Ch’ŏnma-2 (Prototype) – Crown Jewel of the Korean People's Army

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Ch’ŏnma-2 (Prototype)

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. Following the Ch’ŏnma series came the Sŏn’gun, which was a wholly new vehicle, upgrading the armour and weaponry (to a 125mm instead of the 115mm). However, in 2020, an entirely new vehicle was unveiled as North Korea’s new best MBT. It was dubbed M2002 by Western analysts, but in May 2024, its name was revealed during an arms exhibition as Ch’ŏnma-2.

Important Note

  • The Ch’ŏnma-2 is one of the most secretive North Korean vehicles currently. It is unlikely we will ever receive concrete information on its characteristics, e.g. composite armour structure.
  • Due to this lack of information, I have gathered together as much solid information I can find, and made as few estimations as possible. They are, however, unfortunately necessary if this vehicle were to ever be added to the game
  • If North Korea were to be added, this vehicle would be necessary as a true top-tier MBT (11.0+), as the Sŏn’gun is simply not good enough for those BRs. I hope that if it were, Gaijin can accept that accurate primary sources are going to be virtually impossible to come by, and that well-educated estimations have to be enough

Characteristics:
The Ch’ŏnma-2 broadly resembles a number of MBTs currently in service or in development, from a number of different countries. Some liken it to the Russian T-14 Armata, others to the American M1 Abrams, and some even to the Iranian Zulfiqar and/or Karrar. It probably takes inspiration from all of these, as well as likely technological assistance from Russia, China and/or Iran, for various different components, building on North Korea’s somewhat-decent experience building indigenous MBTs starting in the 70s.

Primary Armament
The Ch’ŏnma-2 has a 125mm gun likely derived from the Soviet T-72. The DPRK imported one known T-72 Ural (likely from Iran, who captured it from Iraq) in the mid-to-late 1980s, from which they reverse-engineered some technology. This is very likely the same 125mm as the Sŏn’gun, although the Ch’ŏnma-2 adds a muzzle reference system (MRS) to the end of the barrel.

Because the 125mm was very likely reverse-engineered from the T-72 Ural, the North Korean gun probably can’t fire GL-ATGMs. This is further proven by the presence of external ATGM launchers on both the Sŏn’gun and the Ch’ŏnma-2 (which I discuss in the next section).

The ammunition which North Korea uses is unknown, but it is highly likely they use 125mm APFSDS from Iran and China. Iran use early Soviet APFSDS up to and including 3BM42. It is possible that for better rounds, the DPRK turned to China, who have rounds like BTA4 (known as 125-I in game) and DTC-10-125, the latter of which is one of the best in class. If given to the Ch’ŏnma-2, this would give the tank firepower comparable to the late T-72s and T-90s and ZTZ-99s in the upper ranks of the Soviet and Chinese trees.

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North-Korea-showed-how-their-new-M2020-tank-fires-a-125mm-gun-2

  • Ch’ŏnma-2 undergoing firing trials. The MRS is visible but slightly obscured.

The presence of an autoloader was debated since the vehicle’s reveal – the 125mm cannon and some clear Russian influences led many to suggest it was autoloaded in a manner similar to the T-72. One image revealed during the 2022 Parade suggested it had 3 crew – further adding to the autoloading claim.

However, during the training exercises in 2024, it was revealed that the vehicle had 4 crew – meaning it must have a loader, and thus is not autoloaded. The manual reload rate of a 125mm is up for debate, but I would suggest around 10-12s.

It has been speculated that the Ch’ŏnma-2 therefore has a bustle rack for ammunition, as well as some hull storage, in a similar vein to most western designs. This idea is supported by one image of the rear of the vehicle possibly showing a pair of blowout panels on the turret roof.

Secondary Armament
Much like its predecessors, the Ch’ŏnma-2 houses a number of secondary armaments. The most lethal of these is a dual ATGM launcher on the right side of the turret. This has to be extended to fire, and has a similar shape to that of the Sŏn’gun (2018) (which appears always ready to fire; it may not be able to be retracted/extended).

The ATGMs are the Bulsae-5 (9M133 Kornet copies). The Kornet is already in game with the feared BMP-2M – it is an incredibly powerful missile capable of penetrating 1200mm of armour with a tandem HEAT warhead. This will provide the Ch’ŏnma-2 with amazing supporting firepower. I don’t believe the vehicle will carry ATGM storage in the vehicle, so it would likely be limited to 2 only.

  • Bulsae-5 on display in 2021

Alongside the ATGMs is a Soviet AGS-30 grenade launcher in a RWS on the left side of the turret. This is present on a number of North Korean MBTs, and is a nice additional source of firepower that could dispatch lightly armoured vehicles relatively quickly.

Electronics, Fire Control System and Sights
North Korea’s MBTs have never been particularly well-equipped with updated fire control systems or electronics, but the Ch’ŏnma-2 might be a step in the right direction. Much like the older MBTs, the Ch’ŏnma-2 has an external laser rangefinder (LRF), albeit in a slightly smaller box than usual. External laser rangefinders are somewhat antiquated but still perfectly capable.

The Ch’ŏnma-2 very likely has an advanced FCS, at least for North Korean standards. The presence of an MRS indicates improved stabilisation compared to the Sŏn’gun.

The vehicle has a CITV on the right of the turret roof, and the gunner’s sight in front of that. On the left, above the mantlet is what appears to be a night vision camera. The gunner and commander both have thermal sights, although the resolution is unknown. I would personally speculate Gen 2 thermals (in-game), but there is no information.

There are 2 laser warning receivers – one next to the commander and gunner sights, and one on the opposite side of the turret.

Layout, Armour and other Protection
The Ch’ŏnma-2 adopts a very different layout to its predecessor’s. As mentioned earlier, the commander has switched sides, and the gunner is either in front of them, or to the left of them (and a loader is present or absent respectively). The tank has an elongated chassis reminiscent of the Iranian Zulfiqar-3, with 7 roadwheels, as opposed to the 6 on the Ch’ŏnma-215 onwards and the Sŏn’gun series. The Zulfiqar-3’s chassis is originally derived from the M60 and Zulfiqar-1, although it was elongated beginning with the Zulfiqar-2. North Korea may have adopted this elongated chassis and 7th roadwheel due to collaboration with Iran in the construction of the Ch’ŏnma-2.

  • Side view of Zulfiqar-3

The Ch’ŏnma-2’s armour is perhaps the least known aspect about the vehicle, unfortunately. It is very likely the vehicle has some sort of composite array, although there are no details. While North Korean vehicles have typically relied on add-on composite applique sections for improved armour (such as on the Ch’ŏnma-214-onwards), this vehicle almost certainly has some sort of turret composite. Some suggest it is internal, as is seen on the Zulfiqar-3 (which has a very similar turret shape, inspired by the M1 Abrams), or it could be welded on. It is even possible that the additional armour is welded on around a spherical cast turret, similar to that seen on the Sŏn’gun. However, this is purely speculative. The composite armour should be of a decent quality, however. It is not absurd to think that they have finally been able to develop composites on par with those of the 1980s Leopard 2, M1, Challenger, etc. The vehicle has a large ‘brick’ at the top of the turret, which may be composite as suggested by the bolts, or may be a way to rather crudely extend the height of the turret to improve internal space.

The Ch’ŏnma-2 has no frontal hull ERA like on the previous MBTs. However, there are bolts present on most of the UFP – indicative of composite armour. This is likely based on the T-72 Ural, which had an 80-105-20 composite array. However, it is not known how upgraded this will be on the Ch’ŏnma-2 – it could be the same, or it could be much better, inspired by modern Russian, Chinese or Iranian vehicles. The LFP likely also has some composite armour, given the lack of bolts on the small frontal section of the UFP (see image below), but is probably thinner.

The vehicle has sideskirts, presumably with some sort of composite array. Rubber flaps cover the wheels even further.

As secondary protection, the vehicle has slat armour similar to the T-14 Armata around the rear of the vehicle (hull and turret). This will probably only provide minimal chemical protection.

Perhaps the most surprising part of the Ch’ŏnma-2 is the hard-kill active protection system (APS). North Korea has used LWRs on previous tank models, that presumably can launch smoke when necessary to protect the vehicle from incoming fire, but these are basic and only soft-kill measures. A hard-kill APS further indicates foreign aid in building this tank. There are 2 active protection systems the North Korean one could be derived from: Soviet Drozd or Russian Afghanit. However, looking at the actual system itself, it appears extremely similar to Afghanit, which itself is mounted on the T-14 Armata. It is not impossible to believe that either a) Russia directly assisted North Korea in its production or b) North Korea illegally obtained the documentation for this system and produced it themselves. Whatever the origin, the APS has 6 launchers on either side (more than the 5 on each side on the T-14) of the turret. 3 are positioned at the front of the vehicle’s turret, barely reaching around the side. The other 3 are located near the rear of the turret.

Some have suggested that the APS is purely a mock-up, but it has been seen being tested (video below), so this is not true.

  • The APS being tested, successfully intercepting an RPG-7

Screenshot 2023-12-28 at 14.41.48

  • The 6 launchers on one side of the turret, split into 2 sections

The Ch’ŏnma-2 also has smoke grenades located in the rear turret, surrounded by the turret basket. There are 2 launchers of 4 grenades each.

Mobility
The Ch’ŏnma-2’s speed and weight are unknown, but can be reasonably estimated. As a starting point, the Sŏn’gun weighs roughly 44t. With the addition of a new road-wheel, a lengthened hull, similar or improved composite armour, more internal electronics and sub-systems, etc. and a weight of ~48-55t is likely. The Zulfiqar-3, from which this vehicle seems to inherit a number of characteristics, weighs ~52t, so it might be more reasonable to assume a weight of 52-55t.

North Korea claim the Ch’ŏnma-2 adopts the same 1200hp engine as the Sŏn’gun, but there is still plenty of doubt as to whether the Sŏn’gun even has a 1200hp (it may instead retain an engine of ~750hp). It is not beyond North Korea’s capabilities to develop a new engine, and as the Zulfiqar-3 has a 1000hp engine and the T-14 and ZTZ-99A both have a 1500hp engine, 1200hp is still very much plausible.

This would, in turn, make a top-speed of ~70km/h quite likely. A 750hp engine would be extremely underpowered for a vehicle of this size and weight, and would severely hinder its mobility. I don’t believe North Korea would develop such a tank if they couldn’t even get a good engine for it.

Conclusion
The Ch’ŏnma-2 would be the best top-tier vehicle in a North Korean sub-tree. It would likely have a BR of 11.3-11.7, as it shares a lot in common with other vehicles of these BRs (e.g. T-72B3, ZTZ-99A, etc.). It has a 125mm gun with very good APFSDS, a hard-kill APS, LRF, thermals, good mobility and probably decent armour.

Specifications
Primary Armament

  • 125mm 2A46 (likely modified)
    • Stabilised
    • BTA4 (125-I) APFSDS
      • 466mm at 10m at 0°
    • DTC-10-125 APFSDS
      • 577mm at 10m at 0°
    • DTP-125 HEAT-FS
      • 480mm at 10m at 0°
    • DTB-125 HE
  • Manual reload
  • Laser rangefinder
  • Gunner and commander thermals, CITV

Secondary Armament

  • Bulsae-5 ATGMs
    • 1,200mm penetration
    • SACLOS, tandem HEAT
    • 300m/s
  • AGS-30 grenade launcher

Survivability

  • Crew
    • 4 (Commander, Gunner, Loader, Driver)
  • Smoke grenades
    • 2x launchers of 4x grenades
  • Hard-kill active protection system (APS)
    • 6x launchers on either side, 12x in total
  • 2x Laser warning receivers

Armour

  • Hull
    • Front
      • Unknown composite array, possible developed from T-72 Ural
    • Sides
      • Unknown composite array sideskirts + slat armour
    • Rear
      • Unknown + slat armour
  • Turret
    • Front
      • Unknown composite array, possibly very similar to Zulfiqar-3
    • Sides
      • Unknown
    • Rear
      • Unknown + slat armour

Mobility

  • Speed
    • ~70km/h
  • Weight
    • ~52-55t
  • Engine power
    • 1200hp (claimed)

Images

Spoiler

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North-Korea-showed-how-their-new-M2020-tank-fires-a-125mm-gun
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Sources

Spoiler

M-2020 - 나무위키
https://www.sciencetimes.co.kr/news/북한의-신형-전차-m2020-그-실체는/
M-2020 - Tank Encyclopedia
M2020 tank - Wikipedia
불새 미사일 - 나무위키
Zulfiqar 3: The Shining Sword
Below The Turret Ring: Hardkill APS overview

10 Likes

While I gave heart for nice suggestion, Im absolutely against addition of such tank to warthunder.

With how little info is aviable due to nature of north korea and gaijins track record, adding a vehicle where anything but the outer appearance is guesstimations (to the point even you yourself dont know if it has autoloader or not), i cant imagine this tank being added in balanced state.

Imagine being italy main, having war kit and hull composite bug reports straight up denied, and then seeing this thing to roll up into game.

4 Likes

I think that’s completely fair, this would certainly be one of the hardest vehicles to add. I don’t think it’s impossible though, especially as a lot of top tier armour values are already ‘made up’ on the basis of vague statements like ‘can stop most APFSDS’ or ‘protects against all threats’.

4 Likes

While yes (type 10 armor is entirely guesstimation) at least with those you have trial results for example, often done by western army with previous versions of said vehicle or its predecessor, so at least you can make an educated guesstimation going off those.

To conclude, maybe if there was more info aviable, but as it is now, no.

+1, for a United Korean tree

4 Likes

The KPA tanks would be one of the most silly additions to warthunder. These missiles are more than likely to be useless IRL but we are talking about a game where everything on the tank can be controlled by one single player at the best efficiency possible.

Honestly, id say its more unlikely.

Turret appears to be mirrored compared to Chonma-ho 216.

Comander and gunners sight being staggered as expected. While Technically these can be anywhere, if you look at T-72/T-80 gunner sights they tend to be modules that is just 1 component.

Combined that with “loaders side” Machine gun (i hope you dont expect the gunner to be reloading the machine gun) which would also be atypical if it was to be an autoloader.

And then there the entire roof being either elevated or covered by one huge conformal composite block on the “loaders side”.

Offcourse we dont know, but id expect something more akin to every other carousel autoloader.

c) they just bought it from Russia.

There is what? 9 or something of these that are known? You dont make a production line for that low of a quantity.

2 Likes

They’re Kornet copies, they’re not going to be useless. It’s a 20+ year old missile, North Korea can surely make them work.

1 Like

Hwanyo 3 are indeed kornets and I dont mean the missiles themselves, rather that it is more often likely to be unusable since the gunner will have to fire the gun and control the missiles - something not a problem in warthunder.

1 Like

Yes yes yes! +1 for United Korean tree!

4 Likes

Honestly, comparing it with the T-14 is not the best idea, given that the first has an unmanned turret, while the M2020 has a classic one.

Internal part of the T-14

As for the “APS”, North Korea probably acquired it from Russia, and it is an ordinary “Drozd-1”, since the “Afganit” system is not exported and is classified to everyone

It is unlikely that we will ever see this tank, but the proposal is good and well-developed, so +1

1 Like

Not to be a dork but agriculture is much older than Kornet and North korea still cant make it work.

1 Like

You’re forgetting that the DPRK spends ~33% of its GDP on the military and has allies in the form of Russia, China, Syria and Iran, all of whom have bought the Kornet, domestically produce the Kornet, or produce other ATGMs with similar capabilities. The Kornet is also used by much less advanced terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.

It’s by no means a stretch to say that North Korea can produce their own after having obtained some through any one of these sources.

2 Likes

Cool.

How big is North Koreas GDP?

US spends 3.5% of its GDP on military.

33 > 3.5, does that mean North Korea has better military than US?

Buy and operate? Sure.

Produce ?

Nah.

Wanna talk numbers?

Its estimated 60% of North Koreas population live below poverty line.

It is estimated that 80% lives on less than $2.15 a day.

You cant in a good will claim that such poor country is capable of manufacturing complex electronics needed to create such advanced weapon systems like APS or relatively modern ATGMs.

That’s not what I’m trying to say. I’m saying that they spend a very large amount of money and prioritise the military at almost every step. Necessarily, that means a lot of money and time goes towards new technology and weapons.

They have produced tanks in the thousands, including domestically upgraded ones. They have produced domestic APCs and thousands of SPGs. They have produced advanced NLOS ATGMs, which we have seen being fired (i.e. they work). We have seen their APS work, the video is in the post. Drozd-1 (the first APS system) was produced in the late 70s by the USSR. Are you suggesting that with all their aid from countries that also have hard-kill APS systems (Russia, China and Iran) that they can’t produce one?

And even if somehow they didn’t produce them (which we know they do for a fact), why would the Kornet’s they buy not work? If they don’t produce them then surely that goes against your argument that they wouldn’t work?

Yes. That’s practically irrelevant when the country is a dictatorship and the people don’t have the free will necessary to avoid going into the military or being forced to produce something. They can’t strike, they can’t quit, they can’t call for better working conditions. A country that spends 1/3 of its GDP on the military, pays its people awfully, and can control them all very easily, can produce relatively advanced weapons. I’m not saying their APS or ATGMs are on par with modern Western equipment, because they’re not, but they are ~20-30 year old tech. The South Korean military and intelligence take their threats pretty seriously – because they’re the ones who would have to fight North Korea.

4 Likes

Sorry, are you saying that its unlikely they do have an autoloader? Because then at the end you say it’s likely they do?

We haven’t seen any sign that Russia has produced these tanks for them. Russia has far more pressing matters than producing 9 vehicles for North Korea.

North Korea has plenty of prototypes that never reached serial production, or did but only produced >100 vehicles. We’ll see in the upcoming years and parades whether North Korea has ramped up production or will just stick with these 9. I remember seeing someone post satellite images of a new factory building near the testing grounds of the M2020, if I find it again I’ll post it here (a new building would signal some sort of new production line).

Edit: found it pretty quickly: North Korean armor: little Kim's less explosive tools - Mechanized Warfare - Sturgeon's House


image-1

and here’s some more sources that talk about the expansion of the Kusong Tank Plant:

Spoiler

https://armyrecognition.com/defense_news_august_2023_global_security_army_industry/north_korea_s_to_increase_production_of_main_battle_tank_new_generation.html
North Korea modernizes major tank plant, paving way for mass production | NK PRO
North Korea Modernizes Main Battle Tank Production Plant - report

2 Likes

At the end i say that if they did id expect layout to be more similar to any other carousel autoloader.

This quote is from where you discuss how North Korea obtained their APS, not in regards to the manufacture of the vehicles themselves

Also these vehicles showed up in 2020, Russia did not have more pressing matters at that point in time. And its not like selling a dousin APS systems would be odd.

Or a warehouse.

But yeah, APS probably just bought from Russia, and based on layout id be hard pressed to suggest anything other than manual loader.

2 Likes

@Beeschurger @ChieftainWarrior

One important factor in all this is PPP as well.
A dollar in North Korea is worth far more than a dollar in the USA.
North Korea’s “real” spending is likely higher on the relative scale than it is other places. As an example: ZTZ-99A would be cheaper to produce in China than it would be in the USA, so the value of their spending is higher.

Beyond that the allocation of money also has to be taken into account.
Where is the money going to? Certainly not high salaries and most likely not to a lot of upkeep of their old stored equipment.
Basically: More money for new equipment with less spending on the old.

Just using raw numbers isn’t all there is to it, the deeper details of said spent money is what matters.

Personally I’m not incredibly well versed in economic stuff like this, but people seem to forget this kind of stuff far too often in these kinds of conversations.
All of this kind of data differs per country and I excluded things such as inflation, but I don’t intend to get into the deeper details of DPRK defence spending that we likely can’t even get any information on in the first place.
I would, however, advice to keep this kind of thing in mind, as raw numbers barely ever paint a good picture. After all, raw numbers don’t present any nuance.

7 Likes

Ah, I understand now. Thanks :)

My bad. That is also possible then.

See sources I attached to the previous comment. All of them claim it’s a new space for production of the M2020.

2 Likes

Definitely, yes. Because North Korea doesn’t really have to worry about working conditions, pay, etc. they can put more time and money into the actual development.

Exactly what you say here.

1 Like