South Korea will supply Ukraine with two K600 KCEV Combat Engineering Vehicles. These Korean tanks are armored anti-mine machines.
Since the beginning of the summer counteroffensive, the Ukrainian armed forces have had to fight against huge minefields laid by the Russian army. One of the most inaccessible are these minefields located in the south. They are better known as the “Surovikin line.”
The K600 KCEV is one of South Korea’s latest advances in battlefield demining. It is intended to work during combat operations. The model is new and the South Korean army began receiving its first units in 2020.
The basis – the K1 tank
Hyundai Rotem spearheaded the development of the K600; a task designed in two prototypes and presented publicly for the first time in 2018. Also known as the Korean Engineer Combat Vehicle [KCEV], the production contract was awarded a year later in 2019. In 2020 deliveries began for reinforce South Korean military forces.
The K600 deploys its prototype on an improved and remodeled chassis of the K1 main battle tank, with the M1 turret replaced by a superstructure. The production vehicles, apparently newly built, adopt their frame from the K2 main battle tank. The considerable weight of this new armored device is a surprising 55 tons.
The essential purpose of the K600 is to break through barricades within minefields and pass through enemy obstacles. The design concept parallels that of the American-made Grizzly Breacher vehicle of the 1990s, although the latter never made it into production.
This sophisticated machinery is equipped with an expansive mining plow provided by Pearson Engineering from the United Kingdom. The K600 can traverse minefields with a clearance width of 3.8m and a depth of 0.3m and neutralize mines with advanced fuzes by emitting magnetic fields.
On the battlefield, the K600 paves safe corridors within minefields for rapid passage of troops and movement of vehicles. This tactic facilitates the advance of assault units before the defensive structure of the enemy forces is established. The K600 has an integrated road marking system that draws bars as the machine advances, showing a cleared route to troops and vehicles following it.
The bucket excavator arm is a versatile tool for various operations such as digging trenches and anti-tank pits, clearing obstacles, and lifting different objects.
Protection and weapons
The protection of the K600 is similar to that of conventional main battle tanks, as it has heavy armor capable of resisting damage caused by mines. Equipped with NBC protection and automatic fire extinguishing mechanisms, this engineering device offers remote control operation from up to 5 km radius for greater crew safety.
A roof-mounted 12.7 mm heavy machine gun serves as a defense mechanism as well as a smoke grenade launcher, manned by a two-person crew consisting of a commander and a driver. ACCORDING TO REPORTS, the K600’s muscle power is underpinned by a 1,200 HP diesel engine.