China's made-for-export light tank, VT5, is expected to be outfitted with an active protection system, state broadcaster reported, which will enable the thin-armored tank to significantly expand its defense capability.
An active protection system could detect incoming hostile projectiles before firing interception rockets to detonate them before they hit the tank, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Saturday.
China announced the development of such a system in 2017, the report said.
"Compared to a heavy main battle tank, a light tank like the VT5 carries lighter armor, meaning weaker passive protection. Using an active protection system would be a great choice," a military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Sunday.
This system is small and light, CCTV said, making it viable on a light tank.
The active protection system is advanced technology that most tanks in the world are still not equipped with due to high costs, the expert said.
The tank is also equipped with a sensor system that sends a warning when the tank is aimed by a laser beam, which can notify the operators to take evasive maneuvers like releasing smoke, CCTV reported.
Made by the state-owned North Industries Group Corporation (NORINCO) and first seen at Airshow China 2016 in Zhuhai, South China's Guangdong Province, the VT5 has a huge potential to get upgraded and customized, analysts said.
Weighing from 33 to 35 tons, the VT5 is only about half the weight of main battle tanks like the US M1A2, allowing it to run faster with quicker acceleration, beating most other tanks by a large margin, the CCTV report said.
The goal of the light tank is to operate in places where normal main battle tanks could not easily get to, like dense forests, deserts, water nets, rice fields and plateaus, CCTV quoted a VT5 developer at NORINCO as saying.
The VT5 is equipped with a 105-millimeter gun capable of accurately firing a wide range of shells, including armor-piercing shells and gun-launched missiles, the report said.
Despite relatively weaker passive protection, the VT5 is still equipped with multiple explosive reactive armor units, according to CCTV.
The People's Liberation Army recently commissioned the Type 15, another Chinese light tank, according to the Ministry of National Defense, although it has yet to make any public appearance.
The Type 15 likely has many characteristics of the VT5, as the two might share some common roots, but the Type 15 could be even better at communication information sharing, the anonymous expert said.