Armor: China's Airborne Dragon

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October 13, 2009:  The Soviet Union pioneered Airborne Infantry Fighting Vehicles, back in 1969, with their BMD-1. They stuck with this concept, and now use the BMD-4. The Russians continue to be the largest user of this type of vehicle, designed as a lightweight paratroop carrier with a modest armament. Other countries, particularly the U.S., have never expressed much interest in this small category of which the different types of models can be counted on one hand.

Enter China’s ZLC2000. Once believed to be a modified copy of the BMD, the tracked ZLC2000 is in fact an entirely domestic design with limited Russian influence. It first appeared in public in 2005 and its presence testifies to the growing offensive power of the Chinese Army.

Featuring a box shaped hull with a centrally positioned angular turret, the vehicle is operated by a crew of 3, a gunner in the turret, commander in the hull and a driver in front of him to the left of the engine. In the turret, a 25mm cannon is mounted along with a .30 caliber machine gun. Outside the turret, an Anti-Tank Guided Missile launcher is affixed as well as smoke dischargers.

Back in the hull, there are positions for 4 paratroopers in the rear with observation windows and firing ports (3 right, 2 left and 1 rearward). Entry and exit is provided by top mounted hatches or a rear door.

Armor is thin to keep the weight at a parachute friendly 8 tons. During the drop the vehicles tracks are retracted to minimize impact. Unlike BMD crews, the Chinese crews are dropped separately, along with the other paratroopers.

Speed of the vehicle is 68 kilometers per hour, with ability of fording lakes and streams at a speed of 6 kilometers per hour. In this environment, the turning of the tracks provides propulsion.

Physical dimensions of the vehicle are a 23 foot length, 7 foot width and 7 foot height. Unit cost is 2.2 million dollars.

Comparable vehicles are the Russian BMD series with the latest version, the BMD-4 being the closest in capability. It has heavier armament with a 100mm gun mated to a 30mm cannon. It carries a crew of 3 along with 4 paratroopers. Weight is 11 tons. Its dimensions feature a 25 foot length, 10 foot width and 7 foot height. Unit cost is 2.5 million dollars. -- Mike Perry

 

 


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