Concerns about the reliability of Made in China weapon systems

(To Tiziano Ciocchetti)

China's arms exports are experiencing a dramatic increase. Among Beijing's main customers are Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. However there is growing dissatisfaction among client states with the quality level of the equipment supplied.

The main complaints would concern the inadequacy of the assistance system and the supply of defective spare parts. Client countries have expressed more than one doubt about the high life-cycle cost of Chinese weapon systems compared to Western ones.

Below we provide a list of the defective military equipment sold by Beijing to its customers in Asia.



The Bangladesh Navy has acquired from China two Ming Type 035G class conventionally propelled submarines (launched in the 80s), modernized for $100 million each and entered service in 20171. The two boats – called BNS Nobojatra and SNB joyjatra – since entry into service they have been the subject of various malfunctions which led, in June 2019, to the suspension of outings at sea2.

The state of maintenance of these submarines would appear to be extremely poor and this would jeopardize their operational use by the Bangladesh Navy.


Bangladesh purchased two Type 053H3 frigates (BNS Umar Farooq and SNB Abu Ubaidah) from China in 2014 and 20203. The last frigate arrived at the port of Mongla after experiencing several defects during the journey, including the navigation radar and gun fire control system malfunctioning. The frigates would also have found serious defects in the gyrocompass and in the refueling and defueling system of the embarked helicopters.


China has supplied the Bangladesh Navy with four C-13B class corvettes, two in 2016 and two more in 20204. The main criticalities encountered in naval units include malfunctions in the surveillance radar, cooling system, identification friend/foe (IFF) system interface and landing operations on the helicopter deck.

Aircraft and radar

Basic trainer aircraft (Diamond DA-40) and K-8 aircraft purchased by the Bangladesh Air Force (BAF) have been subject to several criticisms. The DA-40 aircraft, supplied by Wanfeng Aviation (which acquired Diamond Aircraft Industries from Austria in 2017), have a faulty control system. The K-8 aircraft, purchased from the China National Aero Technology Import and Export Corporation (CATIC), have experienced problems with the munitions attached to the wing pylons. CATIC also defaulted on the supply of engines for the PT-6 aircraft for BAF and could only supply three of the estimated ten aircraft. Additionally, a significant number of engines had to undergo urgent overhauls and the aircraft were grounded. Apart from that, the quality of the radars supplied by China to the BAF has been reported as very bad (the supplied radars are JH-16, YLC-6 and JY-11B).


China Precision Machinery Import Export Company (CPMIEC) has supplied six batteries of FM-90 surface-to-air missiles to the Bangladesh Army5. Several problems have been encountered in the various systems that make up the SAM, including fire and guidance (FGV, search and command (SCV), spares and maintenance (SMV), power supply (PSV), and transport and cargo ( TLV) Major defects include problems with motors, frequency synthesizer, communication system, infrared imaging device, search display, and radar control.


Forty-four MBT-2000 tanks were supplied by NORINCO, in 2012 and 2013. Fifteen tanks became inoperable due to damaged engines and seven due to engine overpressure. To date, only five engines have been repaired. Furthermore, the supply of spare parts for the wagons was very irregular.


SLC-2 Weapon Tracking Radar (WLR). Five SLC-2 WLRs were supplied by M/s China Electronic Technology Corporation (CETC) in 2011 and 2013. All five radars have long been out of service. Their ability to locate targets has been poor due to the performance deterioration of the Transmit/Receive (TR) module. Also, sometimes they project multiple targets such as single or double targets, while at other times they fail to detect any enemy targets.

Three batteries of MLRS WS-22 were purchased by M/s ALST in 2013, 2014 and 2015. The recurring problems with various parts of the weapon systems, the corrosion of the rockets (guided and not) and the lack of technical documentation are just some of the critical issues of the weapon system. Four launch vehicles and a weather vehicle are also inoperable due to defective components.

The upgrade of 174 Chinese T-59 tanks6, started in 2015, was supposed to be completed by June 21, 2022. According to information received, the program is significantly behind schedule, and only 54 tanks have been upgraded to date. In addition to the lag, the updated tanks did not achieve the desired quality results and several defects were found in the thermal sights, night vision devices and torsion bars.


The Chinese have turned Pakistan into a dumping ground for all kinds of obsolete, discarded and sub-standard military equipment.

An example is the F-22P frigates7, Chinese-built and refitted for the Pakistan Navy (PN), have been plagued by various technical malfunctions. In September 2018, the Pakistan Navy had requested a comprehensive proposal from China to undertake the mid-life upgrade and overhaul of these vessels, but China, seeing no profit, did not accept, thus forcing the PN to turn to Turkey .


The JF-17 Thunder of Pakistan8, a low-cost multi-role fighter developed in collaboration with China, is proving to have high operating and maintenance costs. The critical part of the fighter avionics consists of the KLJ-7 radar and the Weapon Mission Management Computer (WMMC). While the KLJ-7 radar has demonstrated sub-standard capability and faces several operational and maintenance problems, the WMMC has limited capability and has exhibited a high failure rate of its modules, including the main computer module.

Not only that, the onboard 23mm gun had recurring problems with airlock and chambered rounds popping. Efforts are also underway to integrate the aircraft with other Chinese weapons, but with limited success. Additionally, another key reason cited for the JF-17's poor performance is the single Russian RD-93 engine, known for its poor maintainability.

Other problems reported in the JF-17 include the functionality of the nose landing gear when taxiing, vibration of the nose landing wheel and cracks in the ventral guides.

Air Defense Systems

The Pakistan Army has purchased nine LOMADS LY-80 systems from China, along with IBIS-150 radars. Delivery of all nine systems was completed in 2019. However, three are inoperable due to failures in the guidance, search and firing equipment. The Pakistan Army has requested the repairs from M/s Aerospace Long-March International Co Ltd (ALIT). Similarly, the five Chinese FN-16 MANPADS purchased from Pakistan failed functional tests in 2020.


The Pakistan Army had signed two contracts with M/s NORINCO for the purchase of 468 (176+292) VT-4 tanks9. During the pre-shipment inspection in May 2021, several problems were found in the tanks, following which Pakistan requested a root cause analysis of the main issues. In October 2021, the production of 80 VT-4 tanks (Batch-2 of Phase-1) was suspended for six months and as a result, a significant delay in the procurement schedule is expected.

MBT Type 85 II AP

On July 7, 2018 Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT), a Pakistani company, entered into a contract with NORINCO for the upgrade/rebuild of 282 MBT Type 85 II AP10 at the HRF (T), Taxila. Under the contract, HIT ordered 200 water radiators for the modernization of the T-85 II APs. After the initial supply of 73 water radiators, HIT asked NORINCO to change the material from which the front and rear tanks of the remaining 127 water radiators will be built. However, NORINCO refused to make such a change and advised HIT that if the material from which the radiator tanks are made is changed, it may cause heat loss.


The Pakistan Army had purchased six batteries of A-100 Multi Launch Rocket System (MLRS) from China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corporation (CPMIEC) with related maintenance provided by M/s Aerospace Long March International Co Ltd (ALIT). The Pakistan Army had reportedly asked the ALIT to fix the malfunctioning launch systems, but company representatives were reportedly unable to do so and demanded total replacement of parts.

The PMSS dasht11, a maritime patrol vessel acquired from China in 2017, is tasked with protecting Pakistan's EEZ and CPEC. The primary weapon aboard the vessel is a single-barreled 30mm cannon. The weapon, in its current state, is virtually unused as it failed tests during port acceptance trials at the Xijiang Shipyard in Liuzhou, China. In addition, serious failures have been reported to the onboard alarm system and the 500W HF TX/ RX communication system. Additionally, a fuel leak from the main engine has been reported due to incorrect assembly of the #5 cylinder fuel line. XNUMX. China has not fixed any of the ship's problems yet.

The PMSS dasht it is not the only Chinese-built ship that has attracted criticism from Pakistani Navy officials: PMSS Zhob, which entered service in August 2018, is also affected by a number of problems that have yet to be remedied by Chinese engineers.

There have been significant delays in various ongoing projects with NORINCO involving large sums, such as the Z-10 ME (AH) attack helicopters, the LY-80 air defense system transfer of technology (ToT), the Base Bleed ammo and Boat Tail ammo. The Pakistan Army has asked the Chinese government to intervene in order to unblock these programs12.


Y-12e and MA-60

Six Chinese aircraft Y-12e (opening photo) and MA-60 (photo) have been purchased by Nepal for its national airlines. Of the six aircraft, two were subsidized by the Communist Party of China (CPC) and four were purchased through an agreement between the two governments13. They are now lying unused as they are not suited to the terrain of Nepal and there are no spare parts available. These aircraft have extremely low maintenance rates and require large maintenance efforts. The Chinese have refused to consider Nepal's requests to replace them. The loan to purchase the planes from China, however, continued to weigh on the airline which still owes $35,1 million in debt to the Nepal Ministry of Finance which, in turn, is repaying the Party loan Chinese Communist with exorbitant 1,5% interest, plus a service charge and handling fee of 0,4% of the total loan amount.


Kenya purchased NORINCO APC VN-4 armored vehicles in 2016. These vehicles, dubbed "Rhinoceros", are manufactured by Chongqing state-owned Tiema Industries in China. Three major accidents due to breakdowns resulted in fatalities among Kenyan military personnel14.


In 2013, an accident occurred near the Algerian air base of Tindouf during the test period of the export version of the Chinese CH-4B UCAV, the aircraft was destroyed. The second accident occurred near the Ain Oussera air base on 9 March 2015. The main problem of the CH-4B is the loss of stability during the landing phase (below 200 meters above sea level), this criticality is the cause of these accidents. A third crash was reported by the Algerian Air Force near Bir Rogaa Air Base in 201915.


Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha threatened, on April 04, 2020, to cancel an agreement for the purchase of Chinese submarines of the S26T class Yuan, unless Beijing installs the MTU 396 engine on the boats16 of German production. The Chinese had presumably requested a modification of the contract which instead envisaged the installation of the Chinese MWM 620 engines. It is also evident that, considering the bad reputation regarding the Chinese propulsion systems, the Thais would not seem willing to proceed with the agreement at any time. unless their requests are accepted.


A Y-8F200W tactical transport aircraft, supplied by China to the Myanmar Air Force, in March 2016, crashed in June 2017. The tactical transport aircraft suddenly lost radio contact during a flight from Myeik to Yangon17. There were 122 passengers on board, including 108 servicemen and their families, as well as 14 crew members. The aircraft had been delivered to the Myanmar Air Force by the Chinese company CATIC in March 2016.


Photo: Ministry of National Defense of the People's Republic of China / Shadman Samee / Inter Services Public Relations Directorate (Pakistan) / web

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