More than 3,000 WZ-551s are in service with the PLA, are used by medium mechanized infantry units, and become Beijing’s most powerful motor vehicle force today.

WZ-551 is used in transporting and supporting infantry combat, in conjunction with main battle tanks, and light armored vehicles, etc. Due to its extremely good strategic mobility, the WZ-551 force is very suitable for fast-reaction military operations, fire support and very strong raid ability.

The WZ-551 project began in 1979 and officially entered service in 1995, and was the first wheeled infantry fighting vehicle developed by China. The overall design of the WZ-551 is quite similar to the design of the French Renault VAB armored personnel carrier, but there are many differences in overall size, weight and many other aspects. The name WZ-551 actually covers two families of vehicles with the official designations in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of Type 90 and Type 92.

The Type WZ 551 first appeared in 1986, capable of being used for a wide range of roles, including 82-mm and 120-mm mortar carriers, and be armed with a wide range of weapons, including a 12.7-mm machine gun, 25-mm cannon, 90-mm or 105-mm guns. The vehicle has a total combat weight of 15 tons and a crew of 2 people with 9 people on board. The length of the vehicle is 6.65 meters, the width is 2.8 meters, and the height of 2.89 meters.

The hull of the WZ-551 is of all-welded steel construction. The forward compartment houses a driver on the left, commander on the right and gunner to his rear. The windscreens at front are covered with armoured shutters during combat. The forward section is separated from the troop compartment by an airtight door. WZ-551 can accommodate nine troops in the rear compartment. A large door on the right allows entry and exit of the troops. The vehicle is fitted with standard equipment, including an NBC protection system and automatic fire suppression system.

The two main variants of the WZ-551 are the Type 90 and the Type 92. Early Type-90 models used a 256-horsepower diesel engine. In the latest product, the Type-92, the water-cooled engine has been replaced by an air-cooled version, thus having better reliability, cross-country capability and engine performance at high-altitude regions.

The original Type 90 was produced very little, only about 100 units. The popular Type 92 is equipped with a French Giat Industries one-man turret mounting a 25 mm cannon and a 7.62 mm Type 86 coaxial machine gun. The turret has a full 360° traverse with an elevation of -8° ~ 55°. Ammunition load for the cannon is 400 rounds, with 200 rounds carried inside the ammunition cartridges, and an additional 200 carried in the turret. The gun can fire single, 3-round burst, 5-round burst, or fully automatic. The maximum cyclic rate of fire is 200 rounds/min.

The sighting systems are composed of three periscopes for driver, commander, and the gunner. The center periscope for driver can be replaced by an image intensifying periscope. The periscope for the gunner can be fitted with passive night-vision device, providing limited night combat capability. Type 92 is powered by a German Deutz diesel engine, developing 320 hp. It is fitted with central tyre inflation system and run-flat tyres. This infantry fighting vehicle is fully amphibious. On water it is propelled by two waterjets. It can be airlifted by Il-76 or similar aircraft. WZ-551s have been exported to Algeria, Bosnia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan and Senegal.

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