[Editor's Note: Our good friend Martin Andrew, who publishes an investigative blaster chronicling Chinese military development called the Gi Zhou Newsletter, has some interesting tidbits for us this week. And please note, the picture at left is an earlier Type 89 self-propelled gun.]
New 122mm Self-Propelled Gun
In 1966, Luo Ruiqing, the PLA's then chief-of-staff criticised the defence industry because it was concentrating on R&D rather than on production. He was accused in the official Report of Luo's Mistakes that, 'he still frantically attacked our national defence scientific research work as going from data to data, from design to design, without completing anything'. Luo believed China was in imminent war with the United States, and advocated Soviet assistance. His criticism of the Chinese defence industry could well have applied into the 1990s as well as today with too many designs that achieve little.
A new 122mm self-propelled gun has been shown in the online version of PLA Daily. Titled 'Artillery troops enhance combat effectiveness with new equipment', it shows a battery of these guns. The vehicle uses the chassis from the new ZBD97 infantry fighting vehicle with a turret, most probably a modified version of the one used on the Model 89 122mm self-propelled gun.
WZ731 Tracked Scout Vehicle
Identified as a xinxihua zhanchang (Informationalised battlefield) system, the WZ731 tracked scout developed from the ZSD89 hull with a low profile turret mounting two armoured sights, one with a laser rangefinder and CCD daylight sight and the other a thermal imager. The WZ731 had a crew of up to six including a three man scout team. It was 6.62m long, 2.626m wide and 1.88m high at the hull and 2.556m at the top of the armoured sights. The combat weight was only 8.1t which gave it a maximum road speed of 80.5 km/hr.
The armament comprised eight 76mm smoke grenade dischargers, four mounted in a row on each side of the turret and a pintle mounted Model 59 12.7 x 108mm heavy machine gun on the left side if the commander's cupola which is directly behind the driver on the left hand side. This single machine gun on its open pintle mount was deemed insufficient in the event of the vehicle coming under attack. The lack of an automatic cannon was one reason the vehicle was not introduced into service. The British Scimitar tracked reconnaissance vehicle is similar in weight, is better armoured, smaller in size, more mobile and m mounts a 30mm cannon.
The basic design was sound and a new scout version of the ZSD89, using the enlarged rear hull of the ambulance version, with a modified low profile turret from the WZ731. This incorporates flat transmitter panels on the turret roof, and on top of this is a compressed gas catapult for a small UAV.
New Unmanned Air Vehicle
The Wenchuan Earthquake has seen the use of at least one Chinese developed and manufactured unmanned air vehicle (UAV). It was to survey the extent of the damage.
It is only 2.1 m long and has a wingspan of 2.6m. It weighs 20kg and is of pusher configuration with twin booms connecting a 'V' shaped rear fin. It can travel at 110km/hr, reach an altitude of 3,500m and has GPS assisted guidance. Its photographic images are excellent.
-- Martin Andrew