A US M1 Armored crew engages a long-range target at Konotop range Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area, Poland. Credit: Sgt. Andres Chandler.

It may never happen, at least not in our lifetime, but China and the US appear to be preparing for a land war.

While China stages mock-combat operations, including day and nighttime “rapid assaults, live-fire strike tests, tactical training and weapon tests,” along with full-scale war scenarios, the US Army and US Navy are rapidly modernizing, spending billions in the process amid an unprecedented Trump-driven Red scare.

Meanwhile, some of China’s newest modern weapons and armored vehicles, are raising some concerns. 

2020 assessment from GlobalFirepower estimates that the very large Chinese Army is comprised of as many as 2 million active-duty personnel and 510,000 in reserves, more than two-or-three times larger than the US Army’s standing active force, The National Interest reported.

The assessment also says the Chinese have 33,000 armored vehicles and 3,500 tanks. In addition, China is known to now operate several emerging, high-tech weapons platforms such as its VT5 Type 15 light tank.

The VT5, first revealed publicly by China during a military parade last year, has been in development for many years. The roughly 35-ton armored vehicle is, at a cursory glance, comparable in some respects to the US Army’s now-in-development Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) vehicle, The National Interest reported. 

The Chinese light tank, as described in a detailed assessment in Army Recognition magazine, fires a wide range of ammunition from a 105mm rifle gun with a “thermal sleeve and fume extractor” with a range of 3,000 meters.

China is known to now operate several emerging, high-tech weapons platforms such as its VT5 Type 15 light tank. Credit: Military Leak.

The rounds, the article explains, include Armor Piercing, High-Explosive Anti-Tank and High Explosive rounds, somewhat analogous to Army plans for the MPF, The National Interest reported.

Also, much like the MPF, the vehicle is engineered as a much more mobile, expeditionary, light-weight tank able to traverse rugged terrain. This will allow it to keep up with fast-moving infantry units, and incorporate high-tech reactive and composite armor.

Finally, much like the US Army’s Common Remotely Operated Weapons System, which usesd under-armor targeting and sensor technology to safeguard troops, the Chinese VT5 uses a “remotely operated weapon station.” 

Alongside the VT5, Beijing’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) upgraded T99 Main Battle Tank is considered threatening as well, given that the upgraded T99A variant includes a thermal imaging scope, ballistic computer and weather measurement sensors, The National Interest reported.

Interestingly, its technological maturation may be somewhat analogous to the US Army’s Abrams Tank. The Abrams is, in most respects, an entirely different vehicle than when it first emerged as part of the Big 5 in the 1980s.

The T99 first appeared more recently in the late 1990s, however improvements to the 1980s’ era Abrams have completely changed the combat capabilities of the platform, The National Interest reported.

The newest M1A2 v4 variant is engineered with a new generation of long-range, high-fidelity Forward Looking Infrared Sensors, automated gun loader and new multi-purpose rounds for additional attack flexibility, among other things.

In short, while upgrades to the T99 may be a cause for some concern, it appears unlikely that the tank can outmatch the Abrams. 

While the odds favor the US in any type of major mechanized warfare scenario, many observers advise that an actual land war on Chinese soil might not present the best scenario for Joint US forces, given Chinese terrain, advanced weapons and sheer size of their land force.