China’s biggest developer and manufacturer of land armaments, China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO), has for the first time publicly displayed an export version of a new lightweight Main Battle Tank (MBT), dubbed VT5, at the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition taking place in Zhuha from 01-06 November.
The VT5 has been developed specifically for the export market and has a combat weight of between 33 and 36 tonnes, depending on the armor package fitted and measures 9.20 m (gun forward) in length, by 3.30 m (with side skirts) in width, and 2.50 m (turret roof) in height, IHS Jane’s reported.
The baseline hull and turret is all-welded steel armor to which a modular protection package can be fitted depending on the end user’s operational requirements. This can include advanced composite armor, explosive reactive armor (ERA), or a mix of the two.
The example being shown at Airshow China is also fitted with bar/slat armor on the turret sides and either side of the hull. This provides a higher level of protection against rocket-propelled grenades and similar weapons fitted with a single high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warhead.
Survivability is also enhanced by its compact design and low profile, when compared to the latest generation of MBTs.
The VT5’s layout is conventional with the driver at the front, turret in the middle, and compact powerpack at the rear.
The two-person turret has the gunner on the left and the commander on the right. Both are provided with stabilized day/thermal sights incorporating a laser rangefinder, and individual roof hatches. The commander has a panoramic sight which allows hunter/killer target engagements to take.
According to NORINCO the computerized fire-control system (FCS) enables stationary and moving targets to be engaged out to a range of at least 3,000 m. The main armament comprises a 105 mm rifled gun which is fitted with a thermal sleeve and fume extractor. This is fed by a bustle-mounted automatic loader with the empty cartridge cases being ejected outside the turret bustle at the rear.
The VT5 purportedly is a variant of the so-called ZTQ light tank pictures of which first emerged in 2010. There is little public information available on the ZTQ tank and it is unclear whether the MBT has already been inducted into the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) or not. The tank is/will likely be deployed along China’s western border including Tibet. It unclear how many ZTQ are and will be in service with the PLA. Some sources indicate that the PLA intends to field as many as 300.
China has allegedly also produced a new variant of the third-generation ZTZ-96 MBT, the ZTZ-96B. This new tank participated in this year’s International Army Games, organized by the Russian Ministry of Defense, and held this summer near Moscow. The Type 96 MBT series is the mainstay of the PLA’s tank force with more than 2,500 Type 96 MBTs estimated to be in service with the Chinese military.
The VT-5 and ZTQ light tanks appear to be a downsized version of the VT-4/MBT-3,000. The VT-4 is based on the Soviet-era T-72 tank design and armed with a 125-mm smoothbore gun. In comparison to the VT-4, the VT-5 will likely boost weaker armor and a less powerful main gun as well as engines.