Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has put into service its lightweight tank which the military seeks to deploy in the mountainous regions, like Tibet, to boost its combat capabilities in the high-altitude areas. The new-generation lightweight tank, identified as Type-15 (named VT 5 for the export version and also commonly referred to as ZTQ-15) is a light weight tank designed and manufactured by the Chinese Defense Company NORINCO (China North Industries Corporation). The VT5 was unveiled to the public during the Zhuhai AirShow China in November 2016. The Type 15 is significantly lighter than the PLA’s other main battle tanks in service, and weighs about 32 to 35 tonnes, compared to the Type 99 tank, which weighs 54 to 58 tonnes, and the Type 96 one weighing about 42.8 tonnes.
The Type-15 is a new light tank specifically designed for operations in mountainous regions. The new tank was designated to serve in high-altitude, rugged terrain such as in the Tibet autonomous region, so it has a light weight and a powerful diesel engine suitable for oxygen-deficit environments. The indigenously-developed tank had undergone combat ready exercises on the plateaus of Tibet in June last year when the armies of China and India were engaged in an eye-ball to eye-ball 73-day-long standoff at Doklam in the Sikkim sector. Indian troops had opposed the construction of a road by Chinese soldiers near a trijunction border, as it was too close to the main highway, the Chicken Neck corridor, connecting the North East with rest of India. The area was also claimed by Bhutan
The main armament of the Type 15 (VT-5) consists of one 105 mm rifled gun developed from the British Royal Ordnance L7 technology with thermal sleeve and fume extractor which has a maximum firing range of 3,000m. Its main weapon can fire armour-piercing shells and launch guided missiles. The main armament also includes an automatic loading system. The empty cartridge cases are ejected via a small hatch located at the rear of the turret. Second armament of the VT5 includes one remotely operated weapon station mounted on the roof of the turret which is armed with a 12.7mm machine gun and one 40mm automatic grenade launcher. The tank has got a modern fire control system. It includes laser rangefinder, ballistic computer, wind sensor, gunner’s thermal sight and commander’s panoramic sight with thermal vision. Thermal vision allows to engage targets at night and during adverse weather conditions.
The Type 15 (VT-5) has a weight from 33 to 36 tones depending of the armor fitted to the tank. With this weight, this tank offer more mobility than a standard main battle tank offering same level of fire power. The power-to-weight ratio is between 27 and 30 hp/ton depending on the armor package. This light tank can be used in mountain area and operates in terrain that are inaccessible for standard main battle tanks (MBT) which has a weight of around 50 tons like the Chinese-made ZTZ99 Type 99 MBT. The Type 15 is motorized with a 1,000 hp electronically controlled diesel engine mounted at the rear of the hull. and coupled to a hydro-mechanical full automatic transmission with a pivot steering capability and a cooling system. It can run at a maximum road speed of 70 km/h, 35 to 40 km/h in off-road conditions with a maximum cruising range of 450 km.