Zimbabwe’s Chinese armoured vehicles have come under the spotlight after the political upheaval in the country over the last week, with multiple Type 89 armoured personnel carriers playing a prominent role in the military’s attempts to take over the government of President Robert Mugabe.
Multiple versions of the Norinco Type 89 tracked armoured fighting vehicle have been seen in use with the Zimbabwe National Army. In export service the Type 89 is known as the YW534. IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly notes that multiple armoured personnel carrier (APC) variants have been seen, along with at least one armoured recovery vehicle, one mortar carrier, one ambulance, and two command post variants.
At least one Type YW307 infantry fighting vehicle variant of the Type 89 armed with a 25 mm turret has also been observed, Jane’s reports.
The YW534/Type 89 is based on the earlier Type 85 infantry fighting vehicle, but can be recognised by its four firing ports instead of three. It weights around 15 tonnes and carries three crew and seven troops. Standard armament is a 12.7 mm machinegun. A turbocharged diesel engine gives a top speed of nearly 70 km/h and a range of around 500 km.
French ACMAT TPK 420 VBL/VSC armoured personnel carriers were also seen in Harare.
The Zimbabwe Army’s EE-9 Cascavel and EE-11 Urutu armoured personnel carriers were not seen being active during the military activity over the last week but some EE-9s were apparently seen outside the headquarters of the Presidential Guard in Harare.
It is not clear how many Type 89s/YW534s Zimbabwe has in service or when they were acquired. China is known to have supplied Zimbabwe with a variety of military hardware, including over 20 000 AK-47 assault rifles in 2011, and 100 Dongfeng military vehicles in 2005.
Other armoured vehicles believed to be in Zimbabwean service include two dozen Elands, a dozen Ferrets, 80 Cascavels, two dozen AML-90s, several dozen Norinco Type 63 tracked APCs (which look similar to the Type 89), two dozen VTT-323s (similar to the Type 63 but made in North Korea), and several dozen UR-416 armoured personnel carriers, but it is not clear how many of these are serviceable.