Armor: China Chooses Protection Over Flotation



February 10, 2012:  China continues to improve its ZBD class armored vehicles. Some ZBD 97 IFVs (Infantry Fighting Vehicles) have been seen with additional armor bolted on. This addresses a complaint, from potential foreign buyers, that the vehicle was too thinly armored. Part of this was due to the Chinese desire to maintain good amphibious capabilities for the vehicle. But potential buyers were more interested in protection.

Three years ago China revealed a line of amphibious artillery systems that are mounted in the 20 ton ZBD amphibious tracked armored vehicle. One model mounts a 122mm howitzer in the chassis, while another one mounted a 122mm gun in a small turret.

The original ZBD 97 used license built components of the Russian BMP 3 in a Chinese designed amphibious infantry fighting vehicle chassis. The later ZBD 97 entered service six years ago, armed with a 30mm autocannon and a 100mm gun/missile launcher in a small turret plus several 7.62mm machine-guns. The fire control system includes a night sight. The crew of three is accompanied by seven infantrymen in the rear.

The 20 ton ZBD 04 is amphibious and has a top road speed of 65 kilometers an hour and water speed of 20 kilometers an hour. It can travel 500 kilometers on roads on a load of fuel.


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