The Ministry of National Defense on Monday denied reports that the armoring on the domestically produced CM-32 Clouded Leopard personnel carrier, which entered mass production in late 2010, was below standard.
The Chinese-language Apple Daily said ballistic resistance live-fire tests in March 2010 showed that the armor plating on the Clouded Leopard does not comply with the bulletproof specifications set by the military. Puncture holes were observed on an armored panel at the rear of one of the vehicles, it said, adding that this raised questions about the armor’s ability to protect personnel on board.
The eight-wheeled, 25-tonne Clouded Leopard armored vehicle is a joint project between the Ordnance Readiness Development Center and the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology (中山科學研究院).
In a press release on Monday, the ministry denied that the armor plating, which is also domestically produced, was not up to standards and said the armoring, which had been tested several times, complied with specifications.
The front plating of the vehicle is designed to withstand 12.7mm machine gun and armor-piercing incendiary (API) ammunition, while the side and rear sections provide protection against 7.62mm ammunition and small arms fire.
Commenting on photographs showing holes in the rear of the vehicle following the ballistic test, the military said a 12.7mm API round missed the targeted front arc plate and, as the engine hatch plate was not installed during the test, the round passed through the engine compartment and penetrated the rear plate instead. It added that since the damaged rear plate was not designed to resist a 12.7mm round, the result was invalid.
It is important to distinguish between the armor requirements for the front of the vehicle and those for the side and rear, it said.
The armoring complies with the operational needs set by the army, it said, adding that if necessary, ceramic armor could be added to increase protection.
However, some military analysts have said that questions remain over the results of subsequent tests and how the engine hatch plate would perform against 12.7mm API.
Initiated in 2005, production of the CM-32 faced a number of problems during development and at one point came close to being shut down amid controversy over procurement, a budget freeze and the vehicle’s failure during a demonstration in January 2005 to ascend a 70-degree slope. Later on, chassis cracks in several of the initial 14 vehicles also threatened further delays, though the Armaments Bureau in May last year said the problem had been fixed and the program remained on schedule.
Mass production, initially scheduled for 2007, began in November 2010, with the army set to procure 650 CM-32s for NT$58 billion (US$1.8 billion) to replace ageing M113s and V-150 armored vehicles.
With translation by Stacy Hsu, Staff Writer