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The ZBD-97 is a fully-tracked infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) developed for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Also known as Type 97, ZBD-97 was introduced in to the PLA ground forces in 2006. These vehicles operate along with the Type 96 and Type 99 main battle tanks.
The vehicle provides protected transport for an infantry squad, fire support for deployed infantry, and can mount attacks on enemy tanks and armoured vehicles. It also demonstrates significant amphibious capabilities.
ZBD-97 is deployed by the armoured units mobilised in the Guangzhou and Nanjing military regions. An armoured recovery vehicle (ARV) variant is also manufactured. This ARV version is fitted with a crane on top of the hull.
ZBD-97 fighting vehicle design
The ZBD-97 features a two man turret mounted on the middle of an indigenously developed hull. The turret is similar to the turret system of Russian made BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle. The design incorporates a conventional layout with welded steel hull. The vehicle can accommodate a crew of three (commander, driver and gunner) and up to seven troops. The power compartment is located on the forward-right side of the vehicle. The troop compartment is located in the rear of the vehicle.
The troop body section has two large hatches on the roof and a single exit door in the rear. Three observation points, two on the either side of the hull and one in the exit door, are provided for firing. These firing ports allow the troops to fire assault rifles and light machine guns from inside the vehicle on the move. The vehicle is equipped with two large water jet ports on the rear of the vehicle for high-speed water-travel. These water jets allow the vehicle to swim from an amphibious warfare ship to shore. A hydraulically operated wave fence on forward prevents the front part of the vehicle from overflowing during water-travel.
The main armament fitted on the turret is a semi-automatic 100mm gun / missile launcher. The dual-way stabilised weapon system can fire both HE-FRAG rounds and the 3UBK10 anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM). The HE-FRAG round can be fired at a rate of 10 rounds per minute for an effective range of 4,000m.
The 3UBK10 ATGM can be fired against armoured vehicles, fortifications and low-flying helicopters. It has a maximum range of 4,000m. Around eight missiles are housed inside the turret.
A 30mm coaxial automatic cannon serves as a secondary weapon. This gun can fire armour-piercing (AP) and HE-FRAG rounds at a rate of 300 rounds per minute for a range of up to 2,000m. A 7.62mm coaxial machine gun is also fitted on the vehicle.
NBC protection system
The ZBD-97 is fitted with a collective NBC protection system, with its air filter placed at rear end the turret to the right. The welded steel armour provides protection against small arms and shell splinters. The vehicle misses the ARENA-E active protection system fitted on the modern version of the BMP-3, but is believed to be fitted with its own laser-warning and countermeasures system. The Type 97 also features a three-barrel smoke grenade launcher.
Observation and fire-control
Three periscopes are housed in the driver’s hatch mounts. The central periscope can be replaced with an image intensifying periscope for night-vision purposes. Two headlights are fitted on the front armour of the hull.
A main-sight, a combined image-intensified day or night-sight and a standby day-sight are provided for the gunner.
The commander has a day-sight and a combined day and image-intensified night-sight.
The fire-control system integrates a ballistics computer, an electro-mechanical gun stabiliser and a laser range-finder.
The ZBD-97 is powered by a newly developed liquid-cooled diesel engine providing a maximum road speed of 65km/h and swimming speed of 20km/h. The vehicle has a maximum range of 500km.
The ZBD-97 features six road wheels, with three track support rollers attached to the front drive sprocket on either sides of the vehicle. The unevenly spaced road wheels feature rubber tyres. The first, second and sixth road wheels are fitted with hydraulic shock absorbers. Removable rubber pads are fitted on the metallic tracks to improve the ride comfort of passengers.
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