AUTOMOBILES

Two authors say China's Mengshi surpasses the US Hummer

They may look the same, but two authors say China's military workhorse is streets ahead

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 February, 2013, 5:08am

Due to their similar looks, China's Mengshi (Brave Soldier) military workhorse vehicle, launched in 2007, has often been regarded a knockoff of the American Humvee, with both featuring a crouching-tiger profile, hungry-looking hood scoop, boxy body, enormous tyres and an air of aggression.

But two authors, from the People's Liberation Army and its National Defence University, wrote a lengthy article in the China Youth Daily last week arguing that the Mengshi had surpassed the Humvee.

They said thousands of Mengshis were already in service with the military, civilian police and the paramilitary People's Armed Police.

The Mengshi's top speed was 130km/h, easily beating the 113km/h of the A2 series Humvee, which AM General produces for the US military. Even on rough terrain, the Mengshi could maintain a speed of 40km/h.

They said the Mengshi's nimbleness came from its domestically produced, four-cylinder diesel engine, which was 25 per cent more powerful, but a third less thirsty, than the Humvee's 6.5 litre V-8 diesel.

Test runs on rugged terrain on the Tibetan plateau and in the Gobi desert showed the Mengshi could travel 18,000 kilometres without needing to be serviced, 2.6 times further than the Humvee, the authors wrote.

Chinese soldiers might also have a greater sense of security in the Mengshi, they said, because the vehicle was painted with heat absorption material to fool the sensors of guided missiles. Its interior also featured light, high-performance armour.

Experiments conducted by the Chinese military showed that passengers had a much greater chance of surviving roadside bombs in a Mengshi than in a Humvee, they wrote. Plus, the Mengshi was 20 per cent cheaper to produce.

Although Dongfeng, the Chinese manufacturer, denied stealing the Humvee's design when the Mengshi made its début in 2007, Huang Song, the Mengshi's chief designer, admitted in a TV interview last year that some aspects of the Humvee's design had been copied. "That was because we found that the proportions of the Humvee - the vehicle is wider than it is tall - were the only and best design to prevent turnovers."

He said other features of the Mengshi were jointly researched and developed by Dongfeng and PLA experts.

Professor Arthur Ding Shu-fan, secretary general of the Taipei-based Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies, said the Mengshi should be more advanced than the Humvee "because it has been developed three decades later".

"But so far it is very difficult to prove which one is really better, because the Humvee gained experience in the Gulf War, but the Mengshi just took part in the disaster relief work in the aftermath of 2008's Sichuan earthquake," Ding said.

In the civilian market, however, the Humvee probably has outshone the Mengshi. Dongfeng rolled out a civilian version of the Mengshi in 2009 with a price tag of 880,000 yuan (HK$1 million), nearly twice the cost of a Hummer, the civilian version of the Humvee. It is easier to spot a Hummer on the streets of big Chinese cities than a Mengshis.

Antony Wong Dong, the president of the International Military Association in Macau, said the US army had selected the country's three top arms producers - AM General, Lockheed Martin and Oshkosh - late last year to develop the next generation battle truck to replace the Humvee, at an estimated cost of US$5 billion (HK$39 billion).

"The Mengshi may be the top one in the world now, but I think it will soon be replaced by a new US vehicle," he said.