M2020 (Production) – Even better?

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M2020 (Production)

Flag-North-Korea

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. 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 has been dubbed M2020 by Western analysts, as no name has yet been revealed by the secretive state.

In 2023, the M2020 was revealed with a new ERA kit, and in March 2024, the vehicle was shown during training exercises, with all 9 vehicles having entered service with the 105th Tank Division.

This suggestion is very similar to my M2020 (Prototype) suggestion, but with an extra few paragraphs in the Armour section to describe the ERA, and some updated images throughout – otherwise the vehicles appear to be identical.

Important Note

  • The M2020 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 M2020 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 M2020 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 M2020 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 M2020 (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 M2020, 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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  • M2020 firing during training exercise. 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.

m2020 crew

  • M2020s with all 4 crew

It has been speculated that the M2020 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 (see 2 images above).

Secondary Armament
Much like its predecessors, the M2020 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 launcher appears to have slightly changed shape from the prototype model due to the addition of the nearby ERA.

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 M2020 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

  • Bulsae-5 (circled in red) being launched during training exercises, similarities (identical appearance?) to the 9M133 Kornet are evident

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 M2020 might be a step in the right direction. Much like the older MBTs, the M2020 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 M2020 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.

Screenshot 2024-03-24 at 22.25.06

  • The commander and gunner’s sights. Thermals are indicated by the separated halves of each sight

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

  • Layout of key components of the M2020

Layout, Armour and other Protection
The M2020 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 M2020.

  • Side view of Zulfiqar-3

The M2020’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 production model introduces ERA across the front of the turret, as well as a few blocks along the sides. It’s unknown if the ERA is domestically designed, but it is likely an improvement over the ERA on the later Ch’ŏnma-216’s, and the Sŏn’gun. It has visual similarities to the Russian Kontakt-5 and/or the Chinese FY-4/-5, and is likely at least inspired by them. It should provide at least decent CE protection, and can likely protect against KE projectiles to some extent.

The M2020 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 M2020 – 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 some sort of composite block over the side-skirts, and additional ERA blocks across around 2/3 of the vehicle’s length. Rubber flaps cover the wheels even further.

  • My interpretation of the likely armour layout of the M2020
    • Red = composite
    • Green = (likely) composite, weaker
    • Blue = ERA

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 M2020 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.

  • 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 M2020 also has smoke grenades located in the rear turret, surrounded by the turret basket. There are 2 launchers of 4 grenades each.

Mobility
The M2020’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. With additional ERA on the production model, the weight will be increased, but likely only ~1t or so.

North Korea claim the M2020 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.

  • M2020’s firing on the move

Conclusion
This vehicle would be the best top-tier vehicle in a North Korean sub-tree or United Korean tech 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 + ERA
    • Rear
      • Unknown + slat armour
  • Turret
    • Front
      • Unknown composite array, possibly very similar to Zulfiqar-3 + ERA
    • Sides
      • Unknown + ERA
    • Rear
      • Unknown + slat armour

Mobility

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

Images

Spoiler






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Sources

Spoiler

https://www.sciencetimes.co.kr/news/북한의-신형-전차-m2020-그-실체는/
North Korea Hyped Its Main Battle Tank | 21st Century Asian Arms Race
M2020, New North Korean MBT - Tank Encyclopedia
x.com
M2020 tank - Wikipedia
M-2020 - 나무위키
불새 미사일 - 나무위키
Zulfiqar 3: The Shining Sword
Below The Turret Ring: Hardkill APS overview

3 Likes

Well detailed post about a unique N. Korean tank! I see no reason why this shouldn’t be added in-game so its a +1 for me. I’d honestly prefer to see this as a N. Korean Sub TT in the Chinese TT alongside some Pakistani vehicle fillers.

4 Likes

A proper modern MBT to cap off the DPRK sub-tree. +1

2 Likes

you can remove half of the turret cheeks where the smoke launcher sits

most likely no composite at all, like russian and chinese mbts.

look at the welds on the turret and tell me where the composite would be

What?
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It makes no sense for a country with the capacity to produce composite armour, and which has done so for decades, to not put composites in the turret of their best tank.

Pretty much every analyst has agreed the tank has composite internals, it’s practically a given at this point.

3 Likes

on the lower glacis, didn’t you see it was written in green?

but it would actually appear to have composite on the lower hull my bad plate, and a different type on the upper hull (bolted so maybe some type of era?).

You are right, those are just kimchi holders. /s

If you are referring to how the can fit the “APS launchers” there, the NERA array is probably wedge shaped in cross section, leaving a void at the bottom.

3 Likes

Oh, sorry, I didn’t realise you were referring to that image in particular. But yes, it does appear to be 2 different types of composite armour. The UFP is almost certainly composite, and is bolted on, but to me I don’t think it’s ERA. Likely a unique development of composite armour derived from Soviet and/or Chinese designs.

The LFP could either have composite (but weaker/thinner) or could simply be RHA, it’s hard to tell. However, given there’s that small section of the UFP without bolts (which I highlighted in green), that could indicate another, different block of composite for the LFP.

Here’s an incredibly rough (lol) diagram of what I mean:

1 Like

More likely its a monolithic armor module with mounting points and/or access to it.

+1 Have been waiting for more DPRK vehicles for a while.

2 Likes

When did you say anything about the lower glacis?