Nation builds first remote-controlled tank

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China has designed and built what is believed to be the world's first combat tank that can be remotely controlled, said a spokesman for State-owned China North Industries Group Corp.

Cheng Ziheng said on Thursday in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, that each crew of the VT-5U main battle tank will be given a remote-control device.

"In highly risky combat circumstances like a street battle with heavily armed enemies or operations in minefields or mountainous regions with the risk of enemy ambush, crew members can evacuate the vehicle to a comparatively safer place and then use the device to manipulate their tank to continue fighting. The design is intended to better protect the crew's safety," he explained.

Soldiers can also remotely control the tank to move into places under heavy enemy fire to rescue their injured comrades, Cheng said.

Engineers have also designed a remote-control station that can be mounted on an armored vehicle. Compared with the crew's hand-held control device, the station has stronger communication and data-processing capabilities, enabling crew members to operate their tank from a farther distance, he noted.

According to open information, the VT-5U has become the world's first combat tank that can be remotely operated, Cheng said.

Moreover, the new tank model is equipped with a robotic reconnaissance system, which deploys a quad-rotor drone to monitor the battlefield environment and situation, and the enemies' movements.

The drone system can double the detection range of the tank and will give it a better situational awareness than other tanks, he said.

Commonly known as Norinco, Cheng's company is the country's biggest maker of land armaments and a major contractor to the People's Liberation Army Ground Force.

As one of the world's latest light-duty main battle tanks, VT-5 was first shown to the public at the 11th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in November 2016.

Norinco said it was developed based on combat-proven technologies and boasts a powerful, indigenously designed engine.

The company said VT-5 is capable of operating in various terrain including desert, forest and urban areas as well as soft-soil regions that cannot support heavy-duty tanks. It has a maximum weight of 36 metric tons and a crew of three.

The tank is armed with a 105-mm rifled tank gun, which can fire armor-piercing shells, high-explosive warheads and anti-tank missiles, and a 12.7-mm remotely controlled machine gun.

It is the first Chinese export tank that has a conveyor-belt shell autoloader, which, compared with previous autoloader types, has better reliability and safety and higher speed when loading the main gun.

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