ZBD-04 or Type 04 entered service with the Chinese army in 2004.
Light weight, high maneuverability when it can run both on land and underwater, combined with relatively strong firepower, the ZBD-04 infantry fighting vehicle is considered one of China’s main weapons. ZBD-04 or Type 04 entered service with the Chinese army in 2004. The first prototype appeared in 1997, so it is also known as ZBD-97 or Type 97. A total of more than 2,950 units have been produced since 1997.
ZBD-04 bears many design features of the Russian BMP-3. In 1996, China imported the technologies of BMP-3 turret and weapon systems with licenses from Russia. After testing, the Chinese military decided to fit the imported weapon systems with indigenously-developed turret and chassis. The night vision system with IR searchlight of the BMP-3 was deemed outdated and was replaced by a day/night thermal sight. Laser warning receivers and meteorological sensor systems were installed. ZBD-04 features a fully welded turret and frontal engine compartment for more effective troop dismount operation, whereas BMP-3 has the engine situated at the rear.
The ZBD-04 has a crew of three (a commander, a driver, and a gunner) and can carry seven troops. The commander and gunner are seated in the two-man turret located in the middle, and the driver with one passenger is located in tandem to the left of the power compartment, located at the front right. Six infantrymen are located in the troop compartment at the rear. There are firing ports on the left, right, and exit door that allows infantrymen to fire assault rifles or light machine guns from inside the vehicle, even on the move.
ZBD-04 is powered by the modified Type 6V150 diesel engine, developing 590 hp. The vehicle is fitted with CH600 hydraulic torque converter. The ZBD-04 has amphibious capability, designed to swim to shore from a ship. For high-speed swimming, it has two large water jet ports. The ZBD-04A removed water jets to save weight in exchange for better protection, thus no longer capable of operating in the open sea.
This IFV has some improvements over the Russian BMP-3, such as cramped crew compartment, were eliminated. It has a spacious troop compartment with easy entry and exit through the rear doors. The ZBD-04 is fitted with a collective NBC protection system. While ballistic protection is unknown, the vehicle likely has all-round protection against 14.5 mm rounds and resistance against 20–25 mm shells over the frontal arc. On the ZBD-04A, the protection is further improved with appliqué armor plates, with a claimed protection level of defending 30 mm round in the front. Two additional smoke discharges are mounted on each side of the turret, for a total of 10.
The ZBD-04 is fitted with a complete Russian BMP-3 turret, so it has similar firepower comparing with the BMP-3 and in these terms outperforms most current IFVs. Its 100 mm gun has an effective range of 4 km. This gun can fire both ordinary projectiles and anti-tank guided missiles. It is compatible with Chinese indigenously designed ATGMs, derived from the Soviet AT-10 Stabber. Missiles are capable of penetrating up to 600 mm of armor behind ERA blocks and pose serious threat to main battle tanks. The Chinese IFV is also fitted with a coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun.
On ZBD-04, the gunner has an integrated day/night thermal scope and an emergency backup day sight. Fire-control system includes a digital ballistic computer, an electro-mechanical gun stabilizer, and a laser rangefinder. On the ZBD-04A, the vehicle receives an improved thermal system, while the commander has been upgraded to an independent thermal sight that can rotate 360 degrees. The digital fire control system supports “hunter-killer” and commander takeover, automatic target tracking, battle management system, and laser designator functions. A millimeter-wave fire-control radar was mounted above the rifled gun to support target acquisition and missile guidance.