Key Point: While the capabilities of the VT-4 are not revolutionary in any way (unlike some claims from Norinco), it is a solid tank for its price, that will likely have good support from the manufacturing base in China.
While China’s primary tank is the ZTZ-99, its military industry (in the Western tradition) has also developed completely original designs for export. One of the designs that’s achieved considerable success is the VT-4, which has been recently adopted in significant numbers by the Royal Thai Army. The VT-4 is China’s premier export tank, built on technology and designs behind the earlier Al-Khalid tank that was built with cooperation from Pakistan and Ukraine. But how does the VT-4’s technology stack up against Russia’s T-90S, America’s M1 Abrams export models or the Leopard 2?
The VT-4’s roots are in the Al-Khalid tank developed in the 1990s. The Al-Khalid tank was largely built with mostly Chinese and Pakistani technology, but a sore spot for the Chinese designers was their lack of ability to provide a power plant for the tank. The engines for the tank had to be sourced from Germany or Ukraine. Ukraine ended up providing the production run for the Al-Khalid tank. As a result, the VT-4 program’s primary objective when it began in 2009 was to build an indigenous power plant for future domestic and export tanks. Due to the success of this engine development program, many VT-4 marketing materials tout the reliability and performance of its engine.
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