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In late 2004 a new model of airborne combat vehicle was spotted in service with the PLA airborne force. The vehicle, which is possibily developed from the BMD-3, was seen in action during the PLA airborne force’s exercise. The first clear photo of the new Chinese airborne combat vehicle was revealed in February 2005.
From the only photo available so far it can be seen that the new Chinese airborne combat vehicle features a bigger hull than that of the BMD-3, with a two-man turret. Like the BMD-3, the vehicle also uses five pair of roadwheels. The main armament includes a 30mm cannon and turret-mounted rail launcher for the HJ-73C anti-tank missile (ATGM).
The new Chinese airborne combat vehicle is possibly larger than the BMD-3, suggesting a bigger capacity for crew and ammunitions. The BMD-3 has a crew of seven, three in front of the vehicle, including the driver, two people (commander and gunner) in the turret, and two in the rear troop compartment to the immediate rear of the turret. For short distance of travelling the BMD-3 can carry up to 10 people inside. The vehicle can be air-dropped on a special platform from transport aircraft such as IL-76MD. Each IL-76 can carry up to three vehicles.
In the BMD-3/new airborne combat vehicle the PLA airborne force obtained significant increase in combat capability by providing the light infantry paratroopers with a respectable light-weight armoured fighting vehicle. Once landed behind the enemy line, the vehicle’s 30mm gun and HJ-73C ATGM can easily take out most of light armoured targets, which would further complicate enemy’s defence response.