Nigerian amy appreciates Chinese ST1 fire support vehicle for local combats

According to a tweet posted by Defense News Nigeria, while the Chinese-made VT4 and Russian-made T-72M main battle tank offers far better armor protection, the ST1 fire support vehicle still has efficient armor that can withstand 14.5 mm rounds and, under some circumstances. It can operate in almost every terrain met by the Nigerian armed forces. The ST1 is an export version of the ZTL-09 with a 105 mm gun. It is based on the VN1 armored personnel carrier chassis and has a different turret. The turret is similar to that of the WMA301 6x6 fire support vehicle. It was first publicly revealed in 2014. It seems that it lacks amphibious capability, or it is available only as an option.
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The Nigerian army expresses high satisfaction with the use of its ST1 fire support vehicles (Picture source: Twitter account of Defense News Nigeria)

The ZTL-09 fire support vehicle was developed in China. Sometimes this vehicle is referred to as PTL-09. It seems that it entered service with the People Liberation Army (PLA) in 2009, hence its designation. It is also used by the Chinese marines. This fire support vehicle is currently in production. It seems to be fielded in large numbers.

The ZTL-09 is based on the ZBL-09 wheeled 8x8 armored personnel carrier chassis. The main role of this fire support vehicle is to support infantry with its firepower. Sometimes such vehicles are classified as assault guns or tank destroyers. The ZTL-09 is armed with a 105 mm gun, loaded manually. It has an effective range of over 2 000 m against armored targets. It is speculated, that its HEAT round penetrates between 460 and 500 mm of rolled homogenous steel armor. This vehicle also fires APFSDS, HE rounds. Furthermore, the ZTL-09 is also compatible with anti-tank guided missiles. These laser-guided missiles are launched in the same manner as ordinary projectiles. Anti-tank missiles are based on the Russian 9M117 Bastion technology. Missiles have a maximum range of 5 000 m and penetrate 550-600 mm of steel armor behind Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) blocks. Hit probability against static targets is 90%. Missiles can also target low-flying helicopters. Unfortunately, this fire support vehicle can not defeat modern main battle tanks unless hitting their sides or rear end. Defensive armament consists of a coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun and a roof-mounted 12.7 mm machine gun. The ZTL-09 has a crew of four: commander, gunner, loader and driver.

This fire support vehicle is based on the ZBL-09 wheeled armored personnel carrier. However significant changes have been made to the chassis. The engine was relocated. On the ZBL-09 it was mounted at the front. On the ZTL-09 it is just behind the turret. It is possible that the new fire support vehicle uses the same engine as on the APC. In this case, it is a Deutz BF6M1015C diesel engine, developing 440 hp. It is a German engine, produced in China under license. The engine is mated to an automatic transmission. The vehicle is fitted with a central tire inflation system. Tyre pressure can be adjusted by the driver depending on terrain conditions. This system improves mobility over difficult terrain.

The ZTL-09 is fully amphibious. It is a very unusual feature for this class of vehicles. Most other fire support vehicles can not cross lakes, rivers and other water obstacles on their own. On the water, the ZTL-09 is propelled by two waterjets.

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The ST1 can operate in all the terrains where the Nigerian army deploys (Picture source: Twitter account of Defense News Nigeria)

The Nigerian armed forces, a good customer of China

Among the many purchases made since 2020 by the Nigerian armed forces in China, let us mention 3 SH-2 122mm self-propelled guns, 2 SH-5 105mm self-propelled guns, 6 VT4 main battle tanks, 6 ST1 (or ZTL-09) Fire Support Vehicles, and 2 CH-3 armed UAVs. CASC Rainbow (Cai Hong, abbreviated as CH) is a series of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) developed by the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics, an entity under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). The China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics is also known as the 11th Academy of CASC, or 701st Research Institute. CH-3 is a fixed-wing unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) of the Rainbow series. The CH-3 adopts an unusual canard layout, similar to the Jetcruzer 450 and the Rutan VariEze. This means that the CH-3 lacks a centrally located vertical tail, but has large winglets and canards. Propulsion is provided by a three-blade propeller driven by a pusher engine mounted on the empennage. The main landing wheels of the tricycle landing gear have fairing to reduce drag.

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Chinese-made VT4 of the Nigerian army (Picture source: Twitter account of Defense News Nigeria)

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T-72M tanks of the Nigerian army (Picture source: Twitter account of Defense News Nigeria)