China / Society

Tank maker seeks to increase exports on land armaments

By Zhao Lei (China Daily) Updated: 2015-06-05 07:40

Norinco promotes weapon features on WeChat, a common messaging app

Tank maker seeks to increase exports on land armaments

The high-end VT-4 tank is promoted by Norinco, its Chinese manufacturer, as an alternative to Russia's advanced T-14 Armata. Norinoco said its tank is better than the T-14 in terms of automation, mobility, fire-control systems and cost. Hu Yongye / for China Daily

In an effort to increase sales of its tanks in the face of declining global demand, China North Industries Group Corp, the country's biggest developer and maker of land armaments, is turning to a popular smartphone social networking app.

WeChat is often used by Chinese arms producers to release comparisons between their weapons and other nations' products - contents that they would not put on their websites in consideration of diplomatic issues.

So, like many other State-owned defense technology enterprises, Norinco, as the tank maker is known, is promoting its brand and products to WeChat's more than 500 million users.

Most recently, it posted an article on its account that touts the ways its tanks are more usable than Russia's most-advanced T-14 Armata.

"Production lines of tanks have been closed in Western countries for a long time, so among large tank makers, only China and Russia have such facilities, which means if an international client wants to buy a new tank, it can only choose between China and Russia," said Norinco, the sole tank maker in China.

"Currently, Russia has only one new tank that is available for export - the T-90S. In contrast, we have the low-end VT-2, middle-end VT-1 as well as the high-end VT-4, covering the requirements of almost every client in the international market," the company said.

China is Russia's main competitor in developing countries seeking to buy tanks, and the tight market is becoming even more competitive for tank exporters. A report last year by the Center for Analysis of World Arms Trade in Moscow indicated that the global demand for new tanks will sharply decline from 2014 to 2017 compared with the previous four-year period, which is expected to further fuel the already fierce competition.

The T-90S, a third-generation Russian main battle tank, is just able to compete with the VT-1, while its upgraded version, the T-90AM, has no substantial improvements, according to Norinco. The VT-4's wide recognition on the international tank market is forcing Russia to put its cutting-edge T-14 on the market to change the situation, the company said.

Russia debuted the T-14 Armata on May 9 during a grand parade to celebrate the 70th anniversary of victory in World War II. Russian media noted that the weapon was the first fourth-generation tank to enter service globally, saying it would be one of the most powerful tanks in the future battlefield.

However, the assertion is being challenged by Norinco, which claims the Russian tank is weaker than the Chinese VT-4 in terms of automation, mobility, fire-control systems and cost competitiveness.

"The T-14's transmission is not well-developed, as we saw through a malfunction taking place during a rehearsal before the May 9 parade. By comparison, the VT-4 has never encountered such problems so far," Norinco said in the WeChat article. "Our tanks also have world-class fire-control systems, which the Russians are still trying to catch up with."

It continued: "Another important issue is the price - the T-14 is reported to have a price as high as that of the United States' M1A2 Abrams. ... Why don't buyers consider Chinese tanks that have well-developed technologies and equipment as well as much-lower prices?"

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