Weapons: Chinese Mech Infantry


September 26, 2017: Since the late 1990s China has been introducing new weapons for its infantry and putting more of these troops in armored vehicles, often wheeled ones like the American Stryker. While these vehicles have a turret with (most often) a 30mm autocannon, 7.62mm machine-gun and one or two ATGMs (Anti-tank guided missiles) most of the manpower in these vehicles consists of seven infantry who can quickly exit the vehicle and fight on foot. The Chinese mechanized infantry squad has a distinctive mix of weapons. Five of these seven troops are armed with a unique Chinese QBZ-95G assault rifles (also called the Type 95), although one usually has the heavy barrel QBB-95 squad automatic weapon version that normally uses the 75 round drum magazine. Four of the troops have a QSZ92 5.8mm pistol as their personal weapon. Two of these troops are the vehicle driver and turret gunner while the other two usually operate the new PF98A 120mm rocket launcher (recoilless rifle).

Some of these weapons are uniquely Chinese. For example the QSZ92 pistol entered service in the mid-1990s and became popular because it was light (780 g/27.4 ounces), compact (190mm/7.5 inches long) and had a magazine with twenty 5.8×21mm rounds. The 5.8mm steel-core bullet used can penetrate 1.3mm of metal or 50mm (two inches) of wood at up to 100 meters. While only accurate up to 50 meters this standard 5.8×21mm “armor piercing” round is good at penetrating unarmored vehicle bodies and doors or cubicle walls encountered inside a building. Against people the 5.8×21mm round seems to produce the same degree of damage as the more common 9mm pistol round. Export versions are available that use the 9x19mm parabellum round but magazine capacity is only 15 rounds. Chinese troops prefer the 5.8mm model.

The PF98A 120mm rocket launcher is similar to the lighter 85mm Carl Gustav recoilless rifle that has been popular in Western armies for decades. The PF98A is a ten kg (22 pound) weapon that can be fired from the shoulder or on a lightweight tripod. It has two types of electronic sights. The heavier sight has night vision (out to 500 meters), a laser rangefinder and automates the aiming process of aiming and firing on a target. The lighter version has night vision only good out to 300mm, no laser rangefinder and uses a microprocessor and light spot in the sight to guide the gunner in aiming.

The PF98A uses two types of projectiles; an armor piercing (up to 800mm) one that is accurate out to 800 meters and a dual-purpose HE (high-explosive) one with a range of 2,000 meters and a warhead containing 120 steel balls and incendiary material that makes it effective against lightly armored vehicles and infantry. While the PF98A has little combat experience the troops like it, even outside a vehicle when it is used by a two man crew. This weapon showed up in the late 1990s and so far only China and three export customers (Bangladesh, Indonesia and Zimbabwe) have it.

And then there is the assault rifle. In 2010 China introduced an upgraded version of the QBZ-95 called the QBZ-95G. Upgrades solved several reliability and ease-of-use issues. Unlike earlier Russian designed (AK-47 type) weapons, the QBZ-95 requires more maintenance by users, and the new design addressed some complaints from users. Thus there is now a thumb operated safety selector switch and small accessory mounting rails. The trigger guard has also been modified.

The QBZ-95 is bullpup design (the magazine is behind the trigger) that uses China’s proprietary 5.8x42mm cartridge, which is a little wider than the 5.56 NATO, but shorter in overall length. The QBZ-95G uses a 30-round magazine, similar to the M-16. The Type 95 fires single shots or bursts. China is still in the process of replacing its own Type 81 (improved AK-47) rifles with the new rifle. The Type 95 is about ten percent lighter than the older rifle, and has apparently been well received by the troops. But there were complaints about the different ergonomics of a bullpup weapon, and the maintenance and reliability issues. Testing showed that the new 5.8mm round was less likely to cause serious wounds. This issue has not been addressed with the new QBZ-95G.

The Type 95 was first seen in Hong Kong when China took over in 1997. The Type 95 comes in a variety of styles (a compact version, an automatic rifle, and a sniper rifle). An export version (the Type 97), using the standard 5.56mm NATO round is called the Type 97, and Burma is using it. Some have also been sold to Cambodia and Sri Lanka.