Introduced in 2006, the ZBD-97 is an Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) of Chinese origin. Due to the close ties once held between the Soviet Union (Russia) and China, the influence of the Soviet BMP-3 IFV is clearly seen in the Chinese design. At its core, the ZBD-97 remains an all-terrain, amphibious armored vehicle with track-and-wheel handling, a low silhouette and turret -mounted armament. Design work began in during the 1990s and begat production in the early 2000s.
The infantry fighting vehicle, as a military vehicle classification, differs from the traditional Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) in that the IFV is called to, not only move combat-ready infantry into battle, but to fight alongside them by provided support fire. The ZBD-97 is designed along those lines, featuring internal passenger seating for seven to go along with the standard operating crew of three. The operating crew is made up of the driver, commander and gunner. The driver is seated at the front-left with the commander and gunner in the hull/turret area. The powerpack is installed at the front-right to free up the rear section of the hull for the turret crew as well as passenger seating. Hatches along the hull roof allow occupants to engage enemy infantry as required. General entry/exit is through a hinged door mounted at the rear face of the hull. The ZBD-97 features standard protection (for a vehicle of this class) in the form of welded steel armor and a very shallow, near vertical, glacis plate. The turret is also faceted for basic ballistics protection. As the BMP-3 served as the basis for the ZBD-97, it can be assumed that maximum frontal armor ranges around 35mm in thickness. It is assumed that an NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) suite and night vision equipment are all standard for the crew and vehicle. The vehicle features six electrically-launched smoke grenade dischargers used in generating a screen. Two banks of three launchers are seated to either side of the turret.
Primary armament of the ZBD-97 is 1 x 100mm main gun which is also cleared to launch certain Soviet/Russian/Chinese Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs). The 100mm armament gives the vehicle enough firepower to counter light armored vehicles and other IFVs - though not so much the modern Main Battle Tank (MBT). An onboard, integrated ballistics computer aids in aiming and firing on-the-move. Coupled to this is a 30mm autocannon seated next to the main gun mounting, allowing the crew to engage soft-skinned targets when the 100mm is deemed overkill. Anti-infantry defense is through a 7.62mm machine gun. This armament loadout is comparable to the Soviet/Russian BMP-3 series.
The ZBD-97 is a 20 ton vehicle which is powered by a diesel engine. This supplies the IFV with an operational range of 500 kilometers and a road speed of up to 65 kilometers per hour. Speed, when wading through water sources, is reduced to 20 kilometers per hour. The hull sits atop a torsion bar suspension system which provides some comfort when going off road.
The ZBD-97 is also recognized as the Type 97 IFV. Other noted variants include the improved ZBD-04 series and the up-armored ZBD-08 (with "Explosive Reactive Armor" (ERA) blocks in place). It is believed that the Chinese Army maintains a stable of several hundred ZBD-related armored vehicles for its massive land force.