NORINCO ZBD2000 (Z-Series) Amphibious ARV / IFV / Light Tank
The fully-amphibious Z-family series of armored vehicles is a relatively new addition to Chinese Marine forces - available in dedicated AFV, IFV, CCV and Light Tank forms.
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The massive expansion programs of the Chinese military in recent decades has added a new, all-modern amphibious tracked vehicle design in the "ZBD2000". The ZBD2000 actually heads a family of modular-minded armored vehicles in which the basic hull is utilized as an Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV), an Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV), a dedicated Light Tank (LT) platform and other required battlefield roles including that of Command & Control Vehicle (CCV). All of these designs make use of the same powerpack, running gear, suspension system and hull shape to produce a viable cost-effective end-product - the changes mainly in internal layout and turret installations (and thusly armament fittings). After a period of internal development, the ZDB2000 entered service in 2006 and currently forms a section of the amphibious warfare group of the People's Liberation Army Marine Corps, a force charged with approaching enemy territory from the sea and able to secure a beachhead prior to moving further inland. As such, the ZBD2000 is inherently a fast-moving, lightly-armored and lightly-armed vehicle.
The base ZBD is a 26-ton vehicle with a conventional track-and-wheel system powered by an internal diesel engine installation. Maximum road speeds reach 40 mph (65 kmh) with an operational range listed at 500 km - key qualities to consider when estimating the capabilities of a modern armored vehicle. The track arrangement sees six double-tired road wheels to a hull side, each well-spaced with the rear-most pair decidedly aft of the others. The drive sprocket is in the front of the hull with the track idler at the rear. The ZDB is suspended on a conventional torsion bar suspension system for good cross-country traverse qualities. Outwardly, there is no mistaking the Soviet-era influence in the Z-family of Chinese military vehicles - their appearance akin to the Soviet-Russian BMP amphibious light tank series of which several generations remain in active service the world over. The glacis plate is very well-sloped and leads up to the flat hull roof line. The rear of the hull is squared-off to accommodate the large electrically powered entry/exit door which doubles as a loading ramp for infantry. The hull sides are completely vertical, offering only basic ballistics protection against small arms fire and artillery spray. Depending on the variant type, armament is housed in a fully-powered, 360-degree traversing turret situated just aft of center mass. The driver is situated at the front left of the hull with the fighting compartment to his rear. The gunnery crew and vehicle commander reside in the turret. This leaves the powerpack to be seated in a compartment along the front right side of the hull next to the driver's position.