VT-5 light-duty tank / 617 prototype
On 11 October 2016, Xiao Ning, editor of the "Weapons" magazine, organized by China Ordnance Industry Group, released a series of photographs of VT-5 foreign light tanks ready to participate in the Zhuhai Airshow on a social network. From this group of photos can be seen, the tank has previously been on the network several times the exposure of a new generation of light tank prototype vehicle shape is quite different. Compared to the previous exposure prototype shape, VT-5 seems to follow the 99A and 96B tank design elements, in armor protection, mobility, fire three areas have reached a very high level. VT-5 tanks may be China's new generation of light tank export type.
After the domestic internet exposure of a new generation of light tank prototypes, it is considered that there are two variants. One of them is a vehicle with many photos on the internet, which is reportedly developed for the Baotou Machine Factory (617 Institute). The vehicle is equipped with liquid-air suspension and a 105mm long tube tank gun. At the front of the body is installed additional armor with a strong protective capacity. The vehicle is often referred to as the "617 program prototype" on the web.
The VT-5 tanks are comparable with the 617 prototype in many ways, the main differences that can be identified at present are: There is no installation of the turret front additional armor; driver seat in the center of the vehicle, rather than by the left; anti-aircraft guns using a remote control weapons station installation. But at the same time, both the main equipment of the turret installation location, the first three pairs of heavy wheel between the larger spacing, after the three pairs of heavy wheel between the smaller spacing and other characteristics are basically the same. The VT-5 would be a further development of the 617 plant prototype, perhaps the final shape of the 617 program based on the development of foreign trade version of the vehicle.
China displayed a new light-duty main battle tank at at the Zhuhai Air Show in Guangdong province on 03 November 2016 amid a muscle-flexing disclosure of ground weapons, in a bid to attract buyers who wish to quickly outfit their armies.
China North Industries Group Corp, commonly known as Norinco, the country's biggest developer of land armaments, expected the VT-5 tank to lure foreign military officers from developing nations at the 11th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, commonly known as the Zhuhai Air Show.
The State-owned defense giant said the VT-5 is the most advanced light-duty tank now available in the international market. China developed the Type-62 light tank in the 1960s and had used it in its armored forces in southern regions until 2013, when all of them were retired.
In 2014, photos of a new light tank began to circulate on the internet. Chinese media reported that it is a new model designed for the People's Liberation Army's armored units to serve in high-altitude, rugged terrains such as Tibet.
The VT-5 was specifically developed for export so is different from the model unveiled in 2014. For wealthy buyers seeking mightier tanks, Norinco offers the 52-ton VT-4, a high-end main battle tank with a 125-mm smoothbore.
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 17 Augsut 2017.
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.
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.
This 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. "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.
China confirmed the deployment of a new light tank, which observers say will suit combat operations on plateaus. A photo of the tank on snowy ground was on display 11 October 2017 at an exposition in the Beijing Exhibition Center, as part of a display showing achievements made by China over the past five years. The caption accompanying the picture says it is a new type of light tank, without giving details. This was said to be the first time the Chinese military has officially published a picture of the tank.
Almost all of the military equipment on display at the exhibition is in active service with the People's Liberation Army. A number of pictures taken by military enthusiasts and circulated on Chinese defense websites show a row of the new tanks being transported by rail. Those tanks had been painted with a tactical code on the turret - an indication of delivery to the PLA Ground Force.
At a Defense Ministry news briefing in late June 2017, Senior Colonel Wu Qian, ministry spokesman, confirmed that the light tank was being tested at that time on plateaus in the Tibet autonomous region.
Developed by China North Industries Group Corp [NORINCO], the country's biggest maker of land armaments, the light tank is equipped with a hydropneumatic suspension system that ensures good maneuverability and survivability in mountainous regions. Its main weapon is a 105-mm gun that is able to fire both shells and guided missiles, according to weapons observers, who said the tank's main task is to fight on plateaus even at very low temperatures and that its weight ranges from 25 to 35 metric tons. By comparison, a main battle tank, such as the United States' M1 Abrams and China's Type 99A, weighs up to 65 tons.
Du Wenlong, an equipment researcher at the PLA Academy of Military Science, said the vehicle was designed to operate in China's southern regions and on plateaus. "The shortage of oxygen on plateaus means its engine must be very powerful and can work well with a limited amount of oxygen," he said. "Similarly, its power, fire control and ammunition systems must have been specially designed for high altitudes."
Ge Lide, a defense technology researcher at PLA National Defense University, said that while the tank falls into the light-duty category, its combat capability is strong, considering its firepower, mobility, defensive features and information capacity. He noted that the tank would be capable of moving through many kinds of tough terrain and should be able to outperform all other PLA tanks and armored vehicles off-road.
In addition to the domestic version, China has also developed a light tank for export. The VT-5, which China North Industries Group Corp calls the most advanced light tank available in the international market, has a maximum weight of 36 tons, and is armed with a 105-mm rifled tank gun, according to the company. China developed the Type 62 light tank in the 1960s and had used it in its armored forces in southern regions for more than 50 years until retiring them in 2013.
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