China Boosts its Amphibious Options

Our good friend Martin Andrew forwarded us his latest analysis newsletter of the Chinese military and in it we noticed a profile of the PLAN’s new ZBD05 Amphibious Fighting Vehicle.

According to Andrew, the new ship-to-shore APC sports a 30mm cannon, a 7.62 coaxial machine gun and anti-tank guided missiles. The vehicle is armored against artillery and 12.7mm armor-piercing rounds.

The ZDB05 has a maximum speed in water of 30 km/hr which equals 16 knots, with the crew of three navigating by GPS.  It can transport between five and seven infantry with two in tandem behind the driver with their own roof hatches and five behind in the rear behind the turret.  It uses a small hinged door for rear entry and egress.  There are also two roof hatches behind the turret.

Andrew writes about an exercise that occurred last year where Chinese commanders conducted a simulated amphibious assault against a contested shoreline. This was the first time the PLAN could do a Marine Corps-style landing, he said.

This was the result of ten years of planning, training and the re-equipping of the PLA’s amphibious units and the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN Marines). Prior to this upgrading the PLAN Marines admitted that when compared to the United States Marine Corps, any talk of a battlefield capability was ‘only idle talk’.  The PLA’s amphibious forces and the PLAN Marines now believe they can breakout from the beachhead and fight outside of it.

The interesting thing to me is that the PLAN has managed to produce, field and successfully test an amphibious fighting vehicle, the same year the US Marine Corps had to cancel its Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.

39 Comments on "China Boosts its Amphibious Options"

  1. Yeah, well their vehicle is probably just an improved variant of the BMPs while the EFV is some odd contraption where they tried to put a tank on a speed boat (and succeeded)

    I guess it just shows that perhaps the US should try to just make something functional instead of something revolutionary. Maybe then they'll actually finish something on time and within the budget.

  2. Awesome, let the arguements commence at once! I want to hear about how the EFV really was needed to maintain forced entry versus this being more cooked up propaganda to encourage defense contract spending…aaaand GO…

  3. China seems to understand the lesson of the enemy of good is perfect. I wish we could learn that lesson.

  4. EFV is much faster and carries more people. Probably operates in higher sea states.
    However, EFV died, and we'll be upgrading the AAAV until rivals catch up to us technologically.

  5. Anybody notice the 2009 in the background? How old is this vehicle?

  6. What kind of exercise did they cook that justified the statement that they could take contested beaches? Kind of curious, myself. You'd need a fairly powerful navy as well to sortie, fight and hold a strip of terrain for amphibious entry, so I assume that feel they have that in hand as well, or was this just a "land vehicles on beach, pronounce you have capability"?

  7. CollegeKidODU | April 1, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Reply

    This pisses me off. We should of stuck with the efv….it was almost done. If you're gonna go that far with a program why not finish the last year.

  8. In the missiles and percision ballistics, this is just crazy. If they tried to hit the coast of Taiwan with this crap, they would be shot of the water a mile out. Just one old tank with a laser pointer could kill a thousand chinese marines.

    If they really want to get serious about taking Taiwan they need to start investing in bombers, awacs, and airborne assault that could secure a beach head, and ferry troops on dedicated transport craft otherwise their assault is going to get toasted before it even gets close to land

  9. No hydrodynamicist here, but that thing won't plane or push a bow-wave out of it's way. It's draft is shallow making me wonder just what kind of sea it's supposed to launch in–at some point, it looks like a roller. Our AAV is tall, ungainly and slow, but it's pretty good in the water.

  10. If you look closely you'll notice a retracted bow plate that runs up the front and folds backwards over the forward end of the top deck. That bow plate suggests planing capability and the ability to move with more authority into higher oncoming seas — and that suggests an intention to launch from near over-the-horizon since close-to-shore launches are mostly limited to following seas.

  11. Well someone has to do it..

  12. I'd be there with you buddy, I just prefer exhausted diplomacy to precede kinetic rhetoric.

  13. I find it funny that while the US Marines are fighting to keep their beachhead capabilities from being scrapped , the Chinese are full on developing theirs.
    Of course they hope to invade an island someday.
    Or at least threaten one enough to make them "behave".
    AAaaaaaa…. Wonderful imperialism.
    One day they will right all the wrongs of the last century…..
    The most frightening people in history are the ones constantly claiming to be victims…..

  14. keeping beach head abilities is foolish. modern missiles will turn you into junk quickly.

  15. Giving the Chicons enough time they will implode, shortage of females will tip their population, tasting their Capitalcommunism and the inability to feed and water their own is a formula of trouble for any country in their vicinity. Cn has been a world leader before and will collapse again, I partially agree with the Templar Iran is the head of the snake cut it off and BBQ it…

  16. This might not be the most perfect vehicle solution for the USMC, but maybe they should issue an RFI, just in case.

  17. I think China is producing this things for something. Whatever it is, I t may never be good. We need to prepare. Spiritually, physically and defensively.

  18. So…where is this contested beach PLAN wants to invade? Somewhere next to one we need the efv for? It still is not sinking in that china fakes capabilities to goad us into unnecessary spending. Turn off the history channel and start thinking defense tech.

  19. @Robert
    China has no ambition for military contest when they can easily crush us financially and economically. Most of what you see is pure posturing because china is also insecure about being compared to the US, and much like a pimply adolescent with braces is just trying fit in and look cool.

  20. often militaries with the biggest parades are the weakest.

  21. Metalmarine825 | April 2, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Reply

    I understand that thing is supposed to blend in with the water, which is good for the ship to shore, but after that, you're stuck with a bright blue IFV in a mostly green and brown environment. Just saying, that thing is gonna be TOW food.

  22. yawn

  23. I don't trust any PLA "capability" until I see it used in the exact role is was intended for. Ten bucks says that the production models can't even swim.

  24. stolen tech from usa

  25. Byron Skinner | April 2, 2011 at 10:26 pm | Reply

    Good Evening Folks,

    Trying to look up information on the ZDB-05 Amphibious Vehicle and all I find is stuff from US right wing Think Tanks and the obvious Chinese propaganda stuff. There are a few questions that beg asking.

    First off what is the intended mission for this vehicle. While its fire power for an 8,000kg. vehicle is indeed impressive, the ZBD-05 can only at best bring seven troops to the battle space. It’s thin aluminum skin rated at stopping a 12.5 mm/12.7 mm round is a limiting factor in its use as an AFV.

    Note, here watching the video from Libya and other African wars, it is very clear that the adaptation of 12.5 mm/12.7 mm, 14.5mm, 23mm and 37mm Soviet era weapons intended as towed AA artillery into very usable mobile gun systems on commercial pick up trucks as their weapons platform, sometime referred to as “Technicals” in the media. This appears to be a skill that current and future rebellious groups have mastered. These improvised gun trucks would have the ZBD-05 and its seven infantrymen for lunch.

    The operational need in amphibious assault is to get as may boots and mobile firepower on the beach as quickly as possible and to overwhelm the enemy, while the ZBD-05 has the fire power its survival during those first critical moments on the beach would seem to be doubtful. Along with bringing in only seven infantry makes this a rather inefficient amphibious vehicle.

    The other factor the article by implication indicated that this a a PLAN vehicle. The PLANMC is a subordinate organization to the PLAN with its highest rank being a Colonel. Its optimal size is only 30K and most recent counts give it only about 15K Marines. The total PLANMC is stationed on Hainan Island in the South China Sea.

    I know that the PLA has in its Order of Battle, two amphibious PLA Divisions but neither have been seen or referred to in informational literature or seen on parade and it would seem that exist only on paper and in the wishful minds of people who get off on these types of things.

    The PLANMC has seen little use in the past few decades, most note worthy is a sub Company size landing on one of the Parcel Islands populated by both Chinese and Vietnamese to settle a dispute over the ownership of a pig.

    Again an A+ for the paint job, from what the PLAN say in press releases is correct the ZBD-05 might make a good scout platform, but as an amphibious landing vehicle on a contested beach, it would only be a target.

    Byron Skinner

  26. Hi Byron. It is indeed likely the armor here isn't much better than what is found on a common BMP that isn't fitted with any extra armor. At close ranges the front can stop HMG fire but the sides won't. Meanwhile most autocannons (like the 25mm Bushmaster) will cut right through the vehicle.

    Indeed a technical could destroy one of these, but that would involve a lot of luck or a very well executed ambush of some kind. Sensors and fire control systems play an important role and would typically allow the ZBD to detect and destroy technicals long before the technicals are getting bursts on target.

    Technicals have been common in many militia and insurgent groups for years now. In fact Toyota should probably market the Hilux as "the pick-up truck of choice for 3rd world militias." Used right they can indeed be a threat to armored vehicles. Yet while a technical may be able to knock out a BMP-1 (for example), in most cases the BMP-1 will be the victor.

    Now you said "the operational need in amphibious assault is to get as may boots and mobile firepower on the beach as quickly as possible and to overwhelm the enemy", but in this case why were you so dead-set against the EFV? It had flaws for sure but it could get 18 marines to the beach fast.

    The ideal amphibious assault vehicle would probably be like the EFV, but capable of accepting modular armor packages (ERA or composite armor) once on shore, and not being so horribly expensive and fuel hungry.

  27. Byron Skinner | April 3, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Reply

    Good Morning Folks,

    The central point here is, no matter how good the ZBD-05 is, and until evidence to the contrary say’s different I will agree. it will never be made in number large enough to make a difference. If any thing destroyed ZBD-05’s from the first invasion wave would create a parking problem on a landing beach for the second wave.

    To compare the ZBD-05 to either the AAVP-7A or the conceptual EFV is not valid. The USMC still own in excess of 1,300 AAVP-7A’s and is in the process of modernization of the fleet of vehicles. The AAVP-7A is not designed to move inland and support the Infantry, the problems with that were shown by the 3/25 Marines in an Bur Iraq and cost the live of nearly 30 Marines. It’s only a taxi and once its Marines are off loaded it mission is to go back for more Marines.

    I won’t go into the discussion of the validity of even planning for battalion size amphibious landing because of the rarity of the event. The AAV7 was successfully use by the Argentine Marine’s in 1982, during the Falkland Island war and I think that’s about the largest use of the AAV7 on a contested invasion beach. So the need for any amphibious land vehicles by any country is dubious at best.

    The EFV would have the same problems as the ZBD-05, only it would bring more Infantry ashore. The major difference is that it looks like the cost of the ZBD-05 is in the neighborhood of $200.000 USD’s, the EFV is at $16,000,000.00 and still climbing if ever made. The AAVP-7A’s in inventory cost the US Navy when purchased $2,000,000 to $2,5000,000.00 each, modernization is costing about $2,000,000.00 a unit.

    Again great paint job, but what good are the ZBD-05’s?

    Byron Skinner

  28. Suppose the EFV had panned out. Would it have given the US a capability that makes up for the extra cost, much of it borrowed money from the Chinese and other foreign nations? Or would it be better to focus on basic, reliable amphibious vehicles along the lines of these Chinese ones, just better quality and for far less (borrowed) money than the EFV?

  29. Byron Skinner | April 3, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Reply

    Good Afternoon Folks,

    Hi Tad. You statements regarding the military usefulness an economic utility of the EFV I agree totally with you. Your statements regarding China and US debt I don’t agree with. The high level point of Chinese Treasury ownership was in the Summer of 2008 when it was estimated that China held $1.25 trillion in US Treasury Bonds (debt). In December of 2010 the estimated amount of US debt held by China was $425 billion or about a 76% reduction in China’s Treasury holdings.

    Note. The problem of estimating Chinese holdings of US debt are two. first off it is difficult to determine if an asset is held by a private citizen of China or the Government ran Bank of China or the lessor know institution The People Bank of China. Secondly is that both China and Chinese citizens are buying most of their US Treasury notes in the secondary markets where they can get a much better return because the bonds are bought at discounts.

    Of the current estimated amount of Chinese holdings of $425 billion most of it appears to be held by Chinese citizens and and the bonds are physically kept outside of China. Hard currency which US Treasury notes would be considered to be are often confiscated converted by the Chinese government and converted to Yuan. Chinese law prevents Chinese citizens and foreign corporations doing business in China from holding/possessing/owning any foreign currencies.

    It is also noted that at the time the financial bubble burst in the Fall of 2008 the Government of China held about a $4 trillion in foreign currency (Dollars, Euros and Gold). By The Spring of 2009 that amount had been reduced to about $285 billion and rose again last summer (2010) to about $400 billion. This is a strong indicator that China has been dumping US Treasury Bonds for cash and eating the discount. In short China is going broke.

    Byron Skinner

  30. Next on the list is Submersible Expeditionary Vehicles to hide from enemy missiles. Not only will it fight on land, it will act as a minisub, and carry torpedoes too!

  31. Where can one get a copy of Andrew Martin's newsletter or does he have a blog?

  32. Its a BMP knock off and I dont see this vehicle standing up to heavy armor anyway. More fear mongering over Chi Com China.

  33. This vehicle isnt too new Ive seen pics of this years ago.

  34. Byron Skinner | April 4, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Reply

    Good Morning Folks,

    Good question Tad. A lot of China’s foreign currency is coming back to the United States. China has bought the futures for 60% of this Summers Soybean crop and are buy all of the Hard Durham Winter Wheat that is they can lay their hands on. A year ago the price of Durham Hard was about $4.00 a bu. this year it’s over $9.00 a bu.

    Remember last Summers heavy rains, floods followed by a drought in China that took out over half of their crops?

    It is so bad that the Chinese government has “encouraged” service and manufacturing workers to use any scrap of land in the cities to grow vegetables, which grow quickly and bring the excess to a state market to be distributed to the hungry and are issuing seed for this effort. It’s bad and getting worse.

    China along with Russia who is look ing to buy a million and a half bu’s. of Wheat from anyone. It is noted that the crops in the Southern Hemisphere also suffered weather and fire damage. China is in a classical demand side economic squeeze.

    US farmers don’t IOU’s. Another place foreign currency is going is of course oil. In the past Iran was willing to trade military and nuclear technology and hardware for oil credits. Now that oil above $100.00 a barrel, Iran’s nuclear industry is down and not going to be up anytime soon, and the impending Islamic revolt coming, they are more interested in money then guns and control rods.

    The earthquake in Japan which no only damaged production factories and it destroyed many is now effecting Chinas supply line of, chips, optics, synthetic fabrics, auto parts and plasma displays are all being effected and will by Summer reduce exports of manufactured goods from China to the US and EU who but about 70% of what they make.

    Also the Islamic revolution has China in it’s cross hairs. The Chinese destination of the Islamic revolution is Guangzhou (formally Canton) before it’s right turn into Southeast Asia. Some interesting reading is the Islamic settling of Canton in or about 745AD/CE.

    In short things are not looking good in the PRC. Could The PRC do a Soviet Union, could, all the signs are there.

    I really doubt that China is going to have the resources for several years to come to put into military technology.

    Byron Skinner

  35. Actually this looks like a variant of the ZBD2000 Amphibious Fighting Vehicle that first came out in 2006. More info can be found here:

  36. Let me clarify a few things since I wrote it the article, as part of a larger piece as a work in progress, the next part will be in my next newsletter. All the technical information came from Chinese sources I translated myself. I used Google on two background pieces and then translated the important pieces to to clarify them. Both the PLA's amphibious mechanized divisions and the PLAN Marines use it. It is a development of the ZDB04 IFV, and not a BMP knock off, and weighs circa 16~17 tons. The vehicle was type classified in 2005 and entered service in early 2007 (Not years ago). yes they can swim and there is no stolen tech from the USA. The turret was developed in conjunction with an Ukrainian company.

    If anybody wants to get on my GI Zhou Newsletter list you can contact me through the Air Power Australia website.

    The site has the best open source material available on air defence systems, the Chinese J-20 and Russian PAK-FA stealth fighters. All the specialists comments on the F-35 have proven to be correct by the way. Ask the Canadians!

    I do the China ground equipment for the site and there are a heap of photos. All my info is from Chinese sources, not brochures from air shows.

    Anyway stuff to write. Cheers,

    Martin Andrew aka GI Zhou

  37. I understand they have a submarine base right out of James Bond,completely underground.Sooner or later there will be another event.And they are so arrogant.Reminds me of the the US in the Spanish American war.

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