The People’s Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF) is accelerating its military build-up in Tibet along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India; has deployed its newest light tank along this border and has finally given this mysterious tank a name.
Photos of the ZTQ light tank specifically designed for operations in mountainous and high-altitude regions such as Tibet were first revealed on Chinese state-controlled media in 2011. It’s been known as the ZTQ since, which is odd since ZTQ is the generic Chinese designation for a light tank.
Chinese news site Guancha reported Beijing is increasing military buildup in Tibet in a show of force designed to deter the Indian military.
An integrated brigade of the People’s Liberation Army in Tibet deployed an unidentified number of the new tanks, according Chinese state-owned television network CCTV.
Guancha stated the Xinqingtan’s technology and firepower is “far more advanced” than the Russia-made T-90S tanks deployed by India.
The deployment of the tanks expands the Tibet-based unit and has increased their fighting power, the news site reported.
Light-duty main battle tanks with commensurate firepower are also being tested in Tibet, but the report did not provide details on the tanks, including whether they were the VT-5, a light-duty tank Beijing displayed atthe Zhuhai Air Show in Guangdong Province in November.
The Xinqingtan includes a 105-millimeter tank gun, a 35-millimeter grenade launcher and a 12.7-millimeter machine gun.
The guns have already been adjusted to a high angle so they are ready for mountain operations, according to the report.
The tank is relatively light at 35-38 tons. It produces 1,000 horsepower on an 8V150-type engine.
In 2016, Beijing was placing more missiles and fighter jets along the India border, according to Kanwa Asian Defense, a news site specializing in military developments.
In December, Kanwa quoted sources in the Indian navy and air force who said Chinese troops have placed fighter jets, the Jian-11, the Jian-10 and the Kongjing-500, in rotational deployment.
In Hotan, an oasis town in southwestern Xinjiang, the country has been deploying the J-10 and the strategic bomber H-6K
Chinese state-controlled media revealed that Xinqingtan outfits an integrated brigade of the PLAGF. It said the deployment of the light tanks expands the capabilities of this brigade and has increased their fighting power.
It also praised the Xinqingtan, describing the small tank’s firepower as “far more advanced” than the Russia-made T-90S tanks deployed by India.
That claim stretches credulity, however, since the Indian Army’s T-90S is a much bigger main battle tank with a much bigger 125 mm smoothbore gun that far outranges the smaller 105 mm on the Xinqingtan. The armor on the T-90S is also much thicker than that on the smaller Xinqingtan.
Media said the Xinqingtan has a secondary armament consisting of a 35 mm grenade launcher and a 12.7 mm heavy machine gun, both on the turret roof.
The 105 mm gun and these smaller caliber weapons have been adjusted so they can fire at a high angle, making them ready for mountain operations.
The tank’s light weight and a powerful diesel engine make it suitable for fighting in oxygen-deficit, high-altitude environments such as those in the LAC.
The Xinqingtan has an advanced fire-control system and its 105 mm gun is capable of firing shells and guided missiles. The missile capability enables the tank to shoot down helicopters, one of the major threats to tanks on a battlefield.
The export version of Xinqingtan carries the designation VT-5.
State-owned Norinco (China North Industries Group Corporation), China’s largest builder of tanks, said its VT-5 fills a niche in the export market for tanks not as huge, heavy or as expensive as the U.S. M1A2 Abrams MBT or the German Leopard 2.