The "Desert Tank," on the way to fight terrorists in Kazakhstan?
Last May, Kazakhstan bought 20 off-road buses from a Chinese company, a sale that was marked at a ceremony at the factory and an "atmosphere festive, full of joy" but otherwise little notice. Now, though, several months later, some news stories have been popping up in the Chinese press that this bus is in fact a "desert tank" suitable for fighting terrorists in the desert on Kazakhstan's border with the Chinese province of Xinjiang.
Here we have a mighty new machine from China. This is the Shaanxi SX6100 SPF, nicknamed the ‘Desert Tank’. It is a bus-like vehicle based on a 6×6 Dongfeng truck chassis, made for all-terrain duty in the desert. Shaanxi just sold twenty SX6100′s to security services in the great country of Kazachstan where they will be used for ‘anti-terrorism-patrol’ in the vast empty deserts in the east, near the border with China’s Xinjiang Province.
As you can see from the photo (several more available here), the SX6100 sure looks a lot more like a bus than a tank, most notably because of its complete lack of armor. But, the report continues, it could be weaponized: "The Desert Tanks sold to Kazachstan are nor armed but Shanxi says a turret for a small machine gun can be fitted on the roof." The author challenges the mighty SX6100's potential attackers: "Come to check that out, terrorist!"
It should go without saying that the SX6100 is vastly more likely to have been bought for civilian rather than military purposes, not just because the vehicle itself doesn't look suitable for military purposes, but also because there really isn't a terror threat on the border with Xinjiang. Suggesting that there is is a pretty Sinocentric way of looking at Kazakhstan's security. Anyway, it's interesting to wonder why this "terrorist" angle is popping up now, and I pass it along here mostly for novelty's sake. But if footage emerges of the Desert Tank in Zhanaozen with a machine-gun turret mounted on top, well, then we'll have a story.
(Big thanks to Eric for research/translation help.)