The Snow Leopard, a Chinese Stryker ?
Like most countries, China gradually replaced its standard-issue tracked APCs by a faster, cheaper, 8×8 wheeled vehicle. It was developed and produced on the VN1 8×8 export wheeled vehicle by the Chinese Defense Company NORINCO (China North Industries Corp) and first revealed in a parade in Beijing for the 60th anniversary of the Chinese army (PLA), the 01 October 2009, hence the 09 type denomination. This was the IFV version, other variants includes the ZBL 09 (APC version with a 12.7 mm LMG) and the Type 07 fire support version which had either a 105 or 155 mm howitzer, of the 122mm smoothbore cannon-armed tank hunter variant.
Superficially, the ZBD 09 looked like Mowag’s (now BAE systems) Piranha III, with the same broken front beak, added armour plates, same location of the main engine (right hand side), driver (left), commander and gunner (center), and same rear troop compartment arrangement with doors and two pistol ports per side. The inspiration is even more pronounced with the previous Type 07P 8×8 105mm earlier export vehicle which strongly recalls the Mowag Spy (it was sold to the Tanzania and Cameroon military). The driver’s hatch (folding left) however has an interesting arrangement with a large frontal window and two smaller side ones, and no periscopes contrary to the commander’s hatch.
The hull is all-welded made in high-resistant steel RHA, providing full protection against 12.7mm API (armor-piercing incendiary) rounds on the frontal arc at 100m, and 7.62mm light rounds on the sides, roof and rear and against artillery shell splinters. In addition, modular add-on armor panels seem to be generic on production vehicles, procuring protection against 25 mm API rounds (frontally, 1,000m) and 12.7mm API (sides, 100m).
The level of protection against mines is not known, however, but the 8×8 configuration would help to secure some from of mobility after an impact, the reason why it is so popular. NBC protection is included, as well as probably some form of automatic fire extinguishers in the crew, troop and engine compartments. For active concealment, from three to four smoke grenade dischargers are procured, located on the turret. For the armament, see the variants below. The standard IFV version is given a two-man turret with a 30mm dual-purpose chain gun and a 7.62mm coaxial light machine gun, while its long-range antitank capability is enhanced by two wire-guided Hong Jian-73C ATGMs launchers (and internal reloads).
For mobility, the vehicles counts on a trusted powerpack, the German DEUTZ BF6M1015 CP water-cooled diesel engine which develops 390 to 440hp coupled with an Automatic gearbox. The latter has a synchronizer allowing fitting performance in tropical zone, desert and plateau. it has a 8×8 all-wheel driving configuration with independent suspension system and axles with differential lock. With an overall weight of around 21 tons (more for the support versions) for a 16.5 kW/t power to weight ratio, top speed on road is around 100km/h, and it could climb a 30° slope, 0.55 m vertical obstacle or cross a 1.8m trench. It is fully amphibious, with rear propeller, and capable to swim at 8 kph. Other equipment includes a central tire inflation system for soft grounds, and optionally an air conditioning system, GPS for navigation ad a winch.
The Type 09 family
The 8×8 vehicle represents a whole family of derivative vehicles.
-ZBL 09: The basic one is the APC is armed with a simple shielded 12.7 mm gun.
-ZBD 09: The IFV variant, judging from the large available quantity of pictures is by far the most common. It is armed with a 30 mm autocannon turret also shared by other vehicles, coaxial machine gun and ATGMs. There is also a sub-variants armed with an UW4 30mm remote weapons station (similar to the one used by the WZ551 wheeled vehicle) also better protected and equipped for urban combat.
-VN-1 : Export variant of the IFV
-ZTL-09 : 105mm assault gun variant, using also a standard 2 men turret. It is a rifled main gun.
-ST1 : The export variant of the 105mm antitank version (rifled gun derived from the L7, firing NATO ammunitions).
-PLZ-09 : 122mm or 155mm howitzer variant, the latter in a fixed cradle is a modified Type 86 (Russian D-30).
-PLL-09 : 120mm Mortar carrier variant, dual purpose.
-CS/SA5 : The AA variant, using a 6 barrels 30mm Gatling gun（similar to Russian land/naval AO-18M）, also capable to taking care of missiles. There is another variant with a 35mm revolving autocannon.
-ARV (real denomination unknown) : Fitted with an hydraulic jib crane and additional equipments, armed with a 12.7mm HMG.
-Command (real denomination unknown) : Rear modified, roomier with a command staff map table and boards, and SATCOM equipment.
-Reconnaissance (real denomination unknown) : Only specified by Wikipedia, sources and details unknown.
Due to its recent history (it was unveiled only six years ago) active service was limited and some versions seems to have been only test-beds for possible additional conversions. These vehicles represents the Chinese attempt to create its own “stryker brigades”, fast all-wheeled response units with combined variants for all tasks. Two export vehicles exists, the VN-1 (IFV variant) and ST-1 (antitank variant with a 105mm turret). So far the only foreign customer was Venezuela which ordered some (not provided) for its elite Bolivarian Marine Infantry. Argentina also entered negotiations to produce the vehicle through its Tandanor shipyards. It was confirmed in June 2015 for 110 vehicles to be partly built locally but negotiations are still ongoing. It was also stated in December 2014 that Pakistan’s HIT (Heavy Industries Taxila) was to secure a license for a local production.
ZBD 09 specifications
|Dimensions||8 x3 x2.1 m (26.4 x9.8 x6.8 ft)|
|Total weight, battle ready||21 tons (42,000 Ibs)|
|Crew||3+7 (driver, gunner, cdr, 7 troops)|
|Propulsion||DEUTZ BF6M1015 diesel 390hp mech transm|
|Suspension||8×8 independent coil springs/SD|
|Speed (road/water)||100/8 km/h (60 mph)|
|Range||800 km (500 mi)|
|Armament||IFV: 30mm autocannon, coaxial 7.62 mm LMG, 2 ATGM|
|Armor||Protection against 7.62 to 12.7mm|
ZBL-09 Armoured Personal Carrier
ZBD-09 IFV, digital camouflage livery
ZBD-09 IFV, standard camouflage livery
ZBD-09 105mm antitank/infantry support version
Video (Short PLAGF footage, Beijing Mil Parade)
Web references about other variants of the vehicle. Left to right, top to bottom: VN-1 (export version), Export version to Argentina, Self-Propelled Short Range Air Defense (SHORAD), ZBD-09 ARV, ZBL-09 APC.