Category Archives: Tanks & AFV

Hyundai’s 120mm Laser

OK, well maybe not a laser but it sure looks like one! The Republic of Korea Army last week released several images of one of their K1A2 main battle tanks firing its 120mm KM256 smoothbore gun at a firing range.

Designed from Chrysler’s XM1– which later roughly became the M1 Abrams– the Hyundai K1 88-Tank is a beast that was intended to augment, then replace the ROKA’s obsolete M47 and M48 tanks in the 1980s and stand ready to eat North Korean T-62s (usually locally-made Chonma-ho knock-offs) for breakfast. It is perhaps most notably different from the Abrams line in the respect that most of the electronics are domestic (largely Samsung-made) and it uses an efficient German MTU 871 diesel powerpack similar to that used by the Leclerc, Challenger 2, and Leopard 2 MBTs rather than the M1’s thirsty gas turbine.

Updated with the license-built K256 120mm gun, the electronics and commo fit from the K2 Black Panther, and a redesigned armor scheme after 2012, the K1A2 is one of the most advanced and capable MBTs in the world– and they can still eat Nork T-62s, still Pyongyang’s most numerous front-line tank, for breakfast.

105mm Echos in the Russian Kurils

In the windswept and remote northern portion of Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk, currently-Russian owned Paramushir (AKA Paramushiro or Paramushiru) was part of the Japanese Empire from 1875 through 1945. During WWII, the local garrison, formed around the Imperial Japanese Army’s 91st Infantry “Future” Division (with six infantry and two artillery battalions), crisscrossing the island with a maze of coastal artillery positions and fortified bunkers, ready to pull an Iwo Jima on invading American (or Soviet) landing forces. Following the American liberation of the Aleutians in 1943, regular bomber air raids stitched up the island.

When the Russkies arrived in force on 18 August 1945, although the surrender of Imperial Japan was announced by Hirohito three days prior, both sides still wanted to fight for the frozen Kurils, and for two weeks, Soviet troops carried out the final opposed landing operation of the war.

Soviet-era painting depicts the landing of Soviet forces on Kurils, where two inexperienced Russian Naval Infantry divisions learned the same bloody lessons the U.S. Marines had already paid for on Tarawa

In the end, the Russians suffered some 1,500 casualties taking Paramushir and nearby Shumshu– which saw the last Japanese tank combat in history.

Soviet anti-tank teams on Shumshu island during the Kuril landing operation. August 1945. While the Degtyaryov PTRD-41 (shown) and Simonov PTRS-41 14.5x114mm anti-tank rifles were hopelessly obsolete by 1942 on the Eastern Front, they could still penetrate 30mm of steel armor at 500 meters, which was more than enough for Japanese Type 97 Chi-Ha/Shinimoto and Type 95 Ha-Go tanks arrayed against them in the Kuriles which boasted 25mm and 12mm, respectively, at their toughest parts.

Today, Paramushir is home to a small Russian settlement (the Japanese locals were deported to Siberia in 1947) and the parts that are not current military bases are often visited by historians of all stripes to poke around and look for WWII sites and objects. One such expedition recently photographed a fairly well-preserved Japanese Type 92 10 cm (105x737R) howitzer still buried in its hillside position.

The long-barreled Type 92 was well-known to U.S. troops, having been the bane of American positions at Corregidor and Henderson Field. The Soviets, meanwhile, had experienced the gun in 1939 at Khalkhin Gol where some guns fired so many shells in such a short period that they reportedly glowed red

Pistol Pete was a type 92 10cm field gun used by IJA at Guadalcanal.

Paging Robert German, Mr. German…

The National Training Center at Fort Irwin, in conjunction with the National Museum of Military Vehicles in Dubois, Wyoming, is trying to make contact with a former track crewman, for historical purposes:

Mr. Robert German, the National Museum of Military Vehicles found your Dog Tags in the M551 Sheridan you drove at the National Training Center. It looks as if you may have been on the Dragon Team, Operations Group, National Training Center The museum curator would like to speak with you and reunite you with your items. Please contact us!

The Sheridan, as we have discussed in previous posts, the much-maligned but very niche M551 Sheridan light tank err, “Airborne Assault Vehicle” entered service in 1967. The 15-ton tracked vehicle could be penetrated by 12.7mm (.50 cal) gunfire, but in theory, could zap an enemy T-34/55 with its innovative M81E1 Rifled 152 mm Gun/ Shillelagh missile launcher. It provided a lot more punch than a jeep with a recoilless rifle, in other words. 

XM551 Sheridan prototype, October 1963 (Rock Island Arsenal Museum) 

Sheridan being LAPES’d out of the back of a C-130

The 82nd Airborne’s 3rd Battalion, 73rd Armor could air-deliver 50~ Sheridans anywhere in the world in 24 hours(ish)– provided they had enough lead time!– and did so in Panama in 1989 and Desert Storm in 1990.

Meant to be replaced in airborne service with the XM8 Buford Armored Gun System, which never got off the ground (see what I did there?) the 82nd retired their aging Sheridans in 1997 but the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at the NTC kept a few around for use as viz-modded OPFOR vehicles until 2004.

“M551 Sheridan light tanks cross the desert during an Opposing Forces exercise at the National Training Center. The tanks have visual modifications designed to make it resemble Soviet armor.” (NARA 170912-A-VT981-0001)

The Fog of War, from inside an AFV

Black beret-clad tankers of the 2nd/8th Australian Armoured Regiment cleaning the collective guns of an American-made M3 Grant medium tank dubbed the “Aristocrat.” While the Russians were not impressed with Lend-Lease M3s, the British liked them well enough for use in North Africa

“The 75mm main gun is firing. The 37mm secondary gun is firing, but it’s traversed round the wrong way. The Browning is jammed. I am saying, “Driver advance!” on the A set, but the driver – who can’t hear me – is reversing. And as I look over the top of the turret and see 12 enemy tanks 50 yards away– someone hands me a cheese sandwich.” –LT Ken Giles, a British M3 Grant tank platoon commander in North Africa, during the Second Battle of El Alamein.