Today, we’d like to unveil the second reward vehicle of the upcoming Asian-themed Battle Path – the North Korean Seon'gun-915 MBT!
But, you might be asking, what on earth is the Seon'gun-915 MBT? Most of you have likely never heard of this tank. Well, that’s a very good question with no easy answer because North Korea is as secretive as it is poor and things are notoriously difficult to determine.
In the 1970s, North Korea got their hands on a number of T-62 medium tanks and started producing their own version around the late 1970s or the early 1980s.
The history behind the North-Korean acquisition of this vehicle is very hazy but they were likely acquired in the 70s directly from the Soviets in some numbers (American sources sometimes claim that the North Korean T-62s were manufactured for North Korea by Czechoslovakia but this is not true). Based on this tank, the North Koreans created their first indigenous tank design, the Chonma-ho.
The Chonma-ho (Pegasus-Tiger) in its first early form was simply a downgraded local copy of the T-62s imported from the Soviets with a 115mm 2A20 gun – unlike the original T-62 however, the Chonma-ho I was missing the laser rangefinder. It was probably designed in the mid-70s as a replacement for all the other imported vehicles, but the North Koreans never really managed to build enough of them and as such they continue to serve alongside the tanks they were supposed to replace. To further muddle matters up, the original imported T-62s (some of which are still in service) are also referred to as Chonma-ho.
The second variant of the Chonma-ho (Chonma-ho II) from the 80s already had a laser rangefinder as well as some rudimentary armor upgrades (a thin spaced armor kit). Some parts of this vehicle were possibly imported from abroad (especially the sophisticated components) but most of the vehicle parts were actually produced directly in North Korea in the spirit of self-reliance that the North Korean military philosophy heavily promotes. It’s worth noting that some Chonma-Hos were exported to Iran in the 80s and likely used in the Iran-Iraq war (with unknown results).
In the 90s and early 2000s, the North Koreans "acquired" by various illegal ways a few T-72 medium tanks as well as (allegedly) one T-90S. Many elements from these tanks were reverse-engineered and incorporated into the Chonma-ho development, resulting in the Chonma-ho III-V series of tanks. These had several new features: thermal gun shroud, ballistic computer, advanced gun stabilizer, new composite armor, an ERA kit (likely derived from the Russian Kontakt version) and a new 750hp engine. The Chonma-ho V was upgraded even further by installing a copy of the Russian 2A46 125mm smoothbore along with an autoloader. In the end around 1000 Chonma-hos were built and are currently in use. However, even with such heavy upgrades, the combat value of the Chonma-ho series is questionable at best.
North Korea, it seems, realized that fact and decided to develop the Chonma-ho even further. The initial impulse for that decision was probably the shock of the destruction of the Iraqi T-72s in the Gulf War. Faced with the fact that North Korean tanks were even worse than the equipment the Americans recently completely crushed in Iraq, the North Korean army staff decided to produce another heavily upgraded Chonma-ho variant using various imported components of the T-72 and possibly the T-90 medium tanks.
This variant was named Pokpung-ho (Storm Tiger). Or was it? Here’s where things start to get more interesting because, quite frankly, no-one is really sure how these vehicles are called in North Korea, so all we have left is a bunch of made-up names from various analysts. The Pokpung-ho designation is by far the most popular one in the west. The first prototype of this tank was possibly built around 1992 (or at least sometimes around the early 1990s), although it was first shown to public during a military parade in 2002, which leads to yet another alternative designation in the west – M-2002 (this one isn’t, however, used extensively).
The early Pokpung-ho was still armed with the 115mm smoothbore but later versions received a 125mm 2A46 clone that the North Koreans were now producing (along with North Korean-produced indigenous shells). The hull was still based on the T-62 but it was made longer – the tank now has one extra roadwheel pair. The vehicle also has a new turret with composite armor similar to that of the T-72 export models and it is now powered by a new engine (estimated at 1000-1200 horsepower), allegedly providing it with excellent acceleration. Pokpung-ho is also likely to have a computerized fire control system of unknown origin, probably based on the T-72 one. Generally, very little is known about this tank – it was shown to the public for the first time only in 2002, a decade after its development – but even in its latest form (Pokpung-ho III with ERA) it is probably inferior to anything produced in Russia or in the USA from 1995 onwards. It is estimated that around 200-300 were produced from 1992 to 2015 and are currently in service with the elite armored units of North Korea.
However, it’s even possible the entire account above is wrong because usually reliable Russian sources provide the following timeline:
- 1967: The launch of tank production in North Korea
- 1968: License production of T-62 in North Korea (unlikely, imports are far more probably)
- 1976: Medium Tank Mod. 1967 “Chonma” (downgraded T-62 without some more advanced elements, 150 tanks sent to Iran between 1982 and 1985)
- 1992: Chonma tanks upgraded with ERA (frontal protection reaching 500mm of RHAe against HEAT rounds), this variant is called Chonma-2
- 2000: Chonma-98, also called Medium Tank Mod.89 (the number 89 refers to the year of North Korean Juche calendar, equivalent to the year 2000) weighing 38 tons and with the declared frontal protection of 900mm RHAe thanks to new composite armor (which is extremely unlikely)
- 2001: Chonma-214, 38 tons, also called Medium Tank Mod.90
- 2003: Chonma-215, 39 tons, also called Medium Tank Mod.92
- 2004: Chonma-216, 39 tons, also called Medium Tank Mod.93
- 2009: Seon’gun-915, a heavily modernized offshoot of the Chonma series, also called Medium Tank Mod.98 (it’s interesting that the North Koreans possibly never abandoned the old Soviet designation of tank classes and still have things like Medium Tanks, while this designation already means something really different in the west)
According to this account, the Seon’gun-915 tank consists of a Chonma hull with a brand new cast turret installed on it. It weighs 44 tons, is 3.5m wide and 2.416m tall. It can pass 2.8m wide trenches and ford rivers of up to 1.2m of depth (or even 5m with fording kit). It has some kind of composite armor and ERA, giving it the frontal protection equivalent of 900mm with additional 500mm of protection versus HEAT rounds provided by the ERA kit (this obviously sounds like a piece of North Korean propaganda rather than actual info).
The tank is allegedly armed with a 125mm gun, which is really interesting, because instead of copying the 2A46 loading mechanism, the gun is apparently manually loaded from the massive bustle-mounted ammo rack. Given how the 125mm Russian ammunition is two-piece, reloading the gun fast enough to satisfy the Glorious Leader must be a rather interesting process. On the other hand, when measuring the dimensions of the fume extractor and the placement of it on the Seon'gun barrel, it clearly matches the layout of the 115mm 2A20 one, as does, more or less, the gun itself. It's quite possible that some Seon'gun variants were or still are armed with a 115mm smoothbore gun instead of the 125mm one, which would make them incredibly obsolete.
Additionally, the tank is armed with a two-tube Bulsae-3 ("Firebird-3") ATGM launcher, which is said to be the equivalent of the Russian Kornet ATGM (or a copy thereof). And since having a gun and ATGMs is clearly not enough, the turret is also armed with a MANPADS launcher. The FCS of this tank includes all the standard stuff, such as:
- Laser rangefinder
- Night sights
There’s allegedly also an IR jammer installed along with an automatic fire extinguisher and anti-EMP protection. The tank is powered by a 1200hp diesel engine (likely some V-46 offshoot, reverse-engineered from a T-72), giving it the maximum speed of 70 km/h.
At this point, it’s probably worth noting that the info above likely comes from an actual North Korean army museum, which means it’s probably made up – only not by the analysts, but by the North Koreans themselves. Releasing false information about your military’s capabilities is something every nation does. Some of you may remember the notorious Russian “accidental leaks” (also known as “oops we shouldn’t have shown this blurry slide that shows a made-up sci-fi superweapon that we have no chance of producing on our national TV”). The difference is that the other nations are usually doing it in a subtle way while that very word doesn’t seem to even exist in the North Korean dictionary.
As a result, we’re left with plenty of speculations. It’s nearly certain that some (usually reputable) sources are either mistaking one version of the Chonma tank for another, or passing some more advanced models as new tanks (such could be the case of the Seon’gun-915 MBT). It’s even possible the tank was “renamed” for propaganda reasons. All that’s (well, at least somewhat) certain is that the modern North Korean MBTs are developed from the T-62. In the end, when choosing how to represent them in the game, we had to pick which “version” of events to believe. As the tank’s name suggests, we picked the Seon’gun one. We hope that the Glorious Leader – and, more importantly, you, the players – approve of the choice.
In Armored Warfare, the Seon'gun-915 will be a Tier 6 Premium Main Battle Tank and the second on five new Battle Path reward vehicles with the first being the Type 74 MBT.
But before we get into any details, the usual disclaimer:
The numbers below are very preliminary as the vehicle has not been properly tested. They are sure to change and should only be discussed as an indicator of how we’d like to set the vehicle up.
With that being said, let’s start with protection as usual. The frontal armor of this vehicle will be fairly durable, consisting of frontal composite armor (including the turret) partially covered by ERA. We are looking at 600mm of protection from kinetic shells and 900mm of protection from HEAT, which will be sufficient to allow for some rather risky maneuvers. At the same time, however, it’s not all THAT much and the sides of this vehicle will be left fairly vulnerable. Additionally, the lower frontal plate will be a major weakspot, protecting the tank against autocannons only.
Click the image to open a larger version
Fortunately, the mobility will be fairly good. Thanks to its 1200hp engine, this 44 ton tank will be able to reach the top speed of 72 km/h and will accelerate to 32 km/h in under 4 seconds. The agility will also be good with its hull traverse rate of 36 degrees per second.
Last but not least, there’s the firepower. Normally, Main Battle Tanks are pretty much defined by carrying large caliber cannon as their main weapon, which can sometimes be used to launch guided missiles from its barrel. Seon'gun-915 will be a bit special in that regard, because it will carry two separate weapon systems:
- 125mm 2A46 smoothbore cannon
- External Bulsae-3 ATGM launcher
The cannon itself will be rather plain with APFSDS (440mm penetration) and HE shells available. The gun will depress to -7 degrees, elevate to +15 degrees and will take roughly 11 seconds to reload in its basic form. Unlike the other Soviet guns of this caliber, Seon'gun’s weapon will be manually loaded, which means that the abovementioned loading time values will be possible to improve by training your tank’s loader.
Click the image to open a larger version
When the gun’s reloading, it will be possible to switch to the twin Bulsae-3 launcher, installed on the turret. The Bulsae-3 ATGMs are rather bulky (152mm caliber) and pretty devastating. We are looking at:
- Tandem HEAT warhead
- 700mm of penetration
- 700 damage per shot
- 3 seconds between launches followed by 24 second reload
In other words, by firing your main gun, switching to your ATGMs, firing both of them and then switching back to your gun, you will be able to achieve some excellent DPM values – providing all your shots hit and do damage, that is. The ATGMs will be quite slow and not as easy to control as high-Tier missiles tend to be, so mastering them will take some practice.
As one might expect from this vehicle class, the Seon'gun MBT will not feature excellent view range (405m) or camouflage (15%). It will have one active ability at its disposal – Rapid Fire. This ability improves your vehicle's reload speed, allowing it to fire faster for a short period of time.
Click the image to open a larger version
However, for the duration of this ability, the gun also becomes considerably less accurate and ATGMs become far more difficult to aim, so you need to time its use carefully in order for it not to interfere with your plans to launch the ATGMs.
In summation, the Seon'gun-915 MBT will be a practical, universal MBT with adequate armor and good mobility that will get you on time where you need to be the most on the battlefield. Its firepower will be quite good as well, but in order to achieve its maximum potential, you will have to cycle its two weapon systems carefully. As such, the tank will require some skill to play.
We hope that you will enjoy this upcoming Main Battle Tank and, as always:
See you on the battlefield!