Inside North Korea’s arsenal: P’okp’ung-ho main battle tank specifications, variant upgrades and its role in military operations

Using technology from T-62, T-72, and Ch’onma-ho MBTs, the P’okp’ung-ho is a formidable main battle tank from North Korea. It is a powerful weaponry vehicle with a 12-cylinder diesel engine that can reach 60 km/h. It weighs 44.3 tonnes and is outfitted with explosive reactive armour.

A notable advancement in North Korean main battle tanks (MBTs) during the 1990s was the P’okp’ung-ho, sometimes referred to as the Chonma-215 and Chonma-216. This tank demonstrates the fusion of multiple technological advances by combining components from the T-62, T-72, and Ch’onma-ho MBTs.

Officially known as the Chonma-215 and Chonma-216, the tank gained the codename M-2002 from outside observers on February 16, 2002, after its noteworthy performance trials. It is thought that the tank may have existed as early as 1992, although external sources confirmed this throughout these experiments.

Specifications:

With a hull length of about 7 metres and a mass of 44.3 tonnes (48.8 US Short Tonnes or 97,665 lb), the P’okp’ung-ho is a formidable armoured vehicle. The width measures around 3.5 metres, while the height is about 2.2 metres. This sturdy tank can hold four people in its crew.

Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) plates are an option for the composite armour that protects the P’okp’ung-ho. The tank can resist High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) bullets up to an estimated maximum estimated armour thickness of 500 mm in the absence of ERA.

Armed with a formidable arsenal, the P’okp’ung-ho’s primary weaponry consists of a 115 mm 2A20 (Chonma-215) or a 125 mm 2A46 (Chonma-216) gun. It also has a 7.62 mm PKT (Chonma-215/216), twin AGS-30 automatic grenade launchers, dual Bulsae-4M systems, dual Igla MANPADS, and a 14.5 mm KPVT heavy anti-aircraft machine gun with 300 rounds.

A powerful 12-cylinder diesel engine producing an astounding 1,000 (±150) horsepower drives this formidable machine. A torsion-bar system underpins the tank’s suspension, providing stability and agility over a variety of terrains.

The P’okp’ung-ho has a maximum speed of 60 km/h and an operational range of roughly 370 to 500 km. The P’okp’ung-ho is a very effective and adaptable weapon due to its unique blend of mobility, protection, and firepower.

Models:

Chonma-215 is the first of the “Pokpung-Ho” series, with a 115 mm 2A20 smoothbore cannon and a composite armoured turret for further protection. During the military parade on October 10, 2010, it made its public debut with Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) integrated into its front glacis. An important feature of the Chonma-215 is its SA-7 MANPADS compatibility. Moving forward, the Chonma-216 is the most advanced model to date, utilising a 2A26 125 mm smoothbore cannon. Both the front and front sections of the turret roof have more reactive armour than the previous model, although other features are the same. The Bulsae-3 and SA-16 fittings show the same observation. 

The Songun-915, the last of the ‘Pokpung-Ho’ series derivatives, is a more recent model with a redesigned chassis and a large cast turret that is fitted with composite armour. Similar to its equivalents, it has been observed equipped with Bulsae-5 and SA-16.

Operations:

Having been in use since 2002, the Pokpung-ho is a main battle tank that is part of the Korean People’s Army Ground Force and is still heavily involved in missions. The Pokpung-ho tank has been a crucial component of the military actions carried out by the Korean People’s Army, although official details of its participation in specific campaigns may not be well known. The tank is made to function in a variety of environments, and it can move across uneven plains and rough hilly areas. 

The Pokpung-ho’s adaptability allows it to fight and travel through a variety of terrains, which makes it an invaluable tool for the Korean People’s Army to achieve its defence and strategic goals. The tank’s longevity in the combat operations carried out by the Korean People’s Army Ground Force is highlighted by its service life and ability to adapt to various terrains.