The NORINCO ZBL-09 "Snow Lepard" represents an all-modern, modular-minded 8x8 Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV) design of Chinese origin. The singular design is intended to fulfill a variety of battlefield roles but is mainly seen in its Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) and Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) guises. NORINCO (China NORth INdustries COrporation) began development of this vehicle in the 1990s and a pilot 8x8 form was identified in 2006. Formal product introduction occurred in 2009 and the series has since seen adoption by the armies of Argentina, China, Thailand and Venezuela to date (2017).
The PZL-09's base form weighs in the 15 ton to 20 ton range and showcases an overall length of 26 feet, a width of 9.8 feet and a height of 6.9 feet. The standard operating crew is three with seating for seven to ten combat-ready passengers in the mid-rear hull section. The operating crew is given modern conveniences and access to an all-digital Battlefield Management System (BMS) for real-time threat assessment and heighted situational awareness. Communications are protected and integrated to serve alongside existing modern fighting vehicles. Armor protection is against small arms fire and artillery spray though bolt-on armor can be used to address limitations in crew / systems protection. An automatic fire suppression system is carried and an NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) kit is optional. Roof hatches are provided for and a rear entry/exit door is set at the rear hull facing for the passengers. Firing ports also allow occupants to engage external threats with their personal infantry weapons.
The vehicle utilizes an 8x8 wheeled arrangement with suspension and drive power to all four axles. Power is from a German-originated Deutz BF6M1015C diesel-fueled engine developing 440 horsepower and this is installed in a compartment at the front of the vehicle. The engine provides for road speeds of 100 kmh and ranges out to 800 kilometers to be reached. A Central Tire Inflation System (CTIS) allows the driver to manage tire pressures on-the-fly. Water crossings are possible as the hull is made full amphibious and propulsion provided for by a pair of waterjets at the rear of the hull.
The APC model is armed simply through a single 7.62mm or 12.7mm machine gun installation. Its export designation is "VN-1". The IFV variant fits a complete turret with 30mm autocannon and coaxial 7.62mm machine gun. The ZTL-09 assault model installs a 105mm main gun and its export variant is the "ST1" (detailed elsewhere on this site). There is also a 122mm and 155mm howitzer gun carrier and 120mm mortar carrier for fire support. The CS/SA5 is a gun-armed air defense vehicle and the SWS2 fits a 35mm autocannon as well as 4 x Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs) for airspace denial. Other notable forms include an engineering vehicle, a Command and Control (C2) model, a reconnaissance platform and an Armored Recovery Vehicle (ARV).
Some combat models are also outfitted with smoke grenade dischargers.