Monday, June 29, 2015

China sells tank destroyers in Africa

Djibouti recently paraded a WMA301 "Assaulter" tank destroyer. The WMA301 is a product of Norinco from China. The vehicle is known in a slightly differnt version in Chinese service as PTL-02 tank destroyer and is based on the chassis of the WZ551 6 x 6 APC.
The vehicle is already in service in Chad and Cameroon. 

Chinese AFVs available for export as presented on Eurosatory 2012
The WMA301 Assaulter seems to feature slightly different turret than the PTL-02. It is armed with a 105 mm (rifled) gun - probably an improved Chinese copy of the famous L7 tank gun - which is fitted with a multi-slot muzzle brake to reduce recoil - and a 12.7 mm machine gun on top of the turret. A total of sixty rounds of main gun ammunition are carried.
It is understood from the author, that the armor of the WMA301 and the WZ551 provides protection against small arms fire only (i.e. 5.56 mm, 7.62 mm) and can be penetrated by heavy machine guns and pretty much all types of RPGs. Two groups of smoke grenade launchers - mounted in clusters of 2 x 2 increase the vehicle's survivability.
The chassis of the WZ551, on which the WMA301 and the PTL-02 are based, seems to be a designed with features from the French VAB and the German Fuchs (at least it looks more closer to these two vehicles rather than the BTR series of APCs).

DjiboutianWMA301 Assaulter tank destroyer on parade

"The Djiboutian Armed Forces (FAD) displayed a single Norinco WMA301 Assaulter tank destroyer during the country's independence day parade on 27 June.
The Assaulter is comprised of the hull of a WZ551 6x6 armoured personnel carrier armoured with a 105 mm gun mounted in a three-person turret. It has similar firepower to a tank, but is more affordable and easier to maintain, albeit at the expense of armour protection.
The FAD does not currently have any tanks, but has Ratel-90 and AML-90 armoured vehicles that can be used in the fire-support role.
The Assaulter is already in service with Cameroon and Chad, both of which deployed them during operations against the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram.
The FAD also displayed M109 self-propelled howitzers and Cougar mine-resistant, ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles, both of which were seen for the first time in the 2014 parade."
Source: Jane's IHS

Author's opinion: China again manages to claim further costumers in the global AFV market. While the WMA301 is not comparable in terms of performance to the latest generation of wheeled armored fighting vehicles (even China seems to favor the more modern 8x8 VN1A series), it is a very potent AFV for the African continent.
While it is no surprise that African countries cannot afford Western AFVs (due to high costs and political considerations), it is still disturbing to see China gain momentum on the global market for AFVs.

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