Marines: China Takes The Lead


January 17, 2011: With the U.S. Marine Corps cancelling its new EFV (Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle), all the marines have left is the elderly AAV7. Now it is the Chinese who will have the most varied, and recently built, fleet of amphibious armored vehicles. China has produced a line of amphibious artillery systems that are mounted in the 20 ton ZBD amphibious tracked armored vehicle. The latest model mounts a 122mm howitzer in the chassis. An earlier one mounted a 122mm gun in a small turret. The ZBD 97 is an amphibious infantry fighting vehicle, with a 30mm autocannon (or a 100mm gun/missile launcher) in a small turret. The crew of three is accompanied by seven infantrymen in the rear. The ZBD, in the form of the ZBD 97 infantry fighting vehicle, has been in service since 2006.

The ZBD series of armored amphibious vehicles are not as formidable as the EFV, but are more recent, although smaller, vehicles than the AAV7 the U.S. marines are currently equipped with. The Chinese continue to build ZBD type vehicles, and practice with them. ZBDs are typically launched from ships up to ten kilometers offshore, and can get to a beach in less than 15 minutes.

The EFV was previously called the AAAV (Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle). Weighing nearly 36 tons, the EFV is 3.4 meters (10.5 feet) tall, 3.9 meters (12 feet) wide and just under 10 meters (30 feet) long. It's armed with a 30mm automatic cannon (MK34 Bushmaster) and a 7.62 mm co-axial machine gun. The EFV also has better armor protection and electronics than the AAV7 it replaces. The EFV is about 25 percent heavier than the AAV7, and somewhat larger. The U.S. had planned to buy 563 EFVs to replace about a thousand AAV7s. The latter will probably be retired in a decade or so.