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The United States Marine Corps fields the iconic, if somewhat aged, Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV). Although the AAV was innovative and state-of-the-art when introduced into USMC service, the tracked vehicle is growing long in the tooth after nearly forty years of continuous use. Like the United States Marine Corps, the People’s Liberation Army Marine Corps also has an amphibious assault vehicle—and it might even be superior to the Corps’ AAV in both speed and firepower. Meet the Type 05.
The PLA Marine Corps’ Type 05 amphibious fighting vehicle is a tracked, ship-to-shore armored vehicle designed for launching Chinese Marines onto austere beachheads from amphibious assault ships. These expeditionary landing operations necessitate the Type 05 having a high speed while in the water—and it does.
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Thanks to a long hydraulic bow flap that extends outwards when in the water, the Type 05 is capable of skimming over the surface of the water, similarly to how some boats skim over water at high speeds. When not in use, the bow flap folds onto the Type 05’s front glacis, additionally armoring the hull.
In addition, the Type 05’s road wheels and tracks are able to retract into the hull, streamlining the underside of the vehicle. The Type 05 is therefore very fast at about twenty-eight kilometers (or just over seventeen miles per hour) in the water. But not only is the Type 05 fast—it also packs a punch.
Depending on the variant, the Type 05 has either a 105-millimeter gun or a 30-millimeter cannon in its turret. Both are capable of fighting at sea while underway toward shore and outclass the United States’ AAV in terms of range. For comparison, the USMC’s AAV has either a small 40-millimeter automatic grenade launcher, or a turret-mounted .50 caliber machine gun.
One of the Type 05’s most potent weapons while at sea is a 105-millimeter laser-guided anti-tank missile. Though the 105 mm main gun is fully stabilized, the pitching motion of the sea would make firing at shore targets rather difficult, especially in high sea states. Since the Type 05’s anti-tank missile rides a laser beam, it can more easily be directed to targets on shore. The AAV has no such capability.
Estimates of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Marine Corps size are hard to determine and vary, though estimates generally range from 12,000 to 30,000 strong. The PLAMC may even eventually balloon to 100,000 strong. Despite being one of the smallest of the People’s Liberation Army’s branches, they are well-equipped for fighting from ship to shore in the South China Sea—Taiwan beware.
Caleb Larson is a Defense Writer with The National Interest. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.