Armor: China Civilianizes MRAPS

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December 9, 2016: China is marketing its new (since 2012) MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles for police, security and VIP protection work. This includes aid operations in hostile environments and any area where there is a lot of random violence. The vehicles being promoted most frequently include the VN1 8x8 WAV (Wheeled Armored Vehicle), VN2C 6x6 MRAP, VN4 4x4 WAV and VP11 4x4 MRAP.

Each of these began as military projects. The VN1 is another variant of the military ZBL 09, which is a 21 ton 8x8 wheeled armored vehicle that has a crew of three and carries seven passengers. The VN2C is the WMZ-551 APC (armored personnel carrier) with MRAP features (like a V shaped hull) added. The VN4 is a nine ton armored truck, similar to an armored hummer, with a crew of two and room for eight passengers. These have been seen used by security forces recently in Venezuela and Kenya. The VP11 is similar to the VN4 but equipped more of as a VIP (Very Important Person) transport.

This all began in June 2012 when China introduced their first MRAP; a new 4x4 vehicle called the Norinco 8M. The vehicle can withstand an anti-vehicle mine of up to 7 kg (15.4 pounds) explosives (or 10 kg/22 pounds under a wheel). The 8M carries eight personnel and was designed mainly for police work, which is what they were mainly used for in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though troops were the operators.

The 8M was apparently one result of a deal made with a South African firm (MLS, Mobile Land Systems) in 2010 to sell China MRAP technology. This involved selling China eleven MRAP vehicles. But the sale included the transfer of technology, for a fee. The South Africans insisted on this and the Chinese went along. The Chinese complied because they knew that the South Africans were aware of the Chinese tendency to just steal such technology.

MRAPS are 8-20 ton trucks that are hardened to survive bombs and mines. These are built using construction techniques pioneered by South African firms. The South African technology was imported into the U.S. in 1998, and has already been used in the design of vehicles for peacekeepers in the Balkans. These vehicles use a capsule design to protect the passengers and key vehicle components from mines and roadside bombs.

The Chinese MRAP was based on a South African model, modified to Chinese specifications. The first three were built in South Africa, with the parts for the other eight shipped to China, where South African engineers supervised their assembly by the Chinese. As long as the Chinese held up their end of the contract, South African personnel continued to transfer the technology (including production techniques).

China is trying to clean up its act with regards to theft of intellectual property. China does this out of self-interest, as there is a growing quantity of Chinese inventions that can be stolen. So the South African deal provided an opportunity to show that China can be trusted. The Norinco 8M is apparently the first of several Chinese MRAP designs, all of them pitched mainly to non-military markets.

 


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