China Hastens Military Build-Up Along Border, Deploys ‘Xinqingtan’ Light Tank

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Beijing: 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.

PLAGF has corrected this omission and now refers to the ZTQ as “Xinqingtan.” It also admitted for the first time it’s deployed an undetermined number of this light tank in Tibet along the LAC.

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.