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Armored Cars: Kia LTV

July 20, 2016

South Korea Kia Light Tactical Vehicle 02

South Korea’s arms industry doesn’t get enough attention. Too bad since weapon systems developed by its world-beating conglomerates have set new benchmarks for cost, quality, and effectiveness. During the recent Eurosatory outside Paris a handful of South Korean firms occupied an entire pavilion showcasing their hardware. A rather demure entry was a Humvee clone painted in a familiar desert tan.

This was Kia’s little darling, the Light Tactical Vehicle–KLTV for short. Since it was first teased in 2013 it appears destined to succeed its American counterpart, albeit serving the ROK armed forces first and then the export market. The models exhibited at Eurosatory included a truck and a recce vehicle with a protected turret and even separate batteries of smoke grenade dischargers. It’s a vehicle type that wouldn’t be out of place in Iraq or Yemen.

The KLTV’s exposure is limited at best. The most reliable information about it still comes from Kia. It’s recognizable for its boxy utilitarian design and high ground clearance, with a prominent grille. Depending on its variant the KLTV has either a single windshield or separate panels of reinforced glass for the driver and co-driver.

South Korea KLTV cargo truck Eurosatory 2016

Via Kia.

According to Kia’s product literature the KLTV runs on a 225 horsepower diesel engine and uses automatic transmission. Its mobility isn’t specified but top speed could be in the 120 kilometers per hour range putting it on par with the Renault Sherpa. The KLTV is available in seven variants, including a command vehicle, a “shop van,” four APC types, and a flatbed truck for hauling equipment or mounting a light artillery piece.

The KLTV doesn’t appear to have built-in armor protection. Rather, bulletproofing is offered as a optional feature along with run flat tires, a towing winch installed on the bumper, and a hybrid generator to power any automated subsystem such as comms or a remote controlled turret.

So far the KLTV just entered service with the South Korean army in 2015.

What career awaits the KLTV? If it’s the replacement for the South Korean Army’s jeeps, for example, its production numbers could reach several thousand in a handful of years. Beyond East Asia, the KLTV has two great prospects. First, with AM General Humvee fleets aging fast it could be the next best alternative for international customers looking for familiar replacements. Second, if Kia’s reputation and brand has as much appeal as China’s Dongfeng the KLTV could eat up armored vehicle market share in a lot of dangerous countries.

Either possibility could see the KLTV become a global bestseller. The only threat to its potential is the current fetish for wheeled armored cars of every type and the Oshkosh JLTV. In the latter case, the US Army and Marines’ widespread adoption of their Humvee replacement could inspire massive exports to allied countries. Even the remote possibility of the South Korean armed forces choosing Oshkosh may extend to licensed production by Kia’s local competitors. Or maybe supplant the KLTV if Kia bets on an Oshkosh-esque truck instead.

None of these scenarios have materialized yet. In the meantime Kia’s defense portfolio, which is substantial and patronized around the world, has a winner waiting for its moment.