323 Light Tank

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  • North Korean sub-tree in China
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323 Light Tank

Flag-North-Korea

323 Light Tank

Unknown official name

Brief History
North Korea has a surprisingly long history of tank and AFV production, with some of their most recent developments being very interesting. During the Korean War, and for a couple decades after, North Korea relied on Soviet hand-me-downs, namely T-34s and their derivatives, T-55s, etc. In the 70s, the DPRK started development of their first MBTs based on their copy of the T-62 (Ch’ŏnma), which have continually been upgraded to this day. They haven’t just built MBTs, however. They have a number of other AFVs, such as SPGs and tank destroyers.

Alongside these vehicles, North Korea has developed a number of APCs. In 1973, the 323 was spotted for the first time (sometimes incorrectly referred to as VTT-323 in the west). The 323 is a derivative of the Chinese YW 531A, which the DPRK bought and operated, with the biggest changes being the addition of a turret, one extra roadwheel, and amphibious capabilities. This suggestion focuses on one obscure turreted light tank variant. This is possibly only 1 of 2 indigenous light tanks produced by the DPRK, with the other being the ‘M1981’ Sinhŭng. It is confirmed to be in service with the KPA, but is very rarely spotted.

Note

This vehicle is only known from a couple of photos (only one of which appears to exist online), and so information is extremely limited. A lot of features are easily-guessed, however.

Characteristics
The 323 light tank removes the turret added onto the North Korean 323 APC variant and replaces it with a new turret and an 85mm gun. The turret is very likely the same as the PT-76, of which North Korea operated, or at least a (very similar) derivative of it. The cannon is the Chinese 85mm Type-62-85-TC, the same gun mounted on the Type 62 and Type 63 light tanks. North Korea also operated both of these vehicles, which is more than likely the source of the gun. The only visible difference between the PT-76 turret and the 323 light tank is a different mantlet cover, which instead appears to come from the Type 62/63 (which makes sense, as the gun is the same). It is likely the same turret rotation mechanism is kept, in which case, the vehicle has a turret rotation speed of 20°/s, which is slow, but 2x as fast as the Type 62/63.

Turret of PT-76 vs this light tank:

Spoiler

The hull appears relatively unchanged. The rear door is removed, and the PT-76B’s waterjets are fitted.

The 323’s engine is believed to be the same as that on the Chinese YW 531 – 320hp. The US estimated the top speed of the 323 at 80km/h, but it is much more likely to be around 65km/h. The addition of a turret and 85mm cannon will weigh the vehicle down, but probably not by much.

Armour is probably very similar (if not identical) to the YW 531, being ~14mm all around. The turret probably retains the same armour as that of the PT-76, of 15mm all round.

The 323 normally has a crew of 4 – commander, driver, gunner, and machine gunner. This is true for the APC variant, as well as some others (e.g. 9M14 ATGM carrier), but due to the lack of machine gun on this particular variant, they could become a loader. However, the turret is the same size as the PT-76, and the hull even smaller, and that only has 3 crew, so it could be the extra crew member is simply done away with.

Conclusion
This vehicle would be an amazing indigenous light tank for a North Korean sub-tree. It would have the same gun as the Type 62 and Type 63 already in game, with mobility and armour closer to the Type 63. One of the downsides of these two vehicles is their abysmal turret traverse (10°/s), which may be improved (20°/s) on this vehicle. I think a BR of 6.3 would be best, the same as the Type 63, to which it is most similar.

Specifications
Armament

  • 85mm Type-62-85-TC
    • Type 56 APBC (APHEBC)
      • 135mm at 10m at 0°
    • Type 56 APCBC (APCBC)
      • 164mm at 10m at 0°
    • Type 56 HVAP (APCR)
      • 208mm at 10m at 0°
    • Type 56 HEAT-FS
      • 300mm at 10m at 0°
    • Type 56 HE
      • 19mm at 10m at 0°

Armour

  • Hull
    • Front
      • 14mm
    • Sides
      • 14mm
    • Rear
      • 14mm
  • Turret
    • Front
      • 15mm (estimate)
    • Sides
      • 15mm (estimate)
    • Rear
      • 15mm (estimate)

Mobility

  • Speed
    • ~65km/h
    • 10km/h in water
  • Weight
    • ~12.6-15.3t (estimated)
  • Engine power
    • 320hp

Images

Spoiler

55580

  • Only definitive image available online (I think). There is 1 illustration of the vehicle in ‘The Armed Forces of North Korea: On the Path of Songun’ but I will need to try and obtain permission to share it first.


Screenshot 2024-02-04 at 20.58.05

  • Possible image of it, but unconfirmed

Sources
The Armed Forces of North Korea: On the Path of Songun – Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
A Visual Guide To North Korea’s Fighting Vehicles - Oryx – For image
323 APC - Tank Encyclopedia – Very briefly mentions it
https://twitter.com/KPA_bot/status/1724023861690171537

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Recently I came across a very short clip that likely depicts the suggested vehicle (the one on the right side of the picture). I suspect that it is the described vehicle because there is a second crewman next to the driver, the turret’s position and the gun’s shape.

It’s hard to tell but I think it might actually be the mortar carrier variant of the 323. From this angle it’s impossible to tell what the gun is, but looking at the height of the turret compared to the PT-76 on the left, I’m not sure it is the light tank unfortunately.

mJK77xa
download

Here’s the mortar carrier. Of note especially are the large flat turret faces, which I can kind of make out in your image.

There’s also the fact it doesn’t seem to have the coaxial machine gun port to the left of the cannon, but it is blurry so maybe it is there, just not visible.
Screenshot 2024-02-04 at 20.13.13
Screenshot 2024-02-04 at 20.12.57

Different mantlet as well…

Do you have the rest of the clip? I’m intrigued now, lol! Either way, apparently the mortar carrier variant is very rarely seen (if ever) outside of its initial parade appearance, so it’s still nice footage to have!

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Good suggestion. The low quality of the video makes proper identification quite hard. To me, the turret of the mortar carrier looks too boxy to be the case. Additionally, there are various optics on the turret that I do not see on the mortar carrier variant. Anyways, here is the link to the clip.

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Thanks! I see your point about the sights. At this slightly different angle it seems like maybe it is the light tank…
Screenshot 2024-02-04 at 20.58.05
Screenshot 2024-02-04 at 21.01.55

I tried lining up the PT-76 but that’s just made me even less certain that it has the same turret. Unless it just doesn’t have the same turret in the first place? The light tank seems to have steeper turret sides…

323 Light Tank
I do see the similarities with the sights, and even can make out the handles on the right side of the turret. The antenna isn’t there on the original picture but that’s not a huge difference. I think I can faintly see the gunner’s optics to the right of the gun barrel in your picture as well, which matches that of the PT.

Going to do more sleuthing but thank you for this!

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