Type 15 / VT5 / ZTQ-15 light main battle tank

Recently a new ZTQ-15 light tank was adopted by the Chinese army. It entered service in 2017. This tank is also commonly referred as the Type 15. First pictures of the new tank appeared back in 2010. The whole development project was kept in secrecy and for a long time were no official comments regarding this new tank. Since 2010 a number of different prototypes were observed. The new tank has an entirely new design. It could also become a successor to the Type 62 light tank, that was retired from the Chinese army in 2011 without proper replacement. Chinese requirement could be for at least 300 new light tanks. The first military unit that received the ZTQ-15 it the 123rd Combined Arms Brigade, 75th Group Army, Southern Theater Command. It is one of the PLA’s elite units and considered to be one of army’s major amphibious units. It is not unreasonable to assume that the 123rd brigade is a part of plan for seizing control of Taiwan. An export version of this new light tank, the VT5, was first publicly revealed in 2016. It is being offered for various customers.

VT-5

VT-5 / sinodefence.com

“VT-5 light tank is one of the few dedicated post Cold War light tanks in the world and perhaps the most notable new military vehicle at Zhuhai 2016; The VT-5 is the export version of the new ZTQ light tank used by the PLA in mountainous areas like Tibet. Built by Norinco, the tank weighs between 33-36 tons (depending on adding additional protection like side armor), has a sophisticated digital fire and control system has a 105mm cannon suitable for dealing with most Cold War era main battle tanks. The VT-5 could be very popular with militaries in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia looking for a modern light tank with a light operational footprint.” Source popsci.com

ZTQ-15

ZTQ-15 / sinodefenceforum.com

The new tank weights around 33-36 t, depending on its armor configuration. Mobility and rapid redeployment is the key factor of this new tank. It is intended mainly for reconnaissance and infantry support operations. It can be airdropped and operate in areas, such as mountains, jungles and river regions, that are not accessible to heavier China’s main battle tanks, such as the Type 96 and Type 99.

yanziyang.wordpress.com

This tank has a welded hull and turret. It is fitted with a modular add-on armor kit. It can use either passive composite armor or explosive reactive armor. Various armor configurations were observed. Some areas of the hull and turret can be covered with cage armor which provides protection against anti-tank rockets and anti-tank guided missiles.

ZTQ-15 / sinodefenceforum.com

This tank has also got a passive protection system with a laser detector. This system triggers smoke grenade dischargers once the tank is illuminated by a laser beam. This system reduces the chance of being hit by laser-guided anti-tank missiles.

ZTQ-15 / sinodefenceforum.com

105 mm rifled gun

ZTQ-15 / sinodefenceforum.com

This new Chinese tank is armed with a fully-stabilized 105 mm rifled gun. It is compatible with all standard NATO 105 mm tank ammunition. The gun has an automatic bustle-mounted ammunition loading system, which allowed to reduce the crew to 3. In turn a smaller crew allowed to reduce overall dimension of the tank, making it a smaller target on the battlefield.

BTA2 APFSDS / By CXK114514 / forum.warthunder.com

ATGM GP105 / By CXK114514 / forum.warthunder.com

Anti-concrete shell BTM1 / By CXK114514 / forum.warthunder.com

The ZTQ-15 has an effective firing range of 3 km. Its APFSDS round penetrates up to 500 mm of rolled homogenous armor. Such penetration capabilities are not sufficient to defeat modern main battle tanks over the front arc. However this tank can also launch 105 mm anti-tank guided missiles in the same manner as ordinary munitions. These extend the effective range to up to 5 km and have a hit probability of over 90% against stationary targets. Furthermore these missiles have tandem High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) warheads and pose serious threat to main battle tanks, and can even target low-flying helicopters. Also the gun can launch ordinary High Explosive (HE) and HEAT rounds for use against light armored vehicles, buildings, field fortifications and infantry.

ZTQ-15 / chinamil.com.cn / Photo by Li Song

A total of 38 rounds and missiles are carried for the main gun. Spent cases are automatically ejected via a hatch at the rear of the turret.

12.7 mm machine gun

china-defense.blogspot.com

Secondary armament consists of a remotely-controlled weapon station, armed with a 12.7 mm machine gun and 40 mm automatic grenade launcher. There is also a provision for coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun.

The new Chinese light tank has got a modern fire control system. It includes laser rangefinder, ballistic computer, wind sensor, gunner’s thermal sight and commander’s panoramic sight with thermal vision. Thermal vision allows to engage targets at night and during adverse weather conditions.

CCTV7

This light tank has got a hunter-killer engagement capability, which is present on all modern main battle tanks. Commander uses his panoramic sight to search for targets. Once the target is selected the gun is laid on the target automatically and the gunner completes al the aiming and firing process. During that time commander looks for the next target.

CCTV7

The ZTQ-15 tank is fitted with a navigation, satellite communication and battlefield management systems.

The tank is operated by a crew of 3, including commander, gunner, and driver. Crew seating is standard for modern tanks. The driver is seated at the center of the hull, though on at least one prototype driver’s position was offset to the left. Commander and gunner are seated in the turret.

CCTV7

This new Chinese tank is powered by a turbocharged diesel engine, developing 1 000 hp. The engine is mounted at the rear of the hull. It is mated to a fully-automatic transmission. It has got a hydropneumatic suspension with adjustable ground clearance. The tank comes with steel tracks, that can be optionally fitted with rubber pads.

ZTQ-15 / chinamil.com.cn / Photo by Li Song

Due to its light weight the new tank is much more mobile than heavier main battle tanks. It can operate at high altitudes, where air becomes thin and engines start to loose power. For example Indian T-72 and T-90 main battle tanks can not go high into the mountains. So in the mountains the new Chinese tank should not encounter any heavily-armored opponents. Maximum range on fuel is 450 km, though it can be extended by mounting external fuel tanks.

ZTQ-15 / chinamil.com.cn / Photo by Li Song

This new tank is air transportable. It can be airlifted by military cargo aircraft. Also this tank can be paradropped. Other airborne tanks are the US M8 Buford, which did not entered service and the Russian Sprut-SD which is in service in small numbers. Development of this new light tank shows the high level of resources China is devoting towards its rapid deployment and offensive capabilities.

The tank is not amphibious. It is worth noting that China’s marines operate a ZBD-2000 amphibious light tank, that was specially designed for high-speed swimming and is also armed with a 105 mm gun. Though both of these tanks are completely different. There were no intentions to simplify servicing and maintenance by using interchangeable components.

It is likely that a number of variants, such as armored recovery vehicle, will emerge over time.

Variants

VT5 is an export version of the ZTQ-15. It was first publicly revealed in 2016 and is being proposed for possible customers. This tank has a number of differences. In 2020 Bangladesh became the first customer of this tank.

Armored recovery vehicle. It was specially designed to support the ZTQ-15 tanks. Images of this vehicle first emerged in 2020. Turret has been removed and replaced by a superstructure. It is fitted with a crane, dozer blade and recovery winch. This machine also carries tools and welding equipment for field repairs.

155 mm self-propelled howitzer. In 2020 images emerged that a new howitzer, based on the ZTQ-15 tank chassis is being tested.

Main material source military-today.com

Images are from public domain unless otherwise stated

Main image by chinamil.com.cn Photo by Li Song

Updated Jun 12, 2021

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