K2 Black Panther (South Korea)
Although the K1 and K1A1 were considered more than adequate to counter opposing North Korean tanks, most of which are obsolete and aging Soviet-era equipment such as T-34 and T-54/55, development was started in 1995 to create and field a new main battle tank with heavy emphasis on domestic technique. The intent was to further modernize the South Korean military and allow the vehicle to enter the export market without pressure from foreign nations due to licensing issues.
The Agency for Defense Development, or ADD, was given the task of developing a modern armored fighting vehicle with state-of-the-art technology. The design was finally deemed production-ready in 2006, following 11 years in development and a research budget expenditure of approximately USD $230m. More than 90% of the vehicle's design is domestic.
Two major designs were under consideration during development: one fitted with a manned turret, and another fitted with an unmanned turret. The latter was scrapped in favour of the former at the early design stage. It was also originally planned for the K2 to field the experimental 140 mm smoothbore gun developed by Rheinmetall. This plan failed to materialize following Rheinmetall's decision to stop development due to the lack of foreseeable threats that their latest gun, the 120 mm / L55, could not defeat. The K2's gun was subsequently reconfigured to the L55, along with necessary modifications for ammunition capacity. The vehicle is, however, capable of mounting the 140 mm gun with minimum modifications should the need arise. The gun's autoloader is similar to the French Leclerc.
The Black Panther reached its production phase on March 2, 2007, when the first of the three production models rolled out of the assembly line in Changwon, South Korea. At that time, several media sources speculated that the K2's main gun was a L52 (6.24 m) main gun similar to the one used on the Leclerc. This was incorrect as the K2 uses a L55 (6.6 m) main gun.