PLA Type 90 MICV Program Parallels Type 90 APC

NEWTOWN, Conn. — Serial production of the Type 90 mechanized infantry combat vehicle is ongoing in the People’s Republic of China for PLA procurement. The production lines for all other MICV models remain dormant. While the production lines for the WZ 501 and WZ 503 fell dormant in 2000, NORINCO still offers these vehicles for export, suggesting the production lines remain available for new orders.

As with its armored personnel carrier inventory, the PLA is in the process of standardizing its active mechanized infantry combat vehicle inventory around the Type 90. Through 2020, the WZ 501 and WZ 503 will continue to fill a supporting role; the PLA will retire YW 307 and YW 309 vehicles as more Type 90 vehicles enter service.

The ongoing PLA force modernization effort is primarily a reaction to lessons learned from observing recent U.S. military actions – especially Operation Desert Storm (1991), Operation Enduring Freedom (2001-present), and Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn (2003-present) – and the ongoing U.S. force transformation initiative.

Further, the U.S. Department of Defense believes that the PLA currently maintains about 40 percent of its main battle tank assets and about 20 percent of its mechanized infantry forces in the vicinity of the Taiwan Straits. Given the vast amount of territory the PLA must defend, this disposition of mechanized forces clearly reflects the PLA’s strategic focus on Taiwan.

As PLA requirements continue to dominate Type 90 production, FI does not expect to see NORINCO offer the Type 90 MICV on the international market. In all likelihood, the older, retired YW 307 and YW 309 vehicles will not appear in any significant quantities on the international market, as these vehicles are essentially worn-out from years of PLA service.

The PLA mechanized infantry combat vehicle programs clearly parallel PLA armored personnel carrier programs, with the Type 90 family of tracked vehicles emerging as the design basis for the entire PLA mechanized force structure.

The traditional scarcity of comprehensive production and technical data from the PRC continues to hamper FI’s research and forecasting efforts. The PLA releases data only on a selective basis; NORINCO customers continue to serve as a limited technical source.

As with the Type 90 armored personnel carrier, the Forecast International Weapons Group expects to see Type 90 mechanized infantry combat vehicle production significantly exceed that of any other Chinese MICV, with a production run of at least 2,500 vehicles through 2020.

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