The term “tacticool” is often used among guys like me that appreciate a good piece of gear… and don’t appreciate the look of a weapon that has had too many odds and ends strapped to it to be of any use. Some gear is useful, even essential, to improving your chances of coming out of a fight alive, while keeping your pocket protector full of brand new “tactical pens” may not amount too much for the non-John Wicks among us.
In short, tacticool is often a derogatory term reserved for the silly or non-useful bits of gear we see marketed as important for the suburban “war fighter” – things that might seem like they made your loadout more badass, but actually amount to nothing but extra weight and a cool new profile picture for your Facebook page.
Most the world’s militaries avoid these sorts of things, opting instead to focus on lower costs and higher efficiency in the name of winning wars without breaking the bank, but one nation has repeatedly demonstrated their priorities to be more in line with “cool Facebook pics” than operational capabilities – and pictures from a recent military competition held within their reclusive state shows that this nation’s tanks are nothing short of “tacticool,” indeed.
Do I really need to tell you which country would start strapping things to the sides of their tanks just to try to make them look scarier? You guessed it: North Korea.
Pictures snapped during the 2017 Korean People’s Army Tank Crews’ Competition were recently released on the state-owned Rodong Sinmun news site, and they show the North Korean variant of 1960’s era Soviet T-62 tanks (referred to as Chonma-ho main battle tanks) equipped with some additions that might even make the captain of your local airsoft team blush (no offense, airsoft guys).
North Korea’s long tradition of trying to seem powerful despite having an economy that is comparable to some wealthier trailer parks has left them with little to cling to in the face of American and South Korean military exercises being conducted at their Southern border. Although the North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile programs have been garnering most of the attention (and with good reason) Kim Jong Un must also strive to develop and maintain a land-based military that is capable of holding its own against his enemies. If these pictures are any indicator, Kim’s mindset in that regard seems to be, “try strapping some rockets to it.”
The upgrades that are visible on some of the tanks include a pair of “Gimlet” SA-16 shoulder fired, surface to air missiles welded directly to the side of the turret. These missiles, likely intended as an offset for the U.S. and South Korea’s air superiority seem like a good idea in theory, but in practice would likely prove extremely difficult to accurately aim and engage a fast-moving aircraft. Sarcasm notwithstanding, they could potentially be useful if tied to a modern targeting system within the cabin of the tank, but such an advancement seems unlikely for the North Korean military.
Another visible addition is the Bulsae anti-tank missile, which are a laser guided version of the Soviet Cold-War era AT-4 “Spigot.” These missiles are accurate out to two and a half miles and, if they retain the stopping power allotted to their cold war era predecessors, can penetrate up to 400 millimeters of tank armor. Unfortunately, that would only be enough to penetrate the armor on U.S. or South Korean light vehicles, and couldn’t hope to destroy even the aging M1 Abrams. The 1960’s era 115 millimeter main gun on the North Korean tanks are also woefully behind the times – leaving them under equipped to engage U.S. tanks in any sense of the word, no matter how much gear they weld to the hull of their tanks.
It’s not all bad news for Kim’s regime however. Additional armor wrapped around the turrets is reminiscent of upgrades made to Soviet tanks in the 1980s and has proven useful in combat. Likewise, the addition of a pair of forward facing machine guns could prove useful provided they can be accurately controlled from within the tank’s cabin.
According to news reports out of North Korea, the Seoul Ryu Kyong Su Guards 105th Tank Division, who led the invasion into South Korea in 1950, won this year’s competition. Despite taking home the trophy, it seems unlikely they would win in a repeat of their 1950’s exploits.
Images courtesy of NKnews