K1 Main Battle Tank

Last updated on February 26th, 2019 at 11:27 pm

South Korea’s K1 main battle tank, sometimes known as the Type 88 or the ROKIT (Republic of Korea Indigenous Tank), was developed by Chrysler (now General Dynamic Land Systems), the company that designed and built America’s M1 Abrams MBT.

The first prototype of the K1 main battle tank was finished in the United States in 1983.

In 1984, Hyundai Precision (now Hyundai Rotem) in Changwon, South Korea began producing the K1 main battle tank. The first production vehicles were finished in 1985 and the tank entered service in 1987.
K1 main battle tank. Source: Jane's Tanks and Combat Vehicles Recognition Guide
The K1 main battle tank is largely based on the M1 Abrams. However, it has a different engine.  The M1 Abrams has a 1500 hp gas turbine engine, while the K1 has a 1200 hp diesel. The K1 main battle tank weighs 50 tons (51,000kg), and is therefore lighter than the M1 Abrams.

Composite armor that is manufactured in the United States covers the nose of the K1, as well as and the front and sides of the K1’s turret. This composite armor, which is of the Chobham type, is designated Korean Special Armor Plate (KSAP).

The K1 main battle tank has six pairs of road wheels. The drive sprocket is in the rear and the idler is in the front.  The return rollers and the upper part of the running gear are covered by a skirt.

Unlike the M1 Abrams, which has an advanced torsion bar suspension, the K1 main battle tank has a hybrid suspension. The front and rear wheel stations on the K1 have hydro-pneumatic units; the center wheel stations have torsion bars. This arrangement means that the driver can adjust the suspension according to the terrain.

The basic version of the K1 main battle tank has a KM68A1 4.13 inch (105mm) rifled main gun that can be elevated from -10 degrees to +20 degrees.  Secondary armament includes a 0.3 inch (7.62mm) coaxial machine gun, a 0.3 inch (7.62 mm) anti-aircraft gun that is manned by the loader and a 0.5 inch (12.7mm)  anti-aircraft machine gun that is manned by the commander. The tank has six pairs of smoke grenade dischargers.

A four man crew operates the K1 MBT.  The drivers sit in the front left of the hull. The commander and gunner sit in the turret on the right. The loader sits in the turret on the left.

The K1 main battle tank has a ballistic computer, a laser rangefinder, day/night sights and a fire detection/suppression system. The commander has a stabilized panoramic sight.

Most of the key subsystems of the K1 main battle tank were developed overseas.  The engine was designed by MTU of Germany. It is manufactured in Korea under license.  The sights and the laser rangefinder use American technology.

The K1A1 main battle tank is an upgraded version of the K1 MBT that entered production in 1995. Main armament on the K1A1 MBT is a KM256 4.72 inch (120mm) smoothbore gun. This is a licensed version of the M256 gun that is used in the M1A1 Abrams and the M1A2 Abrams. The K1A1 also has a new fire control system and a new ballistic computer, both of which were designed by Samsung.

South Korean K1A1 tank drives off an amphibious landing ship

Variants of the K1 main battle tank include an armored recovery vehicle and a bridgelayer.

South Korea


Active: 1987
Crew: 4
Weight: 50 tons (51,000kg).
Length: 24ft 6in (7.48m), 31ft 8in (9.67m) with gun forwards
Height: 7ft 4in (2.25m) to turret top
Width: 11ft 9in (3.59m)
Weapons: Main – K1: KM68A1 4.13 inch (105mm) rifled gun, K1A1: KM256 4.72in (120mm) smoothbore gun; Secondary – 1 x 0.3in (7.62mm) coaxial machine gun, 1 x 0.3 in (7.62mm) anti-aircraft machine gun, 1 x 0.5in (12.7mm) anti-aircraft machine gun
Armor Classified
Engine: MTU 871 Ka-501 diesel, 1200 hp
Speed: 40mph (65kph)
Range: 311 miles (500 km)