Bangladesh Army - Modernization
Throughout its existence, the Bangladesh Army (BA) had to contend with severe shortages of weapons, communications equipment, spare parts, and transport vehicles. One 1982 report maintained that target practice--a basic military skill--was restricted because of ammunition shortages. Under these conditions, it is doubtful the army could fight a conventional war for more than a few days without massive assistance from a foreign power.
Bangladesh first got tanks in 1974 during Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's trip to Egypt. Egyptian president Anwar Sadat presented Bangabandhu with 44 tanks that were in good shape. Following the series of coups and mutinies that erupted between 1975 and 1977, Zia removed the army's tanks from Dhaka in order to guard against further coups.
During the 1950s through 1970s, the Type-59 was the PLA's primary MBT, and thousands were built until production ceased sometime in the mid-1980s. This tank has also been exported extensively; since the late 1970s, and was sold to Bangladesh in the 1980s. The army's armor regiments in the mid-1980s were equipped with Type 59, Type 54/55, and, its most recent acquisition, Type 62 light tanks (not to be confused with Soviet T-62 medium tanks). The Type 59 main battle tank and Type 62 light tanks were supplied directly by China. Details regarding the terms of purchase, the training of Bangladeshi tank crews, and maintenance arrangements were never publicized.
The appearance of Type 59 and Type 62 tanks at the Victory Day parade in Dhaka in 1987 marked the first time that any tanks had appeared in a Victory Day parade and suggested that tanks may again be deployed in the vicinity of the capital.
By 2012 sophisticated military weapons including MBT-2000 tanks, self propelled guns, weapons locating radar, armoured personnel carriers (APC), armoured recovery vehicles and helicopters had been procured for the armed forces.
Bangladesh Army bought a total of 40 [not 320 as some sources report] Type 62 light tanks from China in the 1970s, most of which were out of service after 2005. The tanks-encyclopedia reports that "Bangladesh ordered 36 vehicles in 1984. They were all later reconverted. 14 into APCs and 22 into 105 mm self-propelled gun with a central fixed casemate. Both types are still operational today." The Bangladesh Army converted some of the fleet of Type-62 Light Tank to into Self Propelled Howitzer, Infantry Fighting Vehicle and APC. All conversion processes has been done in Bangladesh by the BA engineers and technicians, though the precise institutional seetting is unclear. Some sources attribute the conversion to a "Heavy Vehicles Factory" - India has such an establishement, but Bangladesh does not, while other sources attribute the work to Bangladesh Ordnance Factories (BOF). Among them 14 were in service with upgrades, 14 were converted to APC and other 22 were converted to Type 62 light self-propelled howitzer gun.
- Bangladesh converted 22 Type 62 light tanks into light howitzer cannon with an Italian Oto Merla Mod56 105mm howitzer gun [some sources erroneously report a non-existent 102mm gun]. The SPHs were equipped with 105mm cannon that could fire at a distance of about 12-15 km.
- The IFV had a 30mm main gun and a 12.7mm heavy machine gun instead of the 85mm main gun.
- The APCs' 85mm main guns were removed and replaced with an area where "probably" 5-6 troops could be carried. The weapon was a 12.7x99mm heavy anti-aircraft machine gun.
However, none of them served for a long time because there were many limitations. According to many, they could not be converted properly due to lack of proper planning and execution. They were probably used until 2010 and were later scrapped. The army would probably retire all Type-62s by 2020, which are reserved for decoration in various cantonments.
The first artillery unit of Bangladesh Army was formed on July 22, 1971 in Konaban of India with six cannons (3.7 inch Howitzers) including the two presented by India. The newly formed artillery was named after Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The Mujib Battery took part in the Liberation War under the “K Force” in Sector-2 and used the cannons in the battlefield.
Other army weapons included 105mm and 122mm howitzers, 60mm and 120mm mortars, and 57mm, 76mm, and 106mm antitank weapons. The weapons had been acquired from a variety of sources, including as spoils of war from the Pakistan Army. In 2011 the Army signed a draft deal with the countries concerned to purchase 18 new cannons.
A report of the Army, analysing the allocations and expenditures of the past four fiscal years was placed before the parliamentary standing committee on defence ministry on 28 May 2009. The report identifies insufficient funding as the “key problem” to starting replacement of outdated weaponry. “Most of our weapons are from the 1960s and ’70s, which belittles our overall military prowess,” it said. According to the report, 90.3 percent small arms and 89 percent field artillery guns used by the army were bought during 1960s-80s while all the tanks are from that period.
The government took initiatives in 2003 to buy tanks for the army, but that initiative did not see the light of day due to budgetary limitations. The government was supposed to buy seven tanks in 2010 and seven more in 2011. But only a Chinese company took part in the tender, the government cancelled it, and re-invited tender in which four companies from China, Russia, Ukraine, and Pakistan participated. Later the army requested the government to buy 44 tanks instead of 14. Chinese company Norinco was selected as the lowest bidder in June 2011 for the Main Battle Tanks (MBT-2000) for $160 million for the tanks and three armored recovery vehicles (ARV). The tanks were to be delivered in phases over a span of 27 months. In the first phase 24 tanks will come within 20 months of the contract award [by early 2013], and the rest would come in the second phase over the following 7 months [by the end of 2013].
Besides, the BA was looking for a new main battle tank, VT-1A and T-72B3 options under a government-to-government deal. In 2018 Bangladesh Army rejected the offer of Russian T-72B3 MBT's on cost grounds. The Russians asked at least $3 million for each tank, which was deemed unacceptable by the BD Army as these tanks were just upgraded 20 year old tanks.
The Bangladesh Army has begun inducting fourth-generation China-made MBT-2000 tanks. Bangladesh has placed an order for 44 MBT2000 tanks, enough to equip one regiment. The deal is worth $162 million. In January 2014 it was erroneously reported that the Bangladesh army was in the process of procuring "2,000 Main Battle Tanks" from China at the cost of 162 million dollars. The MBT2000 is the Al Khalid tanks, in the service of the Pakistan army since 2001. This was the first time Bangladesh has obtained newly assembled Main Battle Tanks (MBTs). The existence of the main battle tank Type 90-II MBT (also called MBT 2000) was first revealed in late 1991. China's MBT2000 tank performance close to the India T90S
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said 07 January 2017 Bangladesh Army, a force imbued with the spirit of the War of Liberation, is very much ready than ever before to foil any evil force. “I’m confident over the overall capacity of the army after seeing the use of newly inducted MBT-2000 tank, APC BTR-80, Self Propelled Artillery Gun, NORA-B-52, Radar Vehicle SLC-2, anti-tank missile METIS-M-1 and professionalism of the army,” she said.
By 2018, the Bangladesh Army was all set to procure 44 VT-5 light tanks from China. Bangladesh ordered 44 VT-5 light tanks from China in 2019. These tanks will form a light tank regiment. In the future, the Bangladesh Army will also form two light tank regiments, which means that Bangladesh may purchase 150 VT-5 light tanks. According to the news from North Industries [NORINCO], the first batch of VT-5 light tanks ordered by Bangladesh has been shipped on April 23, marking the official opening of the domestic VT-5 light tanks. Bangladesh received Chinese VT-5 light tanks in April 2021, with induction by June 2021. These replaced older Type-62 and Type-69 in services with the Army.
In December 2019 the Bangladesh Ministry of Defense officially announced that its army had ordered VT5 light tanks for a regiment from China, and these tanks will soon enter the Bangladesh Defense Forces for service. It is known that the total number of VT5 in a Bangladesh regiment would reach 44 tanks. According to the news from North Industries, the first batch of VT-5 light tanks ordered by Bangladesh was shipped on 23 April 2020, marking the official debutg of the VT-5 light tanks on the interenational market. In the future, the Bangladesh Army may also form two further light tank regiments, which means that Bangladesh may purchase an eventual total of 142-150 VT-5 light tanks.
The VT5 foreign trade light tank is equipped with a 105-millimeter gun capable of accurately firing a wide range of shells, including armor-piercing shells and gun-launched missiles. The VT5 is expected to be outfitted with an active protection system, state broadcaster reported, which will enable the thin-armored tank to significantly expand its defense capability. An active protection system could detect incoming hostile projectiles before firing interception rockets to detonate them before they hit the tank. "Compared to a heavy main battle tank, a light tank like the VT5 carries lighter armor, meaning weaker passive protection. Using an active protection system would be a great choice," a military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on 05 August 2019. Despite relatively weaker passive protection, the VT5 is still equipped with multiple explosive reactive armor units, according to CCTV.
The People's Liberation Army recently commissioned the Type 15, another Chinese light tank, according to the Ministry of National Defense, although it has yet to make any public appearance. The Type 15 likely has many characteristics of the VT5, as the two might share some common roots, but the Type 15 could be even better at communication information sharing.
The VT-5 light tank that Bangladesh has initially finalized its intention is part of the Army’s “Light Tank Plan” in the Bangladesh’s “Force Goal 2030” plan. In the early stage, in addition to VT-5, the main contenders for the order were Korean K21-105, Russia 2S25 "Octopus"-SD, and Turkey and Indonesia jointly developed "Kaplan". These are called "light tanks", but they can't really be said to be "tanks". For a country that has no real threats, it is fine to decorate the appearance, but it will be a big loss to use it as a tank.
According to the Bangladesh Army, the VT-5 light tank is the first tank in South Asia to be equipped with a commander’s integrated peripheral sight glass. Even though the most advanced T-90S main battle tank of the Indian Army did not install this advanced system, the commander relied on the image of the gunner’s integrated sight glass to command the operation and could not achieve the hunting-fighting capability. The protection capability of the VT-5 light tank seems to have been upgraded, and the car body is equipped with FY-2 reactive armor. Because the combat weight is lighter and the engine power is larger, it is more adaptable to the combat environment of the South Subtropical water network. The 105mm rifled gun adopts a new generation of China’s new-generation fins-stablixed armor-piercing shells, which can penetrate the body of the T-90S main battle tank.
Compared to Pakistan, Bangladesh’s economic and internal affairs are better, and the current real threats are relatively small. As of 2020, the Bangladesh Army 44 VT-1A main battle tanks, 58 Type 69-II tanks upgraded with 94-type 105mm tank guns, and 174 Type 59 tanks (some of which have been upgraded to 59G standard). In a defensive situation, the anti-armor firepower of these tanks is currently able to deal with various targets around them more effectively.
For a long time, India and Bangladesh have had a kind of "special relationship", with frequent economic and defense cooperation. However, India, which frequently prides itself as a "superpower", is unable to provide Bangladesh with suitable military equipment due to its limitations. Nowadays, Bangladesh, where Chinese weapons occupy more than half of the country, has been wary of India, with the ruling and growth of the Bharatiya Janata Party in recent years.
Myanmar, which was also under the rule of the former British India, is another potential threat to Bangladesh. Although the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar only occupies a small part of the land border of Bangladesh, a series of problems represented by refugees have also brought problems. Less contradictions, and more involved the conflict between the Burmese government forces and the armed forces at the border.
However, with the exception of more than 40 VT-1A, the remaining Type 69-II and Type 59 are not as good as the maneuverability level, especially the 59G tanks with greatly upgraded firepower and protection, which can only be used in most cases. Used as a tank destroyer. Most of Bangladesh’s land is located in the alluvial plains of the lower Ganges River and the Ganges Delta, which is crisscrossed by the water network. The eastern border with Myanmar is in the remaining mountainous areas of the Rakhine Mountains. This may be the country’s army’s establishment of a "light tank plan."
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