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Chinese Armour At Zhuhai Air Show 2018

Image 01 ~ VT4 main battle tank [©GA]

Airshow China 2018, also known as the Zhuhai Air Show, which took place in the southern Chinese port city of Zhuhai last November, gave us the chance to photograph some Chinese armour, writes Gordon Arthur.


The Zhuhai Air Show is by far the largest defence show in the Asia-Pacific region, and the biennial event attracts thousands of visitors and hundreds of exhibitors. International participation on the military side is very limited, however, because of the West’s embargoes against China. Thus, the main overseas defence exhibitors are pretty much limited to Russia and Ukraine.


Image 02 ~ VT5 light tank [©GA]

Nevertheless, such is the mass and quality of Chinese exhibitors that this single-dimensionality is not a problem. Although the Zhuhai Air Show is primarily designed to showcase aircraft, helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles, there is also a large contingent of armoured vehicles on display at each event. In last year’s show there were daily demonstrations of various armoured vehicles from the main manufacturers Norinco (China North Industries Corporation), China South Industries Group and Dongfeng Motor Corporation. A large manoeuvre area has been permanently established at the site adjacent to Zhuhai international Airport, allowing companies to put their vehicles through their paces. Norinco is the largest AFV producer in China, and this conglomerate produces the bulk of fighting vehicles for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), including main battle tanks (MBT), infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) and armoured personnel carriers (APC).


Image 03 ~ VT2B MBT [©GA]

The following pictures illustrate the main vehicles that were on display at the manoeuvre demonstration. Although the show was designed to showcase products to the wider public and to potential customers, China’s marketing methods obviously still require some work. For example, all accompanying commentary at the demonstration was given only in Mandarin, which is of not mush use to potential international clients. Nor were any brochures with specifications available* for any Norinco or China Southern products.


Image 04 ~ VN12 tracked IFV [©GA]

However, given that Chinese sales are all achieved at the intergovernmental level, this obviously does not make any difference to export sales. Beijing tends to target sales in places like Africa, the Middle East, South America, Central and Southeast Asia, where price, politics and ease of purchase trump all else. China has few scruples about selling weapons to anyone willing to pay for them.


* Footnote: Norinco also displayed internationally at the recent IDEX 2019 in Abu Dhabi and even here no sales brochures were available on the stand, though the sales team were welcoming and unexpectedly presented Joint-Forces with a very nice rubber USB stick in the shape of a VT4 tank.

{ images © Gordon Arthur unless noted }

Image 05 ~ VN17 modern IFV [©GA]

Extended Captions List:-

Image 01: The 52-tonne VT4 tank (also known by its export name as the MBT-3000) is a Norinco product. Its main armament is a 125mm main gun, this being fed by an automatic loader that can feed up to eight rounds per minute. Thailand has already inducted the VT4 MBT [©GA]

Image 02: The 36-tonne VT5 is a new light tank from Norinco. It first appeared at Airshow China 2016, and in PLA service it is known as the ZTQ11. The VT5 available for export is armed with a 105mm main gun. The VT5 features a three-man crew, while a 605kW engine offers a top speed of 70km/h [©GA]

Image 03: Also from Norinco is the VT2B MBT, this essentially being an export version of the PLA Ground Force’s ZTZ96G tank. It is unclear what modifications the VT2B has over the preceding VT2. It has a 125mm smoothbore cannon and its weight is estimated at 42.8 tonnes [©GA]

Image 04: First appearing at Airshow China 2104, the VN12 is a tracked IFV from Norinco. It is fitted with a 30mm automatic cannon, a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun and an external launch rail for HJ-73D antitank guided missiles (ATGM) on its turret. It is based on the ZBD04A used by the PLA [©GA]

Image 05: The VN17, unveiled in August 2017, is a more modern IFV than the VN12. Its main armament consists of a 30mm automatic cannon, a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun and Red Arrow 12 ATGM launchers mounted on the turret sides. Catering to the export market, the 30-tonne VN17 offers a top road speed of 70km/h. Appliqué armour can provide STANAG Level 6 protection, according to Norinco [©GA]

Image 06 ~ ZBL09 or VN1 8×8 IFV [©GA]

Image 07 ~ VN2 6×6 amphibious APC [©GA]

Image 08 ~ CS/VN9 6×6 armoured personnel carrier [©GA]

Image 09 ~ VN4 4×4 light tactical armoured vehicle [©GA]

Image 10 ~ 4×4 VP11 MRAP [©GA]

Image 11 ~ VN21 4×4 protected vehicle [©GA]

Image 12 ~ VP22 6×6 protected truck [©GA]

Image 13 ~ Lynx CS/VP11 ATVs [©GA]

Image 14 ~ CS/VP16 amphibious 6×6 ATV [©GA]

Image 15 ~ CS/VP4 light 8×8 ATV [©GA]

Image 16 ~ Dajiang CS/VN10 4×4 protected vehicle [©GA]

Image 17 ~ Second generation CS-VN3-1 [©GA]

Image 18 ~ CS/VP3 4×4 MRAP [©GA]

Image 19 ~ CS/VP14 4×4 MRAP [©GA]

Image 20 ~ YJ2081C 4×4 protected assault vehicle [©GA]

Image 21 ~ CSK131 Mengshi 4×4 tactical vehicle [©GA]

Image 22 ~ ZBL09 8×8 IFV with Red Arrow 10B missile [© Bob Morrison]

Extended Captions List (continued):-

Image 06: The PLA operates a plethora of variants based on the ZBL09 8×8 IFV. For the export market, Norinco calls the vehicle the VN1, and it has been purchased by Argentina, Venezuela and Thailand. The VN1 can be fitted with a wide range of turrets and weapon stations, with this example have a remote-controlled weapon station (RWS) containing a 30mm cannon, 7.62mm machine gun, 40mm automatic grenade launcher and HJ-73D missiles [©GA]

Image 07: The VN2 is Norinco’s export name for the WMZ551 (Type 92B or ZSL92B in PLA parlance). The VN2 is a 6×6 amphibious APC. A whole range of variants and weapon systems are possible, but this demonstrator has a 30mm automatic cannon fitted in a one-man turret [©GA]

Image 08
Although this looks similar to the VN2, it is in fact a CS/VN9. The ‘CS’ nomenclature indicates it is a product from China South Industries rather than Norinco. This APC is based on a 6×6 chassis, and it is here fitted with an RWS [©GA]

Image 09: The VN4 is a 4×4 light tactical armoured vehicle from Norinco. Here a 9-tonne VN4 is equipped with a 12.7mm QJC88 machine gun on the roof. Nicknamed the Rhinoceros, it can carry 2+9 soldiers, and is in service with the PLA, Kenya and Venezuela [©GA]

Image 10: The 4×4 VP11 is a lightweight mine-resistant armour-protected (MRAP) vehicle produced by Norinco. Possessing a V-shaped hull, it offers STANAG 4569 Level 1 ballistic protection, but this can be enhanced to Level 2 with additional armour plates [©GA]

Image 11: The VN21 is the latest-generation 4×4 protected vehicle from Norinco. Unfortunately, however, there is a dearth of information about this new vehicle type. It appears to have a monocoque hull with add-on armour panels. This VN21 at Zhuhai Air Show 2018 had a remotely operated 12.7mm machine gun installed on the roof [©GA]

Image 12: The VP22 is a 6×6 protected truck based on the larger 8×8 Beiben Kaijia. The VP22 is here configured as a troop carrier that accommodates around 16 soldiers. This example it is fitted with a n RWS on the roof, although its field of fire would be restricted in such a position [©GA]

Image 13: The nomenclature for these small (unarmoured) 4×4 all-terrain vehicles (ATV) is Lynx CS/VP11, and they are a joint product from Norinco’s and China South Industries’ stables. The one in the foreground performs utility roles, while the one behind is outfitted for the communications role. A 7.62mm Gatling gun can even be mounted on these small ATVs [©GA]

Image 14: The Lynx CS/VP16 is a family of (unarmoured) amphibious 6×6 ATVs designed to transport troops or equipment in harsh environments. A whole range of variants are available, this one being fitted with a 14-tube 107mm rocket launcher. Other weapon possibilities are a 82mm rapid-firing mortar, six-barrelled 23mm Gatling gun or even a 120mm mortar [©GA]

Image 15: The CS/VP4 is a family of light (unarmoured) 8×8 ATVs that can be used to transport troops or equipment. The 2,850kg vehicle is used by PLA airborne troops, for example. This particular amphibious CS/VP4 is armed with a heavy machine gun on the roll cage. It can reach a top speed of 65km/h [©GA]

Image 16: Bearing the brand name Dajiang, the CS/VN10 is a 4×4 protected vehicle. This example has an RWS fitted with a 12.7mm heavy machine gun on the roof [©GA]

Image 17: This is the second-generation CS/VN3, referred to as the CS-VN3-1. This 4×4 light tactical armoured vehicle is designed by China South Industries, and it also carries the marque Dajiang on the front grille. [©GA]

Image 18: The CS/VP3 is a 4×4 MRAP from China South Industries. It was unveiled at DSA 2012 in Malaysia, and it is known to be used by Nigerian and Ugandan police. It can carry 2+10 passengers and has a combat weight of 15 tonnes. Note the slat armour fitted on this demonstrator at Zhuhai in 2018 [©GA]

Image 19: The CS/VP14 is yet another 4×4 MRAP type from China. It can carry 2+9 soldiers, and the CS/VP14 offers STANAG 4569 Level 3b protection, which means it can withstand a blast of up to 8kg of TNT [©GA]

Image 20: Beijing Zhongzi Yanjing Automobile unveiled this 6.4-tonne YJ2081C 4×4 protected assault vehicle at the 2016 edition of the Zhuhai Air Show. In fact, this Tiger range of vehicles is based on the Russian GAZ Tigr. It is used by the Public Security Bureau in China [©GA]

Image 21: This is the CSK131 Mengshi 4×4 tactical vehicle from Dongfeng Motor Corporation. It is also available with a stretched 4×4 wheelbase as the CSK141, plus a 6×6 chassis in the form of the CSZ181. The Mengshi is widely used by the PLA [©GA]

Image 22: At IDEX 2019 in Abu Dhabi Norinco exhibited this anti-armour variant of the ZBL09 8×8 IFV with Red Arrow 10B anti-tank missile launchers [© Bob Morrison]




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