army is still in the process of choosing its own assets as part of its procurement that seeks both tracked and wheeled tanks under the Light Tank Acquisition Project of the service branch that seeks more firepower that is needed to conduct its duty as the result of the recent urban combat that took place in the ravaged city of Marawi.

It is worth notable that we discussed last time about the ASCOD 2 MMBT wherein its advantages over other competitors such as this one over technicalities and subcomponents were provided detail-by-detail as well as its development and usage among its users as it satisfied the requirements taken for active users as required for the procurement of military hardware for the Philippine Armed Forces.

Also along with the ASCOD 2 MMBT discussed, we provided some brief details regarding another competitor which is also being pushed for the Light Tank Acquisition Project which is the Turkish-Indonesian Kaplan/Harimau Hitam MT which in itself is still in the development stage which that caused its ineligibility over the prerequisites that the Armed Forces of the Philippines seek in its Modernization-related procurement projects that require at least one user from the country of origin or two export countries actively operating such type of tank based from a proven design.

While these two aforementioned candidates are somewhat known and currently being discussed across the online defense communities in the Philippines, let there be known that there is also another candidate for the Light Tank Acquisition Project which came from South Korea and is produced by a company that already has a record in transacting defense-related material with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, in which several of these assets are already in service within the organization wherein it starts to prove its own worth.

This light tank option is worth discussing as the other candidates provide the details about the matrix of the competition regarding this project. Moreover, it gives us the idea regarding its technicalities and other details, given if this asset is chosen as the preferred platform for the Philippine Army instead of the two aforementioned candidates with ASCOD MMBT being the preferred one. 

This K21-105mm was exhibited by its developer which is
Doosan DST in partnership with Belgian CMI Defense.
Image Source.
Before proceeding to the details about the making of this Made in Korea light/medium tank, let us provide you some important details regarding Hanwha Systems through this link about a vital warship subcomponent which is the Naval Shield ICMS for the Jose Rizal-class Frigates here -

Knowing the Hanwha Naval Shield Integrated Combat Management System, PDA
(dated November 10, 2017)

While the discussion of the Hanwha has provided in another article on this website, it is worth taking note that before the present production and sale of the K21-105 under the current company notable today in many deals with the Department of National Defense ranging from KAAV-7A1s to the Naval Shield ICMS, that responsibility was once taken by another company in the form of Doosan Heavy Industry's once Defense subsidiary, Doosan DST.

Doosan DST (Defense and Systems Technology) was founded in 1973 wherein it helps its home country of South Korea in the effort in providing a stepping stone in improving their local defense industry which may help propel the growth of this sector in the country for the years to come, producing its own array of defense weaponry to its home country that may come handy in case of full-scale combat with its renegade neighbor which at one point attempted to reunite the country in the 1950s under communist rule in combat better known as the Korean War.

Four and a half centuries later, Hanwha Systems acquire the majority shares of Doosan's Defense subsidiary like the company's acquisition of Samsung Techwin from another South Korean company of the same name that produces consumer tech that is known today such as in the production of smartphones, cementing the company's foothold to the South Korean defense industry in which they able to bag deals with the Defense Department later on.

Aside from the K21 family of vehicles (including the K21-105 medium tank), Doosan DST's product line also includes KMLRS which is also known as the K-239 Chunmoo that may replace the K-136 Kooryong MLRS in the South Korean Armed Forces inventory (with several may find its way to the Armed Forces of the Philippines), The K-VLS which stands to Korean Vertical Launching System where it is intended for combat warships such as Corvettes and Frigates to have (chances are the Philippine Navy may have them since Hyundai Heavy Industries are fond of South Korean-made navy subcomponents), and 30mm Hybrid Biho which is an anti-air defense system.

The K21-105 Medium Tank is based on this
Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle which is the K-21. 
Courtesy to Wikimedia Commons.
The K21-105's development has an interesting story that comes parallel to another candidate for the Philippine Army's Light Tank Acquisition Project - tracked light tank category wherein both of these assets have originated from a variant that is purposed as protected and armed troop carrier capable of being deployed in combat.

This parallelism points to the K21-105's base design which is the K21 Infantry Fighting Vehicle which is seen similarly in the Spanish-Austrian ASCOD Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle where it serves as Pizarro in the Spanish Armed Forces and Ulan in the Austrian series while having a light tank version which is the ASCOD 2 MMBT. More details about this platform were provided in our previous article posted here.

Meant to replace the Korean Infantry Fighting Vehicle or KIFV which is a Korean derivative of the U.S. YPR-765 or more known as the Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle that derives itself from M-113 Armored Personnel Carrier that the Philippine Army obtains in huge number, the development for the K-21 Infantry Fighting Vehicle started in the year 1999 as the whole world at that time were about to witness the dawn of the 21st century.

It took a decade for this platform to be tested, evaluated, conducted under assessment and other quality-related measurements provided to determine and understand the enhancements being made on this platform, discovering some flaws that needed to be patched and other things which may help the developers improve this product to satisfy its respective end-user such as the South Korean Armed Forces which is the primary customer of then-Doosan DST and now Hanwha Systems for these products of such an Infantry-Fighting Vehicle.

The idea for a K21-105 Medium Tank came in 2013 when the Belgian-South Korean partnership built a prototype of the original K-21 IFV platform which is fitted with an XC-8 gun turret which was developed by CMI Defense - Cockerill in which such a weapons mount may come with either a 105mm gun or a larger 120mm gun, a thing that goes similar with Leonardo HITFACT's weapons fit onboard the ASCOD 2 MMBT.

Currently, the K-21 Infantry Fighting Vehicle is in active service within the South Korean Army and there are still no export users that are utilizing such type of platform for their own use, which is something that may worth considering that the Philippines is seen as their first export market for these light tanks (or medium tanks varying on categorization) in which they are competing with other candidates such as the Turkish-Indonesian KAPLAN (Harimau Hitam) Medium Tank and GDELS (Austrian-Spanish) ASCOD 2 MMBT for tracked light tank portion of the larger acquisition project that also comes with Tank Destroyer/Fire Support Vehicles.

With their desire of getting an export market for these units, let us discuss things regarding its specifications wherein there is one subcomponent that does similarly go with the Harimau Hitam's weapons fit which is currently not being preferred within the service branch as it involves a certain country's restrictive arms sales which have covered at some point in this blog website.

THE IN-DETAIL SPECIFICATIONS of the K-21 platform before the K21-105 development.

With several variants at hand ranging from the original Infantry Fighting Vehicle design of the K-21 down to the recent K21-105 Medium Tank iteration, it is nice to delve further down to the details regarding this platform to give us an idea regarding its capability as well as to give insights about its subcomponents that influences a factor in the Philippine Army's decision in choosing a tracked light tank.

K-21 Infantry Fighting Vehicle
Here are the vehicle's specifications. Image Source.
As of 2016 (which was two years ago before this article published), there are at least 400 K-21 Infantry Fighting Vehicles in service within the Republic of Korean Army wherein it will be not much of a surprise if the such number of units may continue to rack up as orders for the production of such units in line to the requirements within the home country's Armed Forces.

In parallel to the Spanish approach of replacing their old M-113s with the newer ASCOD variant which is named the Pizarro, the South Koreans see this as a Modernization process within their Armed Forces as the K-21s are replacing its KIFV where they only not improve their older platforms with newer ones with incorporated technology installed, but also continuing the boost needed for the South Korean Defense Industries to have so as they produce their manufactured defense technologies in the aspiration that it may get exported later on.

Having these platforms in the South Korean Army service serves as complementary to other Armored Vehicles that they employ such as the Indigenously-produced K-1 Main Battle Tank by Hyundai Rotem (sister company of the Hyundai Heavy Industries who developed and produced the Jose Rizal-class Frigates for the Philippine Navy) which are in current service within the Republic of Korea Armed Forces with its design patterned after the United States - General Dynamics-developed M-1 Abrams Main Battle Tank.

Their efforts of modernizing their Infantry Fighting Vehicle fleet dwarfed the efforts of the Philippine Army's process of fitting its M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers with upgraded gun mounts obtained from Israel, although both do satisfy the respective country's military requirements with regards to obtaining these platforms especially with the Philippine Army's case of having it augmented with a light tank in which the K21-105 is a candidate for the acquisition.

K-21 Tank Prototype with XC-8 Turret
This vehicle was a prototype and a prelude to
the present K21-105 medium tank.
Image Source.
Showcased in Abu Dhabi's 2013 IDEX or International Defense Exhibition, The Doosan DST-CMI Defense joint partnership showcased this prototype that is known as the K-21 XC-8 fitted armored vehicle which may go considered as the predecessor to the recently-pitched K21-105 Medium Tank.

As we can see in the detailed specifications, it is known that details are lacking especially the information about machine guns, elevation, and ammunition load, although the first two details were provided later to the K21-105 Medium Tank given that this is more of a prototype in nature and may go less in terms of putting it into production and eventually sell it either within the Republic of Korea Armed Forces or for export use.

The partnership distribution on the development of this prototype comes with Doosan DST providing the chassis platform or the armored vehicle portion of the whole unit whilst CMI Defense provided its Cockerill XC-8 gun mount that may go configured into either 105mm main gun or a larger 120mm main gun which goes correlation to Leonardo's 105/120mm gun mount option over the ASCOD MMBT.

It retains its weight at 25 tons whilst there is a slight change over its dimensions where it signifies that these are the only changes along with the gun mount wherein its armor composition may go with different materials used such as fiberglass/aluminum composite, although there are no other details that my go supplant it up given that, it was only a prototype when it was provided. 
Nevertheless, this weapons setup provides that inspiration to the joint partnership to develop a medium tank based on this platform which is the K21-105 Medium Tank which is seen as a competitor for the Kaplan MT and ASCOD MMBT for the Philippine Army's tracked light tank category of the larger Light Tank Acquisition Project that also calls for the procurement of wheeled tanks or also can be called as either a Tank Destroyer or a Fire Support Vehicle.

The specifications provided for the Light/Medium Tank
which is a variant of the K-21.
Image Source.
As compared to the first light prototype of the K-21 IFV fitted with an XC-8 gun turret, the K21-105 Light/Medium Tank comes with CT-CV 105HP two-man turret which is essentially a high-pressure 105mm gun fitted onboard the armored vehicle which is what the Philippine Army seeks in their requirements especially the ones about its gun mount.

Surprisingly for this gun mount, the Excalibur Army/General Dynamics European Land Systems (GDELS) Pandur II 8x8 may also be fitted by such a gun mount such as the CT-CV 105HP gun turret from CMI Defense as an option aside from the discussed Leonardo HITFACT gun that also comes with the similar 105mm gun mount for choosing which the supplier may do the weapons setup offer that may do the enticing to prospective customers such as the Philippine Army.

The armor dimensions of the K21-105 are slightly longer than the K-21 IFV it derived upon while retaining its width as well as it obtains the same weight of around 25 tons in which it is lighter than its competitor for the tracked light tank project which is the ASCOD MMBT (check the specs portion of this article for you to see), yet having a lesser power-generating engine as it obtains a 750hp diesel engine onboard the vehicle compared to ASCOD MMBT's 850hp MTU V8 199 T21 diesel engine, where one may see the correlation of the power output to the weight such an armored vehicle obtains wherein it factors out the maneuverability of such a vehicle in combat as respect to its armor and other factors that have contributed to its weight.

Given that this was made by Hanwha System which is the manufacturer of Naval Shield ICMS for the Philippine Navy's Jose Rizal-class Frigates and the Korean-made Amphibious Assault Vehicles (KAAV-7) to the Philippine Marine Corps, it seems to be that with the experience that the company has in transactions with the Philippine Armed Forces that this may go easy with regards on having this as a procurement option for the Philippine Army to have.

However, there are factors with regards to its consideration wherein one of the partners is belonging to a country whose jurisdiction comes with the rationale of implementing restrictive arms exports against a country whenever they see fit, making this option less favorable than it seems to be. Take note that it is the similar problem that the Turkish-Indonesian partnership faces in offering their product for the Philippine Army which in itself competing with ASCOD MMBT and on the topic of this discussion which is the Hanwha K21-105 Medium Tank.

This is one of CMI Defense's Products which is the Cockerill 3105 MPF.
Image Source.
Before proceeding, we may suggest this article we wrote in April of 2018 entitled "Military Hardware Sales vs. Imposed and Planned Arms Restrictions wherein it discussed some significant details that correlate to this topic which provided some overview over the Belgian arms restrictions especially the ones implemented by the local Walloon Regional Government.

To understand this further, it is worthy to have an idea with regards to the specific base of operations that the CMI Defense is situated in the Belgian city of Liege which is situated in the province of Wallonia - a portion of Belgium that primarily consists of French-speaking population that composes the south of the country as opposed to the Northern Part which is known as the Flemish Region or Flanders that is consisting of Dutch-speaking communities.

While such arms restrictions are limited to one Belgian province, it means that it does not cover the rest of the country nor covered by their national government concerning this matter. However, this poses the problem about the offer made by Hanwha through this K21-105 Medium Tank as well as the Turkish-Indonesian partnership over the Harimau Hitam (Kaplan MT) tank wherein as discussed across the community, both are equipped with CMI/Cockerill-made gun turrets that are covered by such an arms restriction.

Nevertheless, if Hanwha wants to take the deal for this project, it may go at best on their part to take the risk of getting another variant of the gun turret fitted on the prospective product they push in the project which goes different from their usual Cockerill-based built shall they want to pursue it up whilst getting the chance of getting the possibility in bagging the project.

On that note, such weapons fit may go to the rationale that there may be revisions made on their product in a manner that it differentiates itself from the usual fit whilst getting an idea of putting different sets of gun mounts on a similar platform which comes reminiscent to the Israeli's expertise especially on Elbit's reputation of helping the Philippine Army fitting its M-113 with sophisticated remote-controlled weapons systems. 

This is doable although at the discretion of the supplier to make their offer much enticing given the external factors that have influenced their perspective requirements for such light or medium tank.


The K21-105 Medium Tank candidate of the Philippine Army's tracked light tank component of its Light Tank Acquisition Project is something that the people in Hanwha hopes to push as part of their overall marketing plans in getting a larger chunk over the country's market for military hardware as they already have provided the Philippine Navy and its Marine Corps sub-branch with their necessities ranging from warship subcomponents to Amphibious Assault Vehicles provided and now utilized in full active service.

Nevertheless, the risk of disqualification for this light/medium tank in this category is possible given its weapons composition originating from a country that is currently in an active position in terms of implementing strict arms exports especially against the Philippines wherein a Belgian province fully imposes an arms embargo for the so-called Human Rights issues which hampers the deal that the South Korean Defense company provides for this deal.

From that, it seems that the ball is now preferring to the General Dynamics European Land Systems' ASCOD 2 MMBT wherein it is the only candidate that comes with a different weapons fit in a form of Leonardo's HITFACT gun that may come in both 105mm and 120mm compositions that render this tank at a less advantageous position. However, while it is known that the ASCOD MMBT is in itself a preferred candidate that satisfies the necessities of the Philippine Army on its project, the executive administration is showing pressure to reconsider the other candidates such as the K21-105 Light/Medium Tank and the Kaplan/Harimau Hitam MT for this project.

From here, it will be interesting to see with regards to the extent of the materialization of this acquisition project as well as the idea so as whether the Technical Working Group of the Philippine Army sticks to the ASCOD MMBT bet which has satisfied its requirements or on other candidates such as the offer provided by Hanwha where there may be still chances shall there be ways provided that may overcome the problem regarding the Belgian-made Cockerill-produced gun turrets.

This only shows the ideal interest of the Philippine Army's one of its acquisition projects with several more having its own interesting story that talks of its capability that it will deliver upon the consideration of having this array of platforms included to this land-based military branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on the premise that it satisfies the requirements they seek on the platform in line to the established doctrines and organization before the procurement option.

These in which are in line with the Philippine Army's Transformation Roadmap 2028 that aspires to have a World-class Armed Forces by that year which it comes with hopes, dreams, and aspirations that the country is already obtaining an Armed Forces that is capable to employ minimum credible defense posture that serves as a deterrent against any adversary that has the intention to put harm on the country's sovereignty and safety of its citizenry wherein such an action against the whole nation will be coming at a heavy loss that is so costly that it gets unbearable to consider.


Unknown said...

The Army knows best being the end user. They should get whatever want.

Anonymous said...

How about an upgraded Marder IFV similar to what Argentina has, the TAM?

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