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Armored Cars: Norinco Airborne Combat Vehicle

April 20, 2021
Via Chinese media.

A fully enclosed wheeled transport is now in service with the elite PLAAF airborne, the largest contingent of its kind in Asia, and their latest vehicle boasts some very remarkable features. An alleged successor to the original VN3 that Norinco experimented with in the 2000s, this new troop carrier has a double cab layout and space for six dismounts along with a roof turret for a large caliber main armament. In the photo above it’s a 30mm cannon, which means any soft-skinned opponent it encounters will get shot to pieces.

This so-called successor to the VN3 was already spotted at a previous installment of the Zhuhai Air Show, a clear sign it’s approved for export, where its appearance put it somewhere between the Otokar Cobra and the Iveco Puma albeit with internal space for as many as 10 people. The only difference then was the absence of permanent cab windows for the driver and co-driver. The reader should keep in mind the PLA’s requirements for wheeled transport, armored or not, is enormous and persistent since these are crucial for navigating much of China’s geography. Now that the airborne have medium and heavy transports, it’s only fitting they get an armored troop carrier for meeting all their needs. In the case of this VN3, these needs include water crossings since there are two small propellers at the back of the hull.

Allowing for a moment’s aside, the PLAAF’s latest fixed wing transports are the Y-9 and the Y-20. They are analogous to the US-made C-130 Hercules and the C-17 Globemaster. At any point in the future when China sends its military to settle accounts outside national borders, the Y-9 and Y-20 will undoubtedly be responsible for transporting men and material over the necessary distances. The primary fighting vehicle of the airborne is the tracked ZBD-03, which is an enhanced copy of the French AMX-10 and the Yugoslav M80, but when it comes to rapid mobility these elite troops only have unprotected light trucks or worse, one-man ATVs. Well, not anymore.

Even if this latest armored vehicle from Norinco has gotten its fair share of media coverage the crucial details about its mobility and protection level aren’t in the public domain although it’s safe to assume it uses automatic transmission and can manage a maximum speed reaching 100 kilometers an hour on smooth roads. One aspect disregarded by Norinco is blast resistance as this vehicle looks devoid of a v-hull for deflecting the explosive force from mines and roadside bombs. On the other hand, combat optimization is superb by any measure regardless of the rooftop armament. The cab doors and the sides of the passenger compartment have obvious gunports and roof hatches allow the occupants to level bigger armaments such as grenade launchers or machine guns.

The new airborne combat vehicle will likely enter service in limited numbers. But the advantages it gives airborne formations are numerous, foremost being a superior alternative to the thinly armored Dongfeng trucks the rest of the PLA make do with. It would be interesting to see if this same vehicle is tailored for multirole performance, be it an ambulance, a missile carrier with multiple launchers, or a mobile artillery system.

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