Infantry: The Experimental Chinese Mech Infantry


September 1, 2012: Over the last decade China has been equipping its mechanized infantry units to a modern standard, in terms of equipment, weapons, and training. This is part of a four decade effort to modernize the Chinese Army. For example, it was only in the 1980s that China (at least on paper) motorized all of its infantry divisions. Before that, many infantry marched, or took the railroad, while some of their heavy equipment was still moved by horses. Now, many infantry units are getting a third generation of armored vehicles, or IFVs (Infantry Fighting Vehicles). This makes them mech (mechanized) infantry.

The current standard is for each infantry fighting vehicle to carry a nine man squad, armed with six Type 95 assault rifles, one machine-gun (gunner armed a pistol crew), and one RPG gunner (also with a pistol as a secondary weapon). Troops wear camouflage uniforms (a green pattern), helmets similar to those used by American troops, and protective vests (not the ones with the bullet proof ceramic plates, but the older ones that mainly protect against shell fragments and pistol bullets). The dismounted squad has two walkie-talkie radios, while the vehicle has a longer range radio and intercom system.

Non-mechanized (they move by truck) infantry uses a 12 man squad organization, with an extra RPG and light machine-gun. The mechanized infantry squad has to be smaller because you can't get twelve troops into the vehicles available to the mech infantry.

One of the more widely used IFVs is the Type 92, which was developed in the 1990s, and is similar to the U.S. Stryker or Canadian LAV. It is an 18 ton, 6x6 armored vehicle that is most frequently used to transport infantry. These vehicles carry a crew of three, plus nine infantry. Most vehicles are the APC (Armored Personnel Carrier) model and armed only with a 12.7mm machine-gun.

The older Type 86 vehicle is a 13 ton clone of the Russian BMP 1. This is a tracked (like a tank) vehicle armed with a 73mm cannon, or a 30mm autocannon. The three man crew includes the commander of the eight infantry carried in the back. All nine men of the infantry squad usually dismount, leaving the driver and gunner to operate the vehicle under the general supervision of the squad leader.

China has some other types of armored infantry vehicles, most of them based on Russian types. But the Type 86 and Type 92 are the most commonly used. China organized its first mechanized infantry brigades in the late 1950s, and now has about 30 of them. Some are experimental because China is always trying new things.



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