New land-based export weapons show off

China demonstrated many of its domestically developed tanks and other land-based weapons in an arms show before hundreds of foreign military officers in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region on Wednesday.

The event was held by State-owned China North Industries Group Corp, commonly known as Norinco, the country’s biggest maker of land-based armaments. It was meant to show the latest achievements of the Chinese land-based weapons industry, Norinco said in a statement.

About 230 officers from more than 50 foreign nations, mostly military attaches to Beijing and procurement officials, attended the demonstration. It included live-fire performances by battle tanks and anti-tank missiles, at a shooting range of the Inner Mongolia First Machinery Co, a subsidiary of Norinco, in the industrial city of Baotou.

Dozens of tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and mine-resistant/ambush protected vehicles roared onto the proving ground in formation and then conducted tactical maneuvers. Several amphibious assault vehicles and all-terrain vehicles cut through bodies of water.

The weapons displayed were the export versions, not those used by the Chinese military.

During the live-fire exercise, a VT-4 main battle tank and a ST-1 tank destroyer fired rounds of armor-piercing ammunition, and a VT-5 light-duty tank launched anti-tank missiles. A GL-5 active protection system mounted on a tank intercepted an incoming anti-tank rocket.

Afterward, many foreign guests were invited to drive and operate several types of tanks and armored vehicles.

Zhu Zheng, a senior armored vehicle researcher at Norinco and spokesman for this year’s show, said the company wanted to feature the VT-5 light-duty tank and VN-17 tracked infantry fighting vehicle this year.

The VT-5, which the company called the most advanced light-duty tank available in the international market, is based on proven technologies and has a powerful, Chinese designed engine, Zhu said.

Wednesday was the first field demonstration of the VT-5. It was first shown to the public at the 11th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in November but there was no demonstration at the time.

The company said the VT-5 is capable of operating in terrains such as desert, forest, urban areas and in soft soil that cannot support heavy-duty tanks. Its maximum weight is 36 metric tons, and it has a crew of three. The tank is armed with a 105-mm rifled tank gun, which can fire armor-piercing shells, high-explosive warheads and antitank missiles, and a 12.7-mm remotely controlled machine gun.

“The VT-5 has many advanced designs and equipment. It is the first Chinese export tank that has a conveyor-belt shell autoloader, which has better reliability and safety and higher speed when loading the main gun,” Zhu said.

The VN-17 infantry fighting vehicle made its public debut at the demonstration. Many of its large parts, like the chassis and engine, are the same as those used by the VT-5. It features an unmanned turret.

“Both the VT-5 and VN-17 are powered by domestically developed engines, which means we will no longer be bothered by interventions from some foreign suppliers,” Zhu said.

Xiao Ning, editor-in-chief of Beijing-based Weapon magazine, attended the event and said the VT-5 is capable of confronting most kinds of tanks.

“Its firepower, armor and mobility are equally good for the needs of most developing countries, which can’t afford, and don’t necessarily need, high-priced Western tanks such as the US M1A2 Abrams and the German Leopard 2 series,” he said.