The Chinese VT-4 main battle tanks have made their combat debut against the ISIL-affiliated Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria on January 8.
The battle tank was used during a large-scale counter-terrorist operation, ‘Tura Takai Bango’, launched by the Nigerian army in the north-west region of the country on Friday, according to reports.
Along with the VT-4, ST1 wheeled tanks and SH5 105-mm self-propelled artillery units manufactured by Norinco are also taking part in the operation.
The presence of Chinese equipment on African soil should not come as a surprise, as Beijing has been a potent supplier of arms to countries in the region. Even, Chinese Type-56 assault rifles are also seen in Africa.
Chinese drones, aircraft, and ground equipment have been a popular alternative to American ones among developing countries especially due to easier procurement processes and lesser costs involved.
Supplies from China are not subject to restrictions related, for example, to the observance of human rights by the buyer’s armed forces.
Nigeria has also received Wing Loong-II armed UAVs from China in November last year.
The VT-4 Battle Tank
Originally known as the MBT-3000, the VT-4 is a Chinese 3rd-generation main battle tank that caters to its export market.
It is manufactured by Norinco, and according to the company, the tank sports the latest technologies including composite and explosive reactive armor (ERA), and a 125mm smoothbore cannon capable of firing APFSDS (Armour Piercing Fin-Stabilized Discarding Sabot), HESH (High Explosive Squash Head), HEAT (High-Explosive Anti-Tank) and HE (High-Explosive) rounds and guided missiles.
The tank also features a remote weapons station (RWS) armed with a 12.7mm machine gun, and its fire control system, purportedly, has hunter-killer capabilities. A laser rangefinder, panoramic sight and a third-generation thermal imaging system are also present.
The VT-4 uses technology based on the Type 99A main battle tank in service with the People’s Liberation Army. The turret front has wedge-shaped armor and the hull sides have armored side skirts, and the tank is equipped with an active protection system designated GL5, defensive grenade launchers, and a laser warning device.
The vehicle has an IFF (identification friend or foe) system, NBC (nuclear, biological, and chemical) protection, explosion suppression system, fire extinguishing system, and air conditioning.
The tank is powered by an impressive 1,300 hp engine, making it capable to reach speeds of 70 km/hr on road. Steering and acceleration are handled by a steering wheel and automatic gear transmission, making it a highly reliable and operator-friendly vehicle.
Apart from Nigeria, Thailand and Pakistan are among the customers of VT-4 tanks.