Chinese Weapons for Sale
Last week, China's dominant fighting vehicle manufacturer, China North Industries Corporation (Norinco), displayed a bevy of export armored vehicles as part of its Armor Day celebrations. These festivities, now in their second year, laud the power of Chinese military and offer an occasion to show off to senior foreign military officers, who were likely there as potential buyers.
The day began with a parade of armored fighting vehicles, led by the VT-4 main battle tank, which has already found a repeat buyer in the Royal Thai Army. Spotted: usual suspects like the VT-4 main battle tank, VT-5 light tank, and VN-12 IFV, as well as several new Chinese systems and fighting vehicles.
The radars pick up incoming enemy rockets, missiles, and shells, causing the computer to select a munition and fire it. Each munition is capable of destroying incoming munitions at a range of 33-39 feet. The use of fixed-launcher, radar-guided munitions in an APS mirrors the hard-kill portion of the Afghanit APS on the Russian T-14 Armata tank. As the GL-5 is an export-only version, the Chinese military is likely to field a more advanced version to protect its tanks, which could be comparable to the U.S. Quick Kill and Israeli Iron Fist and Trophy systems in terms of coverage, range, and fire volume.
It shares some similarity with the People's Liberation Army's mysterious new infantry-fighting vehicle, which will reportedly have an unmanned turret, augmented displays for crew helmets, and a hybrid-electrical engine for fuel efficiency and stealth. In terms of armament, protection, and sensors, both the VN-17 and the unnamed PLA IFV compare quite favorably to the U.S. Army's M2A3 Bradley IFV. But unlike the 35-year-old Bradley, China's brand new battle taxis have plenty of margin to grow into future upgrades like more advanced armor, better weapons, APS, sensors, and deploying unmanned partners.
Its 105mm cannon and the entire turret have been replaced with a much smaller turret consisting of a 30mm autocannon, a searchlight, and electro-optical sensors. The HIFV's bulky, all-aspect armor would make it well suited for either urban combat or high-end warfare in open environments. Likely customers could be existing T-54/T-55 buyers in the Middle East, particularly those looking for armored vehicles to fight insurgents in urban environments. Its likely that Norinco could develop HIFV versions of heavier, modern tanks like the VT-2 and VT-4 to offer more high-end mechanized infantry solutions for future customers, including the People's Liberation Army.
These competitive NORINCO offerings add credence to the U.S. Defense Department's 2016 report on the Chinese military, which stated that Chinese military industry was offering "world-class" ground systems. Notably, the increase in quality of Chinese weapons also means a corresponding increase in price; the RTA purchased 10 VT-4 main battle tanks for $58 million in 2017.
While Norinco's Armor Day showcased impressive fighting vehicles aimed at the export market, the PLA will likely take delivery of even more advanced versions in the years to come.