Chinese VT4 tank fitted with FY-IV ERA Explosive Reactive Armour against Tandem Warhead ammunition


According to new pictures published on April 22, 2020, to the China Defense Blog, the latest version of Chinese-made Main Battle Tank (MBT) VT4 is now protected with new armor ERA (Explosive Reactive Armor) Level FY-4 providing protection against Tandem Warhead ammunition. According to our previous analysis, the first version of the VT-4 MBT was fitted with ERA level FY-2.


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Chinese VT4 main battle tank with ERA armor Level FY-IV mounted at the front of the hull. (Picture source China Defense Blog)


The VT4 MBT (Main Battle Tank) is now in service with four armed forces in the world including China, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Thailand. The VT4 also called MBT-3000 is a third-generation Main Battle Tank (MBT) designed, developed and manufactured in China by NORINCO (China North Industries Corporation).

The VT4 MBT was unveiled by the Chinese defense industry in November 2019 during the China International Aviation & Aerospace or Zhuhai AirShow. The layout of this tank is very similar to the Russian tank with a crew of three including driver, commander and gunner and the use of an automatic loading system for the main armament.

The main armament of the VT4 / MBT-3000 consists of a 125 mm smoothbore gun fitted with a thermal sleeve and fume extractor. It is fed by an automatic loader that holds a total of 22 projectiles and charges which can be loaded at the rate of eight per minute. One 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun is mounted to the right of the main armament, while on the commander's cupola is mounted a remote weapon station armed with a 12.7mm heavy machine gun that can be used to engage ground and aerial targets.

The hull and turret of the VT4 are of welded steel construction with a layer of composite armor over the front arc. The first version of the tank was fitted with additional ERA (Explosive Reactive armor) Level FY-2 providing protection against HEAT (High-Explosive Anti-Tank) and APFSDS (Armour-Piercing Fin-Stabilized Discarding Sabot) ammunition. According to the latest pictures released on the Internet, the latest variant of the VT4 is now fitted at the front of the hull with ERA armor Level FY-4 providing protection against Tandem Warhead.


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Close view of the ERA armor Level FY-IV mounted at the front of the VT4 main battle tank (Picture source China Defense Blog)


Currently, China produces four Level of ERA armour including the FY-I with protection against HEAT ammunition, the FY-II with protection against HEAT, APFSDS ammunition, the FY-III with protection against HEAT, APFSDS and tandem warhead ammunition and the FY-IV providing protection against HEAT, APFSDS and tandem warhead ammunition but with 85 mm thick armour blocks for the FY-IV and only 75 mm for Level III. The ERA armour consists of steel blocks with C4 explosives inside.

Reactive armour is a type of vehicle armour that reacts in some way to the impact of a weapon to reduce the damage done to the vehicle being protected. It is most effective in protecting against shaped charges and specially hardened kinetic energy penetrators. The most common type is explosive reactive armour (ERA), but variants include self-limiting explosive reactive armour (SLERA), non-energetic reactive armour (NERA), non-explosive reactive armour (NxRA), and electric reactive armour.

A high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warhead is a type of shaped charge explosive that uses the Munroe effect to penetrate thick tank armor. Armour-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot (APFSDS) is a type of kinetic energy penetrator ammunition used to attack modern vehicle armour. As an armament for main battle tanks, it succeeds armour-piercing discarding sabot (APDS) ammunition, which is still used in small or medium caliber weapon systems.

Tandem warheads are effective against reactive armour, which is designed to protect an armoured vehicle (mostly tanks) against anti-tank ammunition, missiles and rocket. The first stage of the weapon is typically a weak charge that either pierces the reactive armour of the target without detonating it leaving a channel through the reactive armour so that the second warhead may pass unimpeded, or simply detonating the armour plates causing the timing of the counter-explosion to fail. The second detonation from the same projectile attacks the same location as the first detonation where the reactive armour has been compromised. Since the regular armour plating is often the only defence remaining, the main charge (second detonation) has an increased likelihood of penetrating the armour.


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Chinese-made ERA armour level (Picture source Twitter)


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