The Royal Thai Army 21st Cavalry Battalion of the 6th Infantry Division, 2nd Army Area, proudly received five new VT4 Main Battle Tanks in a ceremony held on September 28, 2023. This acquisition marks the latest phase of the Royal Thai Army’s modernization efforts, aimed at ensuring the readiness and effectiveness of its armored units. The ceremony took place at the Somdet Phra Buddha Yodfa Chulalok the Great Camp, located in the Pho Sai Subdistrict, Si Somdet District, Roi Et Province. Alongside the delivery of the VT4 main battle tanks, an inspection was conducted on state-of-the-art high-tech training simulators specifically designed for VT4 tank crew training. The Royal Thai Army has 38 VT-4 in service, with the first 28 delivered in October 2017.
The deal, thought to be valued at about US$150 million, included an option to buy a further 153 vehicles. In April 2017, the Royal Thai Army ordered an additional 10 VT-4 main battle tanks from China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO) worth US$58 million that was delivered as of early 2019. These five VT4 main battle tanks are part of the ongoing procurement process, which includes Phases 1, 2, and 3, resulting in a total of 30 VT4 vehicles already in service. In the current Phase 4, the 21st Cavalry Battalion has received an additional five VT4 tanks, bringing the total number of VT4s in their possession to 35. Simultaneously, the 6th Cavalry Battalion of the 6th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Cavalry Division, is expected to receive an equivalent number, solidifying their armored capabilities.
The VT4, also known as the MBT-3000, is a third-generation main battle tank developed by Norinco, a Chinese defense company, primarily for overseas export. Its origins trace back to the 1980s when China’s efforts to develop its own tanks faced obstacles due to arms embargoes on Western imports. To address this, China began to source powertrains from Ukraine. Subsequently, domestic powertrains were developed, leading to the inception of the MBT-3000 program. The VT4 boasts an array of advanced features, incorporating technology and subsystems from other modern Chinese main battle tanks such as the Type 96B and Type 99A. Notable features include an automatic transmission system, a 125mm smoothbore cannon capable of firing various rounds, including guided missiles, and a hunter-killer capable fire control system equipped with a laser rangefinder and thermal imaging system.
In terms of protection, the VT4 offers robust defense with a dual-layer protection system consisting of composite armor and FY-4 explosive reactive armor. The frontal protection force is equivalent to 500mm of homogeneous steel armor, while the explosive reactive armor adds an additional 700mm of protection. Moreover, the tank can be equipped with an active protection system, defensive grenade launchers, and a laser warning device. In the mobility department, the VT4 utilizes a locally produced 1,300 hp diesel engine, a torsion bar suspension, and an integrated hydraulic transmission system. Its steering and acceleration are managed through a steering wheel and automatic gear transmission, with the capability for neutral steering. The tank is also integrated with digital communications systems for tank-tank communication and communication between commanders.