U.S. Forces in Korea Get an Armor Upgrade

With tensions on the Korean peninsula at a boiling point, the U.S.’ Second Infantry Division stationed there is set to receive upgraded M1A2 Abrams tanks and M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles starting this month.

“While this is not an increase in the number of U.S. combat vehicles on the Korean Peninsula,” said Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson, 8th Army commander. “It is a significant increase in combat capability.”

The A2 version of the legendary Abrams features improved depleted uranium armor mesh, digital situational awareness tools, improved radios and navigation gear, an extra thermal sight for the tank commander and improved fire controls allowing the tank to engage multiple targets in short order.

Meanwhile, the A2 version of the Bradley comes with an improved, 600 horsepower transmission, better armor including the option for reactive armor and spall protection. Newer versions of the Bradley A2 suite also feature the same digital situational awareness suite as the Abrams, a GPS navigation system, missile countermeasures, a laser range finder, a thermal sight for the driver, better internal stowage capacity and even a heater to warm up MREs

The division currently operates the original M1A1 and an older version of the M2A2, and expects to fully swap out its older vehicles for the new ones by May 2011.

An Eighth U.S. Army announcement on the upgrade says its “a key indicator of the importance our Army places on troops here in Korea.”

I’d say the fact that the forces in Korea are just now getting the nearly 20-year-old upgrade kit (for the tanks, at least) might be an indication of how much the fights in Afghanistan and Iraq have pulled resources from other critical flash points around the globe.

  • Tim

    Surprising they’re getting A2 upgrades only now given that a war on the Korean peninsula would have more likely resulted in tank on tank battles than anywhere else. But glad the troops are getting them.

    • JustinH

      NorKor’s tanks suck, to put it simply.

  • Project Thor

    Why the hell are my posts being deleted, Mr. Admin?

  • Project Thor


  • Project Thor

    So, no comments allowed about SK’s armor…

  • brian

    M1 is definitely in need of an upgrade. It seems like we are ignoring a perfectly good platform because its not fashionable to have heavy armor anymore. Its true that we will eventually move to medium/light armor with active defenses, but for the next decade or so, a new Abarams would a great thing.

    • praetorian

      Brian, I think they have upgraded the M1 all along. Prototypes for the M1A3 are under development. We also have the TUSK 1 & TUSK 2 Tank Urban Survival Kit. Also the
      M1A2SEP (System Enhancement Package). The U.S. may have dragged thier feet on
      swapping units out in SK because really the NK armor is not that good.

      • praetorian

        Whoops sorry about the double post

  • Blue1

    Well the K1 was designed by GDLS and based heavily off the original M1. Assuming the K2 is an evolutionary design parallel to the A2 and Sep versions, it should far out-strip anything the Norks could field

    • praetorian


  • Justin H

    Speaking of upgrading… whats up with our next-gen GCV?! So far its just a blank canvas with a price limit. Seems like the Army really doesnt know what they want, just how much they are willing to spend. And dont even get me started on an overdue replacement for the Paladin.

  • Cosmoskitten

    It would be nice if USA had superior armor in the second Korean War.

    Keeping south korea independent and capitalist was beautiful effort by the USA, imho as a swedish social democrat.

    • crackedlenses

      At least we kept half, unlike later in Vietnam……

  • Blight

    Surprised we aren’t buying better arty for KW2. A Crusader buy would send a message that the DMZ would be defended with a curtain of steel. Crusader is dead and wont return though. Any chance we cant send more MLRS systems over?

  • STemplar

    My read on this is that it’s a way to bolster the amount of equipment in theater for the the short term. They say they will rotate the older equipment back to the US to be refurbished over the next few months. So for the short term, 2ID on the ground gets their new gear, and with their old gear waiting to transit out that’s another BDE set in country, with the other BDE set maintained in reserves there as well. Coincidentally what we would need to gear out a whole division, not related to what is going on at all…..I’m sure…..right…..

  • DomS

    Maybe they’ve just been confident for a long while that the A1 is such an overmatch to the NorK armour that upgrading wasn’t a priority.

  • Robert

    We are only talking about a battalion or so of American tanks. The Norks may only have T-55s but they have a whole lot of them.

    • Blight

      Abrams was designed to fight against Fulda Gap swarms, so the worry is if the other arms will do fine in wartime. 40 main gun rounds might not go far against tank hordes but I suspect it wont go that far…

    • Justin H

      Yea and no fuel to run them. No fuel = no training

  • Sean

    The North definately has the numbers. Here’s where technology works to our advantage, in the conventional warfare sense

  • vok

    This arrangement is weird. Army has this pure fleet initiative going on. Armored formation either become full digital (M1A2 / Bradley A3 pairing) or half-analog half digital (M1A1 / Bradley A2 pairing designed for many guard units) . Now they want to mix M1A2 with Bradley A2?

  • brian

    They say they are developing a new variant to be deployed by 2017 with an initial prototype by 2014. Considering how almost a decade went by without serious talk of an substantial upgrade to the platform, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

    The issue stems from the US no longer sees itself fighting enemies head up in battalion vs battalion engagements, instead opting to design it weapons to fight mostly against guerilla insurgents carrying light weapons and panting shaped charges. The Abrams design is obsolete in that philosophy, and should be replaced. When it comes time to decide, I expect them to build something else.

    • crackedlenses

      You keep assuming that all we will have to fight and/or deter for the next x number of years will be terrorists hiding in caves in deserts……

  • William C.

    Good news for our armored forces in Korea. Typically the M1A2 would be grouped with the M2A3 but that won’t matter too much in this scenario. I believe the latest A2 specs these Bradleys are being upgraded too are very similar to the A3 but without the CITV and some minor differences.

    Even with their numbers North Korean armor doesn’t have a chance against these or South Korea’s new K2 and K21.

  • ServingTea

    Just a reminder, ROKA still has significant number of M48A5K. I don’t think that K2 tank has been fielded yet. Probably just recently started production. If ISR assets work/used they are supposed to, then there is no way an armored column of DPRK in one of three avenues of approach to Seoul would go unscathed. The allied tanks would just pickup up the stragglers. I think that the bigger question is how the frontal armor of K1 and K1A1, along with the Abrams, would hold up against Kornets or other atgw, if DPRK have them, in offensive pushes north of the dmz, in some sort of a major retaliatory strike.

  • 4thTanksUSMC

    The USMC has been fielding m1a1’s since we got them back in desert storm. Upgrading them with newer techonology as it comes along such as fire control systems, thermal sights for the TC, etc. The army is into this whole technology race and has alot of stuff jammed into the M1A2. Did you know they added additional batteries so they can run even more electronics inside such as a blueforce tracker, etc. My experience has been limited with M1A2’s but as some of you know the more gadgets inside these beasts the more likley they will fail, and a tank mech wont always be there to help! I like the way the USMC has fielded and upgraded our tanks. We have put upgraded electronics, and the necessities needed to keep up with the times and the ever changing battlefield. For example from what i know there is air conditioning inside the M1A2’s….do you know the reasoning behind it, I can tell you that it is not for the comfort of the soldiers inside but to counter act all the heat that is generated from all the bells and whistles put into the M1A2…maybe the army should stick to “keep it simple stupid”

    4th Tank Battalion A. CO. USMC
    Tank Gunner

  • regular_reader

    Finally, they updating weakness of inferior M1 Abrams design. ERA armor could help to protect extremely poor armor on the sides of turret.

  • IMO US didn’t upgrade the tanks in USFK until now because in reality the tanks that will stop the NK tanks will be SK’s K1 (and K1A1) tanks. Hopefully enough will be destroyed by SK and US’s air force before they are met by SK and US tanks.

    There just aren’t enough M1 tanks in 2nd Div.

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