Military says sinking of vehicle was due to flaws

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Military says sinking of vehicle was due to flaws

Military auditors investigating the accidental sinking of a new amphibious armored vehicle four months ago confirmed yesterday that a handful of design flaws in parts of the vehicle was to blame.

The results came nearly two months after a probe into the K-21 infantry fighting vehicle, following the accident that left a soldier dead who was trapped inside the vehicle as it sank during a river-crossing training exercise in late July.

“According to the results of our audit, a drainage pump inside the K-21’s engine compartment doesn’t properly work to be viable in water when the engine is accelerating,” said Chung Hwan-deok, head of the 21-member audit team at the Ministry of National Defense.

As the vehicle gains speed, the pressure inside the engine room becomes lower than the air pressure, causing the engine to suck in water and the drainage pump to malfunction, Chung said.

He also cited mechanical problems in the acceleration pedal when the vehicle moves in water and the improper design of the waterproof seal of the vehicle’s hull as contributing factors to the accident.

Chung said the military plans to replace all of the faulty parts in the K-21 by February next year, promising to punish those responsible.

“We are weighing the level of punishment against them, including the manufacturer,” Chung told reporters.

The K-21, co-developed by the state-run Agency for Defense Development and Doosan DST, is the Army’s first amphibious infantry fighting vehicle. About 60 of them have been deployed so far after being put into service in November last year.

The Army plans to acquire some 500 K-21s by 2015.

“The ministry is strictly supervising the replacement works and will carry out thorough safety checks to prevent such an accident from happening again,” Chung said.

The Army has suspended operations of the vehicles in water until the problems are fixed, officials said.

Korea spent 91 billion won ($80.3 million) and 10 years to develop the K-21, touting it as one of its key defense export items. Equipped with a stabilized 40-millimeter cannon, a 7.63-millimeter machine gun and a launcher for anti-tank guided missiles, the 26-ton vehicle can carry three crew members and travel at a speed of up to 70 kilometers per hour.

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