Skip to content

The Clouded Leopard APC Is Designed To Protect Taiwan

April 26, 2020

Via Military News Agency / Taiwan.

The ROC Army is continuing its transition to a universal wheeled platform as its primary troop carrier after more than 50 years of maintaining its tracked M113’s. This month the official news agency for the armed forces revealed the CM-34, the latest version of the the Clouded Leopard 8×8 APC, is entering service and as many as 200 are expected to augment the existing CM-32 fleet. The CM-32 8X8 APC is an indigenous design based on a Timoney chassis, which is also used on other wheeled APC’s such as the Singaporean Terrex and the Serbian Lazar. Numerous performance issues marred the CM-32 a decade since it was adopted by the army and this no doubt influenced the CM-34’s development.

The new CM-34 subscribes to the same layout as other contemporary 8×8 APCs with an elongated hull with an engine upfront. The sloping glacis affords the driver, whose station is next to the engine, an unrestricted view enhanced by external cameras. The main entry point of the vehicle is through a hydraulic ramp at the back. Since the CM-34’s mission involves transporting ground forces when Taiwan is invaded, its armor must be strong enough to resist 30mm ammunition from the cannons used by the PLA’s numerous APCs. At least four types of Chinese vehicles mount 30mm cannon. These are the impressive 8×8 ZBL-09 and its smaller cousin the 6×6 WZ-551. a.k.a. the Type 90, then the tracked airborne fighting vehicle ZBD-03 and the tracked ZBD-series amphibious transport. Both of the latter are also armed with HJ-73 anti-tank missiles.

The CM-34’s own armaments are 30mm Mk44 Bushmaster cannon supplied by Orbital ATK and two machine guns–a coaxial 7.62mm FN MAG and another FN MAG on the commander’s turret hatch. Anti-tank weapons are missing from the CM-34’s turret for now and it’s unclear if the ROC Army will draw requirements for a missile launcher in the coming years. Adding missiles to a wheeled APC’s weapon suite gives it enhanced firepower beyond the main armament’s firing range. But even without missiles it’s possible for the CM-34 to assume the assault gun or tank destroyer role by mounting a turret armed with a 105mm gun. This negates the vehicle’s capacity as a troop transport since the new turret occupies the passenger compartment.

The arrival of brand new CM-34’s is another boon for the ROC Army as it prepares to receive US-made M1A2T main battle tanks. The combination of high mobility wheeled troop transports, upgraded third-generation MBTs, and the close air support provided by AH-64E attack helicopters is a powerful deterrent versus any Chinese invasion threat. To this day the likeliest war scenario between Taiwan and its nemesis is a sudden air and naval blockade followed by a massive amphibious assault on the island nation whose ground forces must hold back the PLA until the US sends its reinforcements. The sale of Abrams tanks to Taiwan was approved in mid-2019 and includes an ammunition stockpile. Since 2010 the total value of US arms sales to Taiwan has surpassed $15 billion and this should grow larger as Washington, DC preserves its longstanding alliance with Taipei.

The CM-34 is poised to be at the forefront of Asian wheeled armored vehicles with its firepower and protection level. Its older peers from South Korea and Japan, for example, are only equipped with machine guns over their roof hatches and larger weapon stations haven’t been developed for them yet. The Chinese ZBL-09, on the other hand, is very adaptable and can be tailored for different missions such as air defense or logistics. A genuine outlier is North Korea’s attempt at an amphibious APC patterned after a Soviet BTR and armed with tandem 14.5mm anti-aircraft guns. A city state like Singapore managed to surpass expectations with its amphibious Terrex 8×8 APC being the first of its kind in Southeast Asia where localized armored vehicle development is rare.

Comments are closed.