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Bangladesh Purchases 44 Norinco MBT 2000s

July 3, 2011

Chinese MBT 2000 02

After successfully underbidding its rivals from Ukraine, Russia, and Pakistan, China is now set to deliver 44 MBT 2000’s to the Bangladesh Army. News of the deal was released at the end of June and it seems China scored a major coup by successfully marketing its MBT 2000 despite close rivalry from the Al Khalid, T-90, and T-80UD.

The purchase costs Tk 1,206 crore or $162 million dollars. The delivery schedule is a bit stretched out, with a 27 month window given Norinco to deliver all 44 tanks and conduct training of Bangladeshi personnel for proper maintenance.

The MBT 2000 is the designation for Norinco’s most advanced MBT for export. Its development dates back to the 1980s under the 201 Institute. Chronicling China’s various MBT programs in the last 20 years might prove confusing for observers, as multiple types surfaced with alarming regularity.

The earliest ancestor of the MBT 2000 is no doubt the Type 98, a third-generation tank armed with a 125mm auto-loading smoothbore gun. Since then the core model has branched of into the Type 99/99A used by the PLA and an export only model. The key differences with each are altered design features, which often involve the engine and add-on armor.

Chinese MBT 2000

The MBT 2000 is expected to be making waves in the global arms market as an effective but cheaper alternative to its closest Russian competition. To date, Morocco, Pakistan, and Peru are its most eager customers. Pakistan went a step further by license building the Al Khalid, which is also on the market. But the mass-production of Al Khalid tanks remains difficult due to budget constraints and only a few hundred have rolled out from the HIT assembly line.

The MBT 2000 is distinctive for its enhanced angular turret whose shape allows for layers of additional armor. Another key identifier are its rubber side skirts to protect the tank’s belly. The MBT 2000 is powered by a Ukrainian diesel engine and can move at 45 km/h on rugged terrain. Another boon is its digital fire control system that represents a generational leap compared to aging T-55 or Type 59 tanks.

For the army to adopt what looks like a battalion of MBT 2000’s marks a serious enhancement of the branch’s firepower and mobility. Since the geographical area of Bangladesh’ doesn’t have natural obstacles–a feature exploited by the Indian army for its invasion during the 1971 war of independence–tanks work best at blocking roads and access to major cities. Until now, however, Bangladesh’ army have less than a hundred aging Type 69 tanks with superficial upgrades.

It bears repeating the MBT 2000 isn’t in service with China’s PLA, whose armored brigades deploy a selection of older medium tanks and third-generation models like the Type 96/A and the Type 99/A.

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