Today’s China main wheeled APC
During the early 1980s a whole array of Western multi-wheeled APCs started to appear, possibly influenced by older designs like the Soviet BTR series and the Swiss Mowag Piranha among other influences. There was a general tendency towards 4×4 – 6×6 rather than huge 8x8s with some extra versatility and agility but still potent weaponry (toward the APC/IFV category) and the French Renault’s VAB in 1979 and the SANDF Ratel are good examples.
So far that it inspired the Chinese Type 92 and the Indonesia Anoa (Pindad) Panser (and both are often compared). Norinco’s WZ 551 however was not a faithful copy of the VAB, being significantly larger but apparently not heavier. Development started in 1985 and ended with the Type 90 followed by the Type 92 of which the first entered service in 1995. While around 2000 (according to the Chinese wikipedia) had been cranked up for the PLA alone, around 200 had been exported throughout 15-18 countries until today.
Development: The WZ523 (1984)
Development took place jointly at the NORINCO Vehicle Research Institute and the institute 201 (China Vehicles Research Institute) and Institute 202, and to the Jiang Hong institute for the WZ551B. The first vehicle, the WZ523 was publicly revealed in late 1984. It had a standard side-by-side driving compartment and a 6×6 arrangement with a significant gap between the front axle and the rear pair. It was 11,2 tons in weight and can carry a full platoon (10 soldiers) in addition to its crew. One of the crew could handle the 12.7 mm HMG protected by a shield and located roughly in the middle of the vehicle. The WZ523 was apparently declined in a short experimental series but never entered service as the Chinese Govt. was not pleased by its performances.
The Type 90 (1984)
They are some conflicting sources about this vehicle that did enter service (as testifies its army designation) but which was also called WZ551. Developed by Norinco the same year over the Southwest Automobile Works Tiema XC2030 6X6 chassis (copy of the Mercedes Benz 2060 truck) and revealed in 1984 it was similar in shape and form to the WZ523 but in service, it was discovered that it was underpowered and had not ideal off-road characteristics. None of the variant planned were developed and efforts of Norinco were concentrated at improving the vehicle while the export version ZSL-90 was developed in an effort to sell it, but there is no knowledge of any being purchased yet. Production numbers are elusive, probably less than 100.
The NGV-1 (1988)
This was Norinco’s successor for the Type 90, and it was characterized by a 6×6 configuration with evenly placed road wheels. It was also better armed, the usual 12.7 mm HMG being replaced by a 25 mm autocannon which was thought to be lethal against any Soviet light vehicle. An agreement was passed with the French firm GIAT but due to the development of the new vehicle being faster than expected, the guns were airlifted rather than shipped to meet the schedule. The NGV (which stands for Norinco – Giat – Vehicle) was certified in October 1988, while mass-production version, the WZ551A was already in service. When France later retired from the project, China reverse-engineered the gun.
The Type 92 (1986)
The first Type 92 was publicly revealed in 1986, based on the initial version of the NGV-1 and had still the initial 12.7 mm HMG under the mask. But this version was still called WZ551, and factory designation was ZSL-92. The first two WZ551A prototypes were completed in August 1991 and after a 30,000 km crash test course, certified in 1994. It entered service in 1995 as The WZ551B/Type 92B or ZLS92 IFV with the 25 mm autocannon while the WZ551A or ZLS92A/Type 92A armed with the standard 12.7 mm HMG entered service in 1997.
Design of the Type 92
The design looks similar to the VAB but is consistently heavier (basic configuration of the VAB is 4×4), and larger. The hull is made of welded steel RHA, protected against 12.7 mm cal. rounds, with an overall combat weight of 15.3t, divided into three sections (front driver compartment, middle left engine compartment, rear troop compartment). The hull is NBC-proof, with an automatic fire suppression system and is fully amphibious, thanks to two rear propellers. A nose-mounted trim vane can be erected when swimming. The crew of three comprise the driver, commander and gunner, and 9 infantrymen are seated at the rear.
Six firing ports are available to the infantry on each side. There are large windscreens with armored shutters at the front, a right-rear door, and four roof hatches (front and rear). The powerplant is of German origin, the BF8L413F 4-stroke, 8-cylinder, turbo-charged, air-cooled diesel giving 235kW (320hp) at 2,500rpm. It is connected to a 5fwd/1rvs 5S-111GPA mechanical (automatic?) gearbox with assisted steering. All wheels have independent coil spring suspensions, and hydraulic disc brakes. There is a central inflation system, and tires are of the run-flat type (capable of 30 kph even if all are damaged).
The Type 92 is capable to cross a trench 1.2m wide, negotiate a 60% gradient or stay stable on 30% side slope.
Road speed is around 85 kph, and 8 kph when swimming. The fuel tank was extended to 90 liter to reach 800 km or range. Equipment comprised three periscopes for the driver (central IR one in alternative), and three for the commander, and a dual-role sight for the gunner plus four periscopes. There are an RC-83 radio set and VIC-83 external telephone.
Depending on the versions, armament varies considerably, but the basic APC version has a centrally-mounted, mask-protected 12.7 m heavy machine gun. The IFV version, which is 1.5 tonne heavier, is armed with a ZPT90 25mm in a one-man turret with a standard -8° +55° elevation. Two variants exist of this gun with different mountings. One is a low-profile turret with the gun being front-mounted, while the other is a high-profile turret, the gun being mounted at the rear allowing a near-vertical elevation. Normal provision is 400 rounds, with a 200 spare carried in the turret. Armed either with HE and AP rounds, and its rapid-fire characteristics (100-200 rpm), the 25 mm is deadly against both most light or similar APCs and IFVs, and helicopters, using four modes: Single, 3-round burst, 5-round burst, or fully automatic. Both turrets had in complement a coaxial 7.62mm Type 86 LMG (1000 rds) and a set of 2×2 or 2×3 76 mm smoke grenade launchers. Apparently, the series could be upgraded to a new 30 mm autocannon, the VN2.
Prototypes include the pre-production vehicles, the WZ551-1 (73 mm sb gun), WZ554 SPAAG with twin 23 mm autocannons, WZ551D PL-9 surface-to-air missile system and Yitian SAM and the 4×4 WZ91 HJ-8 ATGM tank hunter. Apparently, a 120mm self-propelled mortar (similar to the BTR-80 based 2S23 NONA-SVK) and a 122 mm self propelled howitzer versions were also produced, the latter being the sole 8×8 version. Both will be treated as separate subjects since they only have the chassis in common.
The WMZ-551B is an improved APC version, recently disclosed, but there is no clue of an upgrade or characteristics for this vehicle. The YT ADS, (Yi-Tian (倚天)) is a promising SPAAML system, an improved LS ADS with a folding down light solid state 3-D passive phased array radar coupled with the electro-optical FCS. Missile altitude is 15 m – 4000 m, range 300 m – 6000 m, with a radar tracking range of 20 km and reaction time on average 6-8 sec.
- PTL02 assault gun, with a rear-mounted 100 mm gun turret
- WZ901 Police anti-riot vehicle
- WZ901F or Type 86 Patrol vehicle
- XJZ92 Armoured recovery vehicle
- WZ551 command vehicle
- WZ551 ambulance
- WZ551 reconnaissance vehicle
- WZ551 Artillery reconnaissance vehicle
- WZ550 HJ-9 ATGM tank hunter (serie)
- WJ94 Police anti-riot vehicle
Export and active service
About 600, 900 or 2000+ (Chinese source) WZ551s are in service with the PLAGF as of today. Customers (conflicting data here) includes Argentina (navy, 35 B1 type), Bosnia (5), Burma (Myanmar – 76), Burundi (on order), Cameroon (caution), Chad (10, 50 on order), Congo (caution), Gabon (caution), Ghana (20), Iran (150 IFVs), Kenya (35), Pakistan (40) Nepal (100), Oman (50 Royal Guards), Rwanda (20), Sri Lanka (200 – 80 IFVs, 120 APCs), Sudan (10, further production under license), Tanzania (10), Venezuela (caution) and Zambia (5).
Links on the Type 92 APC
Chinese WZ551/Type92 APC specs.
|Dimensions||6.63 x 2.80 x 2,80 m|
(21.7 x 9.1 x 9.1 fts)
|Total weight, battle ready :||12.5 to 14.9 tonnes fully loaded|
|Crew||3+9 (Commander, Gunner, Driver, 9 troops)|
|Armament||25 mm AC QF, 400 rounds (IFV) + 7.62 mm coax|
or 12,7 mm HMG 1500 rds (APC) + 7.62 mm coax. See notes.
|Armour||Overall 12.7 mm ballistic protection (0.5 in).|
|Propulsion||Deutz TD 8 cyl. 320 hp|
|Top speed||85 km/h (53 mph)|
|Range||600 to 800 km (500 miles)|
|Suspension||Independent 4×4 or 6×6 WD|
|Total production||Unknown – 1,000 to 2,200 range|
WZ523 APC (1984). This vehicle was also declined into the ZLS-92 export variant, but without much sales successes.
Type-90 APC, also known as the initial WZ551 serie. It was later upgraded as the NGV-1 with a 25 mm autocannon.
Type-90B APC (1997), armed with the 12.7 mm HMG.
Type-90A IFV (1995), armed with the 25 mm autocannon.
Nepalese WZ551 APC.
Chinese PLA WZ551 APC with UN.
Tanzanian WZ551 APC.
WZ550 HJ-9 ATGM carrier/launcher, the standard 4×4 tank hunter variant.
Chinese PLA PLL-05 self-propelled 120mm gun-mortar at the 2011 Beijing military parade (introduced 2001).
Sri Lanka Army WMA301 Assaulter tank hunter with a NATO 105 mm gun