Although it still has to prove durability over a long time of operation, but based on some of the attached equipment, it seems that VT-4 has surpassed T-90S and at least comparable to T-90MS.

The army of many Southeast Asian countries has recently been heavily invested in advancing modernization through contracts to procure new generation main battle tanks. Thai media reported that in the middle of March 2019, its army has just added another 10 VT-4 main battle tanks made by China’s Norinco Group. With these tanks, the number of the Thai Army’s VT4 may have increased to 49. Earlier in October 2017, Thailand received 28 VT-4s from China, thought to be valued at about $150 million. After receiving the first batch, Thailand continued to order another 11 tanks. Estimated unit price for each VT-4 is up to $ 5.2 million. According to sources, Thailand is planning to equip at least 150 VT-4s for its armored forces in the near future. Modern VT-4s will replace the US M48A5PI and M60A1 Patton tanks currently in service.

Earlier in 2011, Thailand signed a $ 240 million contract for 49 T-84 tanks and related support equipment from Ukraine. However, by the end of 2015, only 10 were delivered. This made Thai officials extremely concerned about the progress of the contract and decided to find a new tank supplier. As a result, VT-4 was the vehicle of choice.

Chinese VT-4 main battle tank review

Thailand is currently the only foreign country operating Chinese-made VT-4 main battle tanks. The export of tanks to Thailand is considered a victory for China’s defense industry in its ambition to gain market share in the world tank market. Chinese media have always advertised loudly about the latest VT-4 tank they are expecting for export prospects.

The Chinese VT-4, also known as the MBT-3000, is a 3rd generation main battle tank developed specifically for export markets. The tank was designed and manufactured by the Chinese company Norinco. VT-4 is actually an upgraded variant of MBT2000 or Al-Khalid, a product developed by Pakistan and China during the 1990s. According to Norinco, VT-4 represents the latest main battle tank technologies specifically designed to meet the challenge of high-tech warfare. It also inherited the latest technology from the Type 99A, the most modern main battle tank of the People’s Liberation Army.

VT-4 was first announced to the public at the 2012 Eurosatory. At the 2014 China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, Norinco presented a real VT-4 prototype for the first time. The Chinese believe that their VT4 tank possesses many advantages over rivals from Russia or Ukraine, not even inferior to the American M1 Abrams.

The Chinese tank weighs 52 tons, is 10 meters long, 3.4 meters wide, 2.3 meters high and needs a three-man crew, including commander, gunner and driver. Looking from the front, you can see the driver observing system is located right next to the headlights. The VT-4 looks impressive with explosive reactive armor plates that fill the fore and turret. The hull and turret of VT-4 is made of welded steel. If required, side skirts may be equipped with additional explosive reaction armor. Looking from the roof of the tank will see dense sensors and advanced observation devices. The side of the VT-4 tank turret uses a cage armor with a design quite different from the layout on Type 96 or Type 99.

Overall, the body of the main battle tank VT-4 is very similar to the Soviet T-72. In addition VT-4 shows some Western influences in its design. The Chinese tank has a low profile, an important feature inherited from the T-72. The vehicle’s armor specifications are still a secret. Analysts say that in addition to being equipped with composite and explosive reactive armor, the tank also has a GL5 active protection system, defensive grenade launchers, and a laser warning device. The tank has an NBC protection system, automatic fire extinguishing system, explosion suppression system and air conditioning.

The heart of the VT-4 is a 1,300 hp indigenous turbocharged diesel engine, slightly weaker than the Type 99. This 52-ton heavy tank is more mobile than the T-90, and can reach a top speed of 70 km/h and a range of 500 km. Combined with an automatic gearbox, this main battle tank is capable of deep fording. Secondary fuel tank can be equipped for extended range.

Based on the achievements, VT-4 is equipped with a powerful fully-stabilized 125 mm smoothbore main gun. Equipped with automatic loading system combined with many modern guided devices such as ballistic computer and artillery barrel calibrator to calibrate after each shot, helping the tank can fire accurately on the move. VT-4 is capable of firing Armour-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot, High-explosive squash head, High-explosive anti-tank and High-explosive rounds and guided missiles. VT-4 uses Russian 9K119M missiles, made in China under license, with a maximum range of 5 km. A total of four missiles is carried and 38 more rounds for the main gun, 22 of which are pre-loaded into the autoloader, and the rest were stored inside the hull.

The auxiliary weapon is a coaxial machine gun and a remote weapon station on the turret armed with a 12.7 mm heavy machine gun. The fire control system has hunter-killer capabilities, laser rangefinder, panoramic sight, and a third generation thermal imaging system.

Although it still has to prove durability over a long time of operation, but based on some of the attached equipment, it seems that VT-4 has surpassed T-90S and at least comparable to T-90MS. It can be seen that the amount of money Thailand has to spend on each VT-4 tank is not cheap. It can be explained that in addition to the advanced features available on the VT-4, this price also includes the license and technical support that allows Thailand to produce some of these tanks’ systems.

Although praised by Thai military officials, calling them the most modern tanks on the payroll, Thai public opinion is still worried about the durability and maintenance costs of new tanks.The Thais have not forgotten the previous bitter purchase of 25 Chinese Type-69-II tanks in 1987. After just a short time in service, all 25 Type-69-II tanks were eliminated before the deadline due to many damage, malfunctions and lack of replacement parts. The Thai government then threw these tanks into the sea to create artificial reefs in 2010. The fate of these Type-69-IIs is considered to be a failure in Bangkok’s arms procurement process. China has certainly gained a lot of experience in tank development. Many international customers are showing interest in this VT-4 tank, Peru and Pakistan are potential customers.


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