China's ZTQ-15 light tank has been delivered to the amphibious force of the People's Liberation Army Navy, according to the Navy.
In a video clip about one of its Marine Corps brigades that was broadcast on China Central Television last month, the Navy showed a sergeant teaching fellow marines how to operate the ZTQ-15 in front of several such tanks, marking its public debut in the Marine Corps.
The main land weapons of the Marine Corps' armored force are currently the ZTD-05A amphibious assault vehicle and ZBD-05 amphibious fighting vehicle.
Deployment of the ZTQ-15 will substantially boost the Marine Corps' operational mobility and amphibious fighting capability, said Wu Peixin, a military equipment observer in Beijing.
"Compared with other ground-based weapons in the Marine Corps, the new tank has thicker armor, stronger firepower and an improved propulsion system, which means it is able to confront heavily armed enemies and can move through many kinds of tough terrain that other vehicles can't," he said.
Yu Shuo, an industry observer of land weapons, said that despite its light weight, the highly mobile ZTQ-15 has good self-protection measures. He said the tank is mainly tasked with undertaking combat operations in mountainous regions and on plateaus.
The tank is equipped with specially designed engines that can handle the shortage of oxygen on plateaus and also features a hydropneumatic suspension system that ensures good maneuverability and survivability in mountainous regions. Its main weapon－a 105-millimeter-caliber gun－is able to fire shells and guided missiles powerful enough to destroy all kinds of tanks likely to confront the Chinese tank on plateaus, he said.
"ZTQ-15's overall capabilities are comparable to those of many main battle tanks. Specifically speaking, it is mightier than all tanks in the world except the top five main battle tanks," Yu said.
Ge Lide, a defense technology researcher at PLA National Defense University, said that while the tank falls into the light-duty category, its combat capability is pretty strong, considering its firepower, mobility, defensive measures and information capacity.
He said the tank should be able to outperform all other PLA tanks and armored vehicles off-road.
During an inspection of the Marine Corps' headquarters in Chaozhou, Guangdong province, in October, President Xi Jinping said the service must be able to deploy rapidly, undertake various kinds of tasks, and operate in all types of terrain.
He stressed that the Marine Corps is an elite amphibious fighting force that shoulders significant responsibilities for safeguarding national sovereignty, territorial integrity, marine rights and overseas interests.