China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO) has expanded its armoured vehicle portfolio with the development of the ST2 tracked 105 mm Tank Destroying Vehicle (TDV), which is understood to have been developed specifically for the export market rather than the People's Liberation Army (PLA).
The hull is similar to that used on the earlier generation NORINCO YW534 (Type 89) armoured personnel carrier (APC) - which has not been manufactured for some years - but with six road wheel stations either side rather than five.
While new platforms could be built, it is possible that the ST2 could use refurbished and upgraded vehicles.
The forward part of the hull sides slope inwards but at the rear they are more vertical to enable the turret, with its larger ring, to be installed. The driver is seated front left with the diesel powerpack to the right.
The ST2 TDV consists of a fully tracked platform fitted with a welded steel three-person turret mounted in the middle. The 105 mm rifled gun has a muzzle brake, fume extractor, and thermal sleeve, but does not currently appear to be fitted with a muzzle reference system (MRS), which would enable the weapon to be bore sighted without the crew leaving the vehicle.
A total of 32 rounds of 105 mm ammunition are carried with the mix depending on the role the ST2 TDV is expected to undertake.
As well as firing the standard natures of 105 mm ammunition including armour-piercing fin-stabilised discarding sabot - tracer (APFSDS-T), high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT), high explosive (HE), and a recently developed bunker busting round, it can also fire a gun-launched guided projectile (GLGP), which NORINCO is marketing as the GP2.
The GLGP has a maximum range of up to 5,000 m and is fitted with a tandem HEAT warhead that is claimed to penetrate 650 mm of rolled homogeneous armour (RHA) protected by explosive reactive armour (ERA).
Currently China operates a number of out-dated Type 62 light tanks. It looks like the Chinese army is looking for a replacement for this ageing light tank. Chinese requirement might be for at least 300 new light tanks. Within the past couple of years some new light tank designs emerged in China. One of them is the ST2. This armored vehicle combines the chassis of the ZJX 93 armored recovery vehicle and turret of WMA 301, orST1 fire support vehicle. In China it is classified as a tracked fire support vehicle or tank destroyer. However it is a light tank by its function. The ST2 was first revealed in 2014. Most likely that this combat vehicle was is also aimed at export customers. Chinese armored vehicles, that were not approved for service with the Chinese armed forces are typically offered for export by NORINCO.
The concept of combining hulls and turrets of existing systems in not new. It is a relatively easy and low-cost way of creating new weapon systems. In 2008 a similar light tank was developed by merging a Type 89 (ZSD 89) armored personnel carrier chassis with a 105 mm turret of a Type 63A amphibious light tank. Though it was not a success and only a single prototype was built.
The new ST2 light tank is intended for reconnaissance, infantry fire support, territorial defense and other roles. It can successfully engage various armored vehicles, such as armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles, artillery systems and so on. Even though the ST2 can engage main battle tanks, it is not normally intended for such engagements.
Hull of this new Chinese light tank is similar to that of the ZJX 93 armored recovery vehicle. The ZJX 93 is an extended version of the Type 89 armored personnel carrier with additional road wheel. It has more internal volume, which enabled to install the turret. The ZJX 93 has not been manufactured for some years. So it is possible that the ST2 light tank uses refurbished and upgraded, rather than newly-built chassis.
The ST2 has a 3-man turret. It is armed with a 105 mm rifled gun, which is compatible with all standard NATO 105 mm tank ammunition. The gun can fire a wide range of ammunition, including APFSDS-T, HEAT, HE, and even bunker busting rounds. Maximum range of fire is around 3 000 m. As mentioned before, this light tank is not that effective against modern main battle tanks. However this gun penetrates front armor of the tanks like T-55, T-62, and some other, that are widespread in Africa and Southeast Asia - in the regions where these fire support vehicles are likely to be deployed. The ST2 light tank can also launch GP2 anti-tank guided missiles in the same manner as ordinary projectiles. The GP2 has a tandem HEAT warhead which is claimed to penetrate 650 mm of rolled homogenous armor equivalency behind explosive reactive armor. The GP2 missile can engage targets at a maximum range of 5 000 m. A total of 32 rounds are carried for the main gun. The gun is loaded manually by the loader.
The ST2 is reportedly fitted with a thermal imager. So this vehicle can engage targets accurately at night and during adverse weather conditions.
Secondary armament consists of coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun and roof-mounted 12.7 mm machine gun.
Due to its light weight the ST2 light tank provides only limited protection for its crew. Its armor withstands hits from small arms fire and artillery shell splinters. This combat vehicle is fitted with NBC protection system and can operate in contaminated areas. Also the ST2 is likely to have an automatic fire suppression system.
This light tank is operated by a crew of 4. Commander, gunner and loader are seated in the 3-man turret turret. There is a door at the rear of the hull for entrance and ammunition loading. Also there are roof hatches. Driver is seated at the front of the hull, next to an engine.
This light tank is powered by a diesel engine. It is likely to develop around 400-500 hp. Even though the ZJX 93 armored vehicle is fully-amphibious, it looks like the ST2 tank lost the amphibious capability due to increased weight.