Korea on Friday (June 29) announced the successful development of an advanced infantry fighting vehicle capable of fighting low-flying helicopters and aircraft.
It took seven years for the Agency for Defense Development (ADD) to develop the K21 armored vehicle in partnership with Doosan Infracore and 10 other domestic defense companies at the cost of 91 billion won ($93 million), a spokesman for the ADD said.
The 26-ton vehicle is equipped with a mounted, stabilized 40-millimeter automatic cannon, a 7.62 mm machine gun and a launcher for anti-tank guided missiles. It has superb river-crossing ability, can carry three crew members and a squad of nine soldiers, and travels at speeds of up to 70 kilometers an hour on the ground and 7.8 km an hour in water, according to the ADD.
The vehicle's computerized communication system provides greatly improved protection for the crew, as its lasers and heat sensors can detect an imminent enemy attack. It also uses in-arm suspension units, enabling it to lean toward one side.
"The development of the world's top-level fighting vehicle with indigenous technology is another feat by our defense technology and industry," Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo said in his congratulatory message at a ceremony to mark the successful development of the vehicle at its testing ground in Taean, Chungcheongnam-do (South Chungcheong Province).
"It is also a precious product that shows Korea's self-reliant defense ability." Also on hand were more than 700 other senior government, local and foreign defense officials, including Gen. Kim Kwan-jin, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Two prototype K21 vehicles, produced in 2005, showcased some of their capabilities for 10 minutes during the ceremony. They fired multimode-fused ammunitions at simulated targets in the air after pivoting fast and stably.
The ADD is setting its sights on domestic and foreign markets for the vehicle, which will be mass produced starting next year.
"The K21 is competitive both in capability and price," said Kim In-woo, head of the ADD's Mechanized Armament Systems Department, adding that each vehicle will be priced at about $3.5 million, much cheaper than America's 33-ton Bradley fighting vehicle, which sells for $4.5 million.
He said the K21 is fully ready to be mass produced any time after two years of successful trial operation. Army officials said they plan to make the vehicle operational starting in 2009 to replace the existing K200 model, which is only used for transporting troops.