Unveiled in 2022 at DX Korea, the model of the Next Generation Main Battle Tank, NG-MBT in short, under development by Hyundai Rotem was shown also at ADEX 2023, although not many more details were unveiled
While deliveries if the K2 are continuing and the Republic of Korea ordered a fourth batch of that tank, which might receive some upgrades, Hyundai Rotem is looking at the future with its NG-MBT. One of the key issues is the number of crew members; currently the tank is set for having a two-man crew, all hosed in the hull, in an armoured capsule that should maximise protection. However a debate is open if such a reduced number of personnel would be able to cope with long lasting operations, hence a three-man crew is also being considered, the human factor being key to an optimised exploitation of technological superiority.
The turret will definitely be unmanned and its location, at the rear of the tank, shows that the powerpack is located at the front, further increasing crew protection, a solution adopted long time ago on the Israeli Merkava. According to company sources propulsion might be all electric, based on hydrogen fuel cells, batteries, and two electric motors located at the front driving the sprockets. No power indication were provided, but as the declared target mass is under 55 tonnes, it is safe to say that overall the output should not be lower than that of current MBTs, with the advantage that electric motors ensure maximum torque at all rpms, hence acceleration will be greater, a key factor when changing position after firing. The company aims adopting rubber tracks, which will allow reducing weight and vibration, increasing vetronics reliability and lowering crew fatigue.
The main armament will be a 130 mm high pressure gun; in Europe Rheinmetall has been developing a gun in such calibre for some years, and it adopted it on its Panther MBT unveiled in 2022 at Eurosatory. How much the South Korean company talked to the German one is unknown, Republic of Korea tending to develop in house its systems as shown by the K-NIFV that adopts a 40 mm cased telescopic ammunition cannon similar in concept to the one developed by CTAI in France and the UK. What is sure is that the main gun will have an automatic loader, considering the crew, however no information on the number of ready to fire rounds was provided. Should the 130 mm weapon be developed in Korea, it would be good to at least agree on a common standard for ammunition, allowing multiple source production which in this very moment has become a key issue worldwide.
The model shows what should be an effective thermal sleeve along the main part of the barrel, a solution aiming at reducing the thermal signature, which should be overall considerably lower compared to that of current armoured vehicles, due to the electric propulsion.
How much the vehicle coating will ensure also radar signature reduction was not declared, however as in the protection chain not be seen is the first issue, it is quite probable that such solutions will be among the technology R&D currently underway at Hyundai Rotem and other Korean companies. The forward part of the tracks is protected by a series of tiles that might indicate the adoption of reactive armour, the NG-MBT being fitted with a new generation active protection system of national origin, sensors fitted on the turret being quite probably dedicated to detect and classify incoming threats.
Back to effectors, a remotely controlled weapon station is mounted on the roof in a rear-central position; also with a shape aimed at radar stealthness, it is armed with a 12.7 mm machine gun. On the left of the RCWS we find a missile launcher; according to the company the two missiles installed in a vertical layout will be antitank, and asked about the possible adoption of a dual-use launcher capable to fire also loitering munitions company representatives told EDR On-Line that this option is currently not being considered. A drone jammer is installed n the roof, while at the rear of the turret a take-off and landing system for a rotary wing UAS was visible, the drone providing the tank crew with situational awareness ahead of the vehicle.
It is quite possible that in the coming years the concept will evolve, also according to technology inputs, as the target date for a first prototype is 2030.
Photos by P. Valpolini