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Has Anyone Noticed The New Chinese Tank Destroyer?

March 5, 2014
Via Norinco

Via Norinco.

China’s ground forces are still wedded to the concept of a “tank destroyer,” a vehicle type that’s often just a lightly armored model with a powerful armament, whether these are missiles or large caliber guns. A version of the latter is found in the Centauro, Italy’s successful attempt at the same; being fast, amphibious, and light enough for air transport.

The PLA’s equivalent is the ZTL-11, whose layout is closer to the South African-made Rooikat, except the ZTL-11 has a 105mm main gun compared to the Rooikat’s 76mm main gun. Its export variant is called the ST1 and it arrives right on time to match Japan’s MCV/Type 16 and the US’ M1128 Mobile Gun System.

Several years ago, the state-owned arms manufacturer North Industries Corporation (Norinco) began streamlining its operations. The result was rather than continue rolling out the PLA’s “legacy” weapons and equipment, a modernized selection now comprises the bulk of its product line.

These include the MBT 3000, also known as the VT4, along with a handful of other tanks; the PLZ-45 155mm self-propelled artillery system; and several APCs. The ST1 tank destroyer, however, is a bit of a surprise. With no appearances in either military parades or trade shows and zero publicity since it was rolled out, it’s hard to determine when the ST1 first came into being.

But upon closer inspection, the ST1 isn’t as mysterious as it appears. Judging by its 8×8 chassis the ST1 is a ZBL-09 supporting a tank turret armed with a 105mm gun. As its promo photo on Norinco’s website shows, the same turret supports a laser rangefinder, which suggests a digital fire control system, and a 12.7mm machine gun over the commander’s hatch. Smoke grenade dischargers are on either side of the turret and a de rigueur 7.62mm machine gun is attached next to the main armament.

Although the ST1’s specifications aren’t listed anywhere, its combat weight must be less than 30 tons. The driver’s cupola and the turret’s size suggest it’s operated by a crew of four. Like the ZBL-09, its engine power is probably in the 450-500 horsepower range with a top speed of 100 km/h on land. The PLA’s ZTL-11 and the Norinco ST1 might confuse readers so it’s important to explain how they differ. First, the ZTL-11 isn’t approved for export. Second, the ST1 has its turret installed over the troop compartment of the vehicle’s hull; the ZTL-11 the turret is installed in the middle of the vehicle’s hull.

Manufactured by Poly Technologies the ZBL-09–similar to the Finnish Patria and the Swiss Piranha–is an amphibious troop transport with multiple variants, including a bridgelayer and a mobile air defense system. Its export designation is VN1. The ST1 is its variant tailored for direct fire in support of mechanized infantry and engagements versus enemy armor. Some have been exported to Nigeria.