A VT-5 tank is on public display at the Zhuhai Air Show in Guangdong province on Wednesday.(Feng Yongbin / China Daily)
China is displaying a new light-duty main battle tank at an ongoing arms exhibition amid a muscle-flexing disclosure of ground weapons, in a bid to attract buyers who wish to quickly outfit their armies.
China North Industries Group Corp, commonly known as Norinco, the country's biggest developer of land armaments, expects the VT-5 tank to lure foreign military officers from developing nations at the 11th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, commonly known as the Zhuhai Air Show, which runs from Tuesday to Sunday.
The State-owned defense giant said the VT-5 is the most advanced light-duty tank now available in the international market.
The tank showed off maneuvers on Tuesday morning in front of hundreds of foreign government and military officers at a range near the Zhuhai Air Show.
For armies of most developing nations, heavier main battle tanks in the international market, such as the U.S. M1 Abrams and the German Leopard 2, are too expensive and "overqualified" for their basic needs, Lin Wei, a spokesman for Norinco, said during the air show, adding that they also are too heavy to operate on roads and bridges of developing countries.
Therefore the VT-5 is an ideal option for such users because its firepower, mobility and information capacity are as good as those of Western tanks, he added.
According to Norinco, the VT-5 is a multirole, light-duty main battle tank capable of operating in various terrain, including desert, forest and urban areas. It has a weight of 36 metric tons and a crew of three people. Its weapons include a 105-mm rifled tank gun, which can fire armor-piercing shells, high-explosive anti-tank warheads and missiles, and a 12.7-mm remotely controlled gun.
The tank is equipped with an integrated electronic system, a tactical command system, a satellite-based positioning device and modular armor. It features good battlefield awareness, strong information capacity and high maneuverability, and is suitable for modern joint operations, the company said.
China developed the Type-62 light tank in the 1960s and had used it in its armored forces in southern regions until 2013, when all of them were retired.
In 2014, photos of a new light tank began to circulate on the internet. Chinese media reported that it is a new model designed for the People's Liberation Army's armored units to serve in high-altitude, rugged terrains such as Tibet.
Lin said the VT-5 was specifically developed for export so is different from the model unveiled in 2014.
For wealthy buyers seeking mightier tanks, Norinco offers the 52-ton VT-4, a high-end main battle tank with a 125-mm smoothbore, which also performed on Tuesday.
In addition to tanks, Norinco also sent a wide variety of weapons, including wheeled tank destroyers, tracked infantry fighting vehicles, multiple rocket launchers, low-altitude air defense systems and anti-tank missiles.
"Our biggest advantage is that we offer solution packages to our clients rather than selling them one single kind of weapon. Our competitors would give you an advanced weapon, but I don't think they can provide a whole system," Lin said. "We offer to the market almost everything an army would probably need, from individual equipment and squad-based weapons to heavy-duty tanks as well as long-range multiple rocket launchers."
Gao Zhuo, a military observer in Shanghai, said: "Norinco is able to make and export an army load of land armaments. Any developing nation can form a strong army just by buying weapons from China."
China exported 461 tanks from 1992 to 2014, according to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, which began to record conventional weapons transfers between UN member states in 1992. The biggest tank exporter during the period was the United States, which reported sales of 5,511 tanks.