The VT4 is a Chinese main battle tank, developed specially for export. It is also known as the MBT-3000. It is being marketed by NORINCO. This tank can be seen as a simplified export version of the Type 99G, which is used by the China’s Army. The VT4 is a further development of the VT1A, which is in turn a downgraded export version of the Type 99. So the VT4 uses proven technology and is cost-effective. This tank is being proposed for developing countries, interested in upgrading their inventory. In 2016 Thailand ordered a first batch of 28 VT4 tanks. In 2019 a total of 50 VT4 tanks were delivered to Thailand and additional orders are possible. Nigeria became second country to obtain these tanks. In 2020 first deliveries were made to Pakistan.

The VT4 is similar to the Type 99G which is currently in service with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), but has downgraded capabilities such as sights, engine and gun. Currently it is the most capable Chinese tank, offered for export. However it is no match for modern Western MBTs.

Hull of the VT4 main battle tank is very similar to that of the Soviet T-72. This Chinese tank traces its roots the the Soviet T-72, which has been around for over 30 years. In the 1980s China obtained this tank from Romania and cloned it. Since then Chinese designers constantly improved and fine-tuned this tank and its systems. Also the VT4 shows some Western influence in its design.

This Chinese tank has a low silhouette. It is a key T-72 feature. Hull and turret of the VT4 is of welded steel construction with a layer of composite armor over the front arc. Also there are modular add-on explosive reactive armor blocks. Turret has a wedge-shaped armor. If required, side skirts can be fitted with add-on explosive reactive armor. Add on explosive reactive armor of this tank is different than that used on the Chinese Type 99G. It is likely that the VT4 has inferior protection to that of the Type 99G. The tank has an NBC protection system. It is also fitted with an automatic fire extinguishing system.

The VT4 is armed with a fully-stabilized 125 mm smoothbore gun. The gun is fed by a carousel-type automatic loader. The autoloader reduces the crew to three and allow to reduce dimensions of the tank. Loading speed is up to 8 rounds per minute. This tank fires APFSDS, HEAT, HE and HE-FRAG rounds. It is also compatible with gun-launched anti-tank guided missiles. These are Russian 9K119M Refleks (Western reporting name AT-11 Sniper) missiles, produced in China under license. Missiles are launched in the same manner as ordinary munitions. Missiles have a maximum range of 5 000 m. Typically four missiles are carried. This anti-tank guided missile capability is not common in Western designs. A total of 38 rounds are carried for the main gun, 22 of them are loaded into the autoloader and are ready to use. Other rounds are stored inside the hull.

This tank is fitted with a coaxial machine gun and remotely-controlled weapon station, armed with a 12.7 mm machine gun. The remotely-controlled weapon station is a huge advantage of the tank, as the tank commander no longer has to expose himself to enemy fire.

Fire control system of the VT4 has a hunter-killer capability. This tank can fire accurately on the move. The tank is fitted with a GPS navigation system.

The VT4 is operated by a crew of three, including commander, gunner and driver.

This main battle tank is fitted with an indigenous turbocharged diesel engine, developing 1 300 hp. Sometimes it is referred as the “Type 150”. Some sources report that it is a modified and uprated version of the British Perkins CV12-1200 TCA, which is used on the British Challenger 1 and Challenger 2 main battle tanks. This new tank engine is produced in China. For a number of year Chinese export tanks were fitted with engines supplied from Ukraine. However eventually China went on its own in tank engine production. The VT4 has a raised engine compartment. Interestingly the PLA’s Type 99G is powered by a more powerful engine, developing 1 500 hp, and is more agile. Engine of the VT4 is mated to an automatic gearbox. This main battle tank has a deep fording capability. Auxiliary fuel tanks can be fitted for extended range.

October 2021

Source: Military Today, Army Technology

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