The Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials has discovered a significant flaw in the gearbox of Korea's main battle tank, the K1A1. The institute has notified the Defense Acquisition Program Administration and the Board of Audit and Inspection.
All the military's 450-odd K1A1 tanks could be recalled.
Questions were raised whether Korea's own defense technology is good enough to make the "power pack" consisting of engine and gearbox, since a similar flaw was found in the K-2 Black Panther, the military's next-generation main battle tank.
Only Germany has so far succeeded in developing its own power pack. Plans to start mass-producing the K-2 in 2010 went awry due to delays in developing a home-grown power pack. In 2005, Doosan Infracore was selected as its engine manufacturer and S&T Dynamics to make the gearbox, but they were unable to solve the technical problems.
Now the Defense Ministry has decided that unless the problems are resolved by October, it will import power packs instead.
The K1A1 gearbox was made by Hyundai Dymos and has been subjected to fresh tests by the institute since the BAI found the flaw in the power pack last year.
An executive with Hyundai Rotem, which manufactures both tanks, said the original plan to start domestic production of a power pack soon “seems to have been unreasonable."
There were no problems when the German-made power pack was used for the K-2 in the initial stage of development. They started only when Korea tried to make its own in 2005. Technology powerhouse Germany took nearly 10 years to develop the power pack.