China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is conducting research to convert its existing armoured fighting vehicles into unmanned platforms for future warfare operations.

PLA Academy of Armoured Forces Engineering president major general Xu Hang was quoted by China Daily as saying: "Unmanned ground vehicles will play a very important role in future ground combat.

"Realising that, we have begun to explore how to refit our armoured vehicles into unmanned ones.

"Unmanned ground vehicles will play a very important role in future ground combat."

"Though we have yet to develop unmanned tanks, I think it is an irreversible trend that computers will gradually replace humans to control those fighting machines."

The general was speaking during an open house event for domestic and overseas reporters, which displayed PLA’s military build-up and transparency.

Last month, China North Industries Group established the country’s first research centre in Beijing, to develop unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) for the Chinese military, according to the news agency.

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By GlobalData

The centre’s deputy director Meng Hong said that Chinese engineers have already developed some unmanned military vehicles, but they are not in use with the PLA.

An unnamed contractor’s publicity officer said China has a full product chain of tanks and armoured fighting vehicles featuring indigenously manufactured engines and weapons that are as advanced as those used by Western militaries.

Meanwhile, PLA Academy of Armoured Forces Engineering senior tank researcher colonel Yu Kuilong said: "Our ground forces have been upgrading their tanks and armoured vehicles over the past years.

"Their new tanks are way better than what they had used since the 1960s in terms of manoeuvrability, firepower, control systems and users’ comfort."

The academy has developed advanced driving and shooting simulators, which have reportedly given junior-grade students a real-time experience of operating a tank or armoured fighting vehicle before the actual mission.

Around RMB200m ($32m) is being spent by the academy on the research and development of new armaments, according to Hang.

Defence Technology