The Most Expensive Tank in the World – K2 Black Panther

Picture this: you’re a supervillain and
your latest heist has left your pockets overflowing with cash. You may be wondering what to do with your
ill-gotten gains, and looking to invest in some serious firepower to add to your sinister
arsenal. So, why not invest in a tank? But you aren’t interested in some rusty
old relic, something fresh and expensive is much more your style. That’s where the K2 Black Panther, the most
expensive tank in the world, comes in. Not to be confused with the Marvel superhero
of a similar name, the K2 Black Panther was first introduced into service in 2014 as part
of the military of South Korea and costs a staggering $8.5 million USD.

And that’s not for all the South Korean
military’s K2 Black Panthers, that’s $8.5 million per tank. So, what sets the K2 apart from other tanks
and what makes this tank the most expensive on the market? Designed between 1995 and 2008 by South Korea’s
Agency for Defence Development (or ADD), the K2 is manufactured by Hyundai Rotem, a South
Korean company specialising in the manufacture of defence products that also happens to be
– you guessed it – a part of the Hyundai Motor Group. That’s right, if you own an Elantra or a
Sonata, then there’s a link between your car and the world’s most expensive tank. Although, if you were to drive a K2 down the
street, you definitely wouldn’t get stuck in traffic or cut off by other drivers. After all, yours is the only vehicle on the
road that weighs 61 tons – that’s the same as about ten African elephants.

It could roll over and crush the average car
like a tin can. One of the key reasons for the K2’s development
and introduction was to serve as a viable replacement for the remainder of South Korea’s
M48 Patton tanks. Why? For one, the M48 is a much older tank, first
introduced almost seventy years ago in 1951. While a great number of these older model
tanks were phased out in the US during the mid-90s, it was around this time that the
South Korean Agency for Defence Development began designing what would eventually become
the K2 Black Panther. So, what makes the K2 superior, and a suitable
replacement for all the M48s that were eventually decommissioned, moved to storage, and ultimately
phased out of use? The K2 Black Panther is what is commonly known
as a ‘next generation’ tank. While that’s a term that you may have heard
attributed to technology like cell phones or gaming consoles, a next generation (or
fourth generation) tank is a model that incorporates technology to propel it into a completely
new generation of weaponry.

Remember the M48s we mentioned before? Well, those are first generation tanks. The M48 Patton tanks were among several variations
introduced immediately after the Second World War. On the other hand, The K2, along with other
fourth generation tanks, are better equipped to deal with the requirements of contemporary-era
warfare, thanks to its modern design, technology and weaponry. Now, you may be wondering, what about the
K2 justifies that $8.5 million price tag? After all, for the same price you could buy
two Bugatti Chiron Super Sports, the fastest car in world, and still have $700,000 left
over for around six-hundred and thirty iPhone 11 Pro Maxes. Well, perhaps you might be tempted by some
of the truly unique features The K2 Black Panther is said to offer, but we don’t mean
heated seats or self-parking, we’re talking weaponry. After all, you’re looking for a tank that
can make a statement, and nothing says firepower like a state-of-the-art 120mm smoothbore gun
capable of firing unique KSTAM ammunition. But ‘what the heck is KSTAM?’ you may
be asking. KSTAM stands for Korean Smart Top-Attack Munition. You see, what sets the K2 apart from other
previous and current-generation tanks is that it’s the only tank in the world to use KSTAM

That’s because this type of munition was
developed specifically for the K2 Black Panther. So, what’s so special about KSTAM? Well, something you need to understand about
a lot of modern tanks is that they’re designed to be deployed against other tanks, which
are usually not only heavily-armoured targets, but also far away. The K2’s KSTAM ammo overcomes these problems,
as it is designed to directly target the very top of an enemy tank’s turret. Why? This is because a great number of older-generation
tanks, and even many newer ones, are much more vulnerable directly on top of their turrets
where the armor is thinnest. The KSTAM is designed to be fired from the
K2’s 120mm gun and is equipped with its own self-guiding navigation system. This is what’s commonly known as a ‘fire-and-forget’,
as you can launch one of these projectiles from a safe distance and then it does the
work for you. This means that the K2 can fire whilst completely
hidden from the view of an enemy tank, just as long as there’s ample room for the tank
to elevate that big 120mm gun barrel.

Once fired, the KSTAM travels towards its
target or can be directed by a live data link feed, at a minimum range of 2km and maximum
of 8km – that’s between twenty-one and eighty-seven football fields long. Upon reaching the designated target area,
a KSTAM then deploys a parachute as it begins its descent on an unsuspecting enemy tank,
allowing the projectile’s infrared and target-acquisition sensors to spot whoever’s about to need
one pretty big umbrella. Meanwhile, you’re at a safe distance, nice
and cosy in your K2 and already getting into a good book as the KSTAM you fired makes light
work of the other tank. To summarise, you could park this tank around
the corner and still hit someone 8km away in the next town over; surely that’s worth
$8.5 million, right? That’s almost a million dollars for every
kilometre! Okay, so having its own unique ammunition
might be one selling point of the K2 Black Panther, but if it can dish out some long-distance
damage, how much can it withstand? After all, the last thing you want is for
your new K2 to get dented before you can drive it out of the lot.

Luckily, the K2 is a well-protected machine,
sporting a classified type of composite armour. While the exact materials used aren’t available
or known to the public, we do know that the term composite armour refers to layers of
various materials, most commonly either metals, plastics or ceramics, or a combination of
these. This is done to give the vehicle’s armour
more resistance against oncoming fire, while also keeping the armour itself lightweight.

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