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The VN-22 Is The Ultimate Wheeled APC

November 18, 2021
Via Chinese state media.

Aside form supplying the PLA and other branches of the military China’s state-owned companies are rolling out so many new weapons each year that global demand can’t keep up with the oversupply. This doesn’t seem to bother Norinco, the manufacturer best known for their tanks and artillery (they make drones too), whose participation at Air Show China 2021 involved the usual mud-splattered obstacle course for its combat vehicles. Whether indoors or outdoors, Norinco’s products were unmissable, including a new wheeled APC that looks like it can do whatever. The VN-22 is an amphibious 6×6 vehicle encased in add-on armor with a roof spacious enough for a lot of different weapons.

The fawning coverage of Chinese media emphasized the VN-22’s main selling point: it has a suspension system that is raised or lowered at the flick of a switch. This may seem peculiar but serves to enhance the vehicle’s mobility over rugged terrain and protects the vehicle’s occupants during transit. The FNSS Pars III from Turkey boasts a similar suspension system with adjustable elevation/depression and it has resulted in a world-class vehicle. For example, when having to drive over hills strewn with rocks perhaps lowering the ground clearance works so the vehicle maintains its balance and isn’t too encumbered by its own weight. This is all the more impressive since the VN-22 has a v-shaped bottom for surviving blast impacts. The ongoing war in Yemen is illustrative of why suspension matters as wheeled armored vehicles have struggled in the country’s geographical challenges–the Canadian-made LAV III in particular is susceptible to freak accidents when traveling narrow unpaved roads.

There were actually two variants of the VN-22 shown at the recent Air Show China, which took place from September 18 until October 3, but only one enjoyed serious media coverage. This variant took part in the open air obstacle course and was armed with a remote controlled turret that mounted a 30mm cannon, a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun, and a 40mm automatic grenade launcher–all manufactured by Norinco. However, another VN-22 on static display at the exhibition’s indoor venue. It was parked next to the impressive ST3 wheeled gun/howitzer and mounted a different turret resembling the Elbit Systems UT30MK2. This turret still had the 30mm cannon but a pod in the rear compartment carried two anti-tank missiles. As impressive as it appears in many aspects the VN-22 is untested. Going by Norinco’s track record there are going to be additional variants in the coming years and it isn’t hard imagining an anti-aircraft weapon system on the VN-22.

The VN-22 marks a departure from the VN2/VN2C wheeled APC that’s a mainstay with the PLA as the WZ551. Nearly four decades of service made the WZ551 into a workhorse for the PLA that performs any conceivable role. It has also found success abroad as the Type 92 or VN2 with strong demand from African militaries. Instead of the VN2’s tandem cab at the front of the vehicle the VN-22’s layout is similar to NATO wheeled APCs like the GDELS Pandur 6×6 and the Iveco VBTP (known as the Guarani in Brazil). A competitor in Asia is the Hanwha Defense Tigon 6×6 APC from South Korea. Like the Pandur, Tigon, and VBTP the VN-22’s engine compartment is up front and the driver is seated next to it while the operator of the remote turret is behind him on the right. There are folding seats for 10 dismounts who enter and exit through a rear swing door attached to a hydraulic ramp. The VN-22 isn’t equipped with propellers under its monocoque hull although these can be added on later variants.

An official product brochure or leaflet for the VN-22 is unavailable at present. It’s worth examining one of its peers to determine its fundamental characteristics. The Iveco VBTP from Italy has much in common with the VN-22 and, besides serving in the Brazilian Army, found limited success in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. It runs on a 383 horsepower diesel engine and is fully amphibious. Maximum capacity is two crew and seven dismounts with a gross weight reaching 18 tons. Being a 6×6 APC it’s transportable by aircraft and ship. The range of weapons it’s able to carry span machine guns and cannons.

It’s important to point out since the VN-22 was introduced at Air Show China 2021 it’s meant for export and won’t be joining the PLA’s wheeled vehicle fleet.

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