These Explosives-Slinging Vehicles Would Lead Any Chinese Invasion
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A Chinese invasion of Taiwan could succeed or fail on the beaches. Taiwan has had decades to fortify likely landing zones. China has had the same span of time to develop systems for smashing those defenses.
The Chinese armed forces have revealed some of those systems. The People’s Liberation Army in recent weeks has published high-quality photographs of no fewer than three different “assault-breacher” vehicles that, during an amphibious assault, could attempt to destroy Taiwanese minefields and other fortifications.
Sam Cranny-Evans, editor of Janes Armored Fighting Vehicles, highlighted the photos on Twitter. On Monday he posted a PLA picture of the new GCZ110 assault-breacher vehicle, which is apparently based on the Type 96 main battle tank. “It’s new to me but has probably been around for a while,” Cranny-Evans wrote.
Assault-breacher crews have a difficult and dangerous job. They must close within range of enemy weapons in order to launch explosive line-charges that can detonate minefields. As a back-up, assault-breacher vehicles usually also have mine-plows they can use to scoop a path through a minefield.
“Every gun, every cannon, everything that shoots a missile or a bullet is going to be aimed at that breach,” said Lonni Johnston, a program manager for the U.S. Army Futures Command.
It should come as no surprise, then, that assault-breacher vehicles tend to be heavily-armored. But the heavier a vehicle is, the greater the penalty it imposes on an amphibious force.
China possesses a large fleet of assault and landing ships, but its capacity isn’t unlimited. The Chinese navy’s roughly dozen major assault ships, plus auxiliaries, could be adequate to lift both of the marine corps’ combat-ready brigades. Chinese brigades tend to deploy with a single engineering battalion. A battalion probably would be able to bring just a handful of assault-breachers to a landing.
The PLA has options. The GCZ110 with its tank chassis probably is for the most dangerous assaults. The army also possesses assault-breachers based on the chassis of a tracked armored personnel carrier. On the lighter end, there’s a wheeled assault-breacher that likely would accompany road-mobile brigades.
“What is clear is that almost every formation—including the PLA marine corps—has some form of assault-breacher based on one of its organic vehicles,” Cranny-Evans wrote.
The U.S. military has its own assault-breachers. The Army and Marines together plan on buying around 200 M1150 assault-breachers through the early 2000s. The M1150 is an M-1 tank chassis with a line-charge in place of the main gun.
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