China / Society

Tank maker seeks to increase exports on land armaments

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

Features touted

To further influence potential buyers, Liu Song, a senior manager of research and development at Norinco, touted other VT-4 features: strong firepower as well as a cutting-edge data exchange network.

"It has an advanced fire-control instrument, a new-type active protection system and a state-of-the-art, fully automatic transmission device," he said. "In addition, the inter-unit network connects commanders of tanks and armored vehicles under a combat group, enabling them to share battlefield data in a real-time manner."

According to Feng Yibai, chief designer of the VT-4, the tank is equipped with an electronic-controlled diesel engine with 1,200 horsepower, giving the tank a cruise speed of 68 km per hour. Its main gun is a 125-mm smoothbore that can fire various shells, including kinetic energy penetrators and high-explosive anti-tank warheads. It can fire anti-tank missiles with a maximum range of 5,000 meters.

Even with heavy protective armor and strong firepower, the tank is much lighter in weight - 52 metric tons to 60 tons for its foreign rivals - making the VT-4 much faster, Feng said.

The VT-4 can compete with any first-class tank used by Western militaries, including the US M1A2 Abrams and Germany's Leopard 2A6, Liu said.

During a promotional event in August in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, diplomats, military officials and defense contractors from 44 countries were shown a field performance by the VT-4 tanks and some other combat vehicles made by Norinco.

"Several countries have expressed interest in the VT-4 after their officials saw the tank's display, and we are negotiating with them on this matter," Liu said, without providing more details.

Feng said Pakistan's army will test the tank.

Rising competitor

Pakistan will not be alone in deploying the VT-4, as the tank will have strong appeal to Middle Eastern countries, according to Shi Yang, an independent military observer in Beijing.

One of VT-4's predecessors, the VT-1, has been in service in several nations, including Pakistan, Morocco, Bangladesh and Myanmar, and Norinco is sparing no effort to promote it to more buyers, especially developing countries, foreign media reported.

China also is developing a new-generation light tank specifically designed for operations in mountainous regions. The tank is equipped with a hydropneumatic suspension system that ensures better maneuverability and higher survivability, an earlier report said.

China exported a total of 461 tanks from 1992 to 2013, according to the United Nations' Register of Conventional Arms, which began to record conventional weapons transfers between UN member states in 1992. Pakistan bought 296 Chinese tanks during the two decades.

Russia sold 1,297 tanks during the same period, with Algeria being the largest buyer.

The biggest tank exporter during the period was the United States, which reported sales of 5,511 tanks. It was followed by Germany, which sold 2,680 tanks.

In 2013, the latest year for which data is available, China sold 98 tanks to foreign buyers. Bangladesh, with a 44-tank deal, was the largest customer through, the UN said.

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