When the North Korean Army needed an armored personnel carrier, they turned to what they do best - license production of an existing (and proven) system from one of their few global allies, the Chinese. The VTT-323 (M1973 "Sinhung") was born as a locally-produced copy of the NORINCO YW 531C series armored personnel carrier. As such, the VTT-323 shares much in common with the original Chinese offering and grows the mobility and reach of North Korean land forces even further. The VTT-323 has since become the standard North Korean Army Armored Personnel Carrier and would no doubt be fielded in force during an invasion scenario involving South Korea. It is assumed that the VTT-323 began operational service with the North Korean People's Army (NKPA) sometime in 1973.
Design of the VTT-323 naturally follows the original Chinese form. The welded steel hull features a boxy appearance with slab-sides, a flat roof, pointed bow and a squared-off rear section. The turret, containing the base armament, is situated just to the rear of the vehicle center along the hull roof and sports well-sloped sides. The VTT-323 showcases two individual track systems on each hull side made up of four rubber-tired road wheels each. The drive sprocket is found at the front of the hull sides with the track idler located at the rear. Interestingly, there are no track return rollers in the design. Light armor "skirting" protects only the upper regions of the road wheels and track system. There is a rectangular entry/exit hatch located at the rear hull facing hinged to open right. The engine compartment is fitted to the center-front right of the hull with the driver located at the front left and another position hatch to the driver's right. Another hatch is observed to the driver's rear, most likely the commander's position. There are hatches found at the rear of the hull roof as well, these behind the turret system. The forward hull is protected by a well-sloped glacis plate. Power is supplied by a single V-8, air-cooled, turbocharged diesel engine delivering 320 horsepower at 2,500rpm. Maximum road speed is equal to 65 km/h with a maximum range of 500 km. Combat weight is about 12,600 kg.
The VTT-323 is operated by a standard crew of four personnel made up of the driver, commander, gunner and loader. In addition to the operating crew, the VTT-323 can carry up to 10 combat-ready troops to hotspots in relative safety and comfort. The base armament arrangement is centralized in a powered turret featuring 360-degree traverse and some capable elevation to engage higher-placed targets such as low-flying aircraft. The primary weapon system is a 14.5mm anti-aircraft heavy machine gun coupled with a 7.62mm general purpose anti-infantry machine gun mount - both are situated in the turret controlled by the gunner. Additionally, the armament can consist of a pairing of two 14.5mm heavy machine gun systems for optimal effect. Some VTT-323 systems are known to mount the Soviet AT-3 "Sagger" anti-tank missile launcher (known to the North Koreans as the "Susong-Po") to help defend itself from enemy armor.
Like the original Chinese APC, the VTT-323 is fully amphibious though requiring some initial preparation by the crew before undergoing the process. A trim vane is raised and bilge pumps are switch on. Propulsion is then handled simply by the rotational movement of the vehicle's own tracks in the water.
The VTT-323 chassis is adaptable enough to mount a variety of fire support weapons that include a 82mm mortar and 107mm Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) - the latter mounted to the rear of the turret assembly itself. Additionally, some base VTT-323 are known to mount Soviet-style short-ranged, low-altitude surface-to-air missile systems for immediate airspace self-defense. If the Chinese YW 531C is any indication of adaptability, the VTT-323 chassis can be further evolved into dedicated battlefield support systems such as battlefield ambulance, command post vehicle and self-propelled guns. Being it that the VTT-323 now resides as the primary APC of the NKPA, this is not out of the realm of possibility. North Korea's PT-85 amphibious light tank features a lengthened chassis based on the VTT-323 armored personnel carrier.
TheVTT-323 series may also be known under the nickname of "VET".