May winter slow down this year

China Military Online
Huang Panyue
2024-02-02 18:28:15

On January 23, the PLA Army’s training base conducts a tank performance test at the severely-cold test ground. Photo by Dang Chenxin

Whenever the Siberian cold front moves southward, the test team of a training base of the PLA Army would advance into China's northernmost and coldest regions, like migrating birds against the biting cold wind, to conduct equipment testing.

At around 6 am, the thermometer read -40°C, marking the coldest moment of the day. Wearing a cotton hat and a cold-resistant face mask, the troops still felt as if they were walking in an ice cellar.

"Extremely cold weather provides the golden moment for testing. The lower the temperature and the longer the duration, the more effectively we can assess the equipment's extreme performance limits,” the commanding officer introduced.

In the test area, several armored vehicles had been parked outdoors for several days. When the conditions for cold start testing in low temperatures had been reached, soldiers started the vehicles. The equipment suddenly emitted a roar, and plumes of white smoke gushed out. 

 "Figuring out the 'cold resistance index' of new equipment is a crucial prerequisite for the combat effectiveness of the troops under severe cold conditions," the officer in charge remarked. "Only by thoroughly finding out the baseline and exploring the limits in peacetime can we skillfully operate the equipment during wartime.”

On the snowy path through the forest, a type of tank zoomed past, creating a flurry of snow. The test driver was operating the tank for a continuous hours-long driving test under extremely cold conditions. The heavy steel tank weighing tens of tons made sharp turns and abrupt stops, resembling an elf sprinting across the snowy wilderness.

By the time the test concluded, frost had formed on the eyebrows of the two test drivers.

These days, they have been busy from day to night, collecting first-hand test data. “Over a month of extremely cold living is just a part of our migratory-style testing life,” the commanding officer said. Chasing “extremes” throughout the four seasons and testing equipment performance limits in extreme conditions are the norm in their testing work.

The harsh natural environment is not only a test for the equipment but also represents a challenge for human beings. That year, a particular type of equipment conducted remote mobility tests in a plateau environment. The testing team drove the equipment through canyons, crossed mountain passes, and endured rapid changes in altitude and temperature variations between day and night, as well as differences between the lower and upper parts of the mountain, ultimately getting a comprehensive understanding of the equipment’s performance baseline and its extreme limits.

“Enduring extreme cold environments is bearable. However, testing in humid and hot regions is especially tough,” said an engineer. High humidity, high temperatures, and miasma are unavoidable. The team had to test the parameters and performance of the tank as the temperature dropped from over 50°C to 30°C inside the exposed tank.

Civilian assistant engineer Wang Yuyu has participated in cold region testing missions for three consecutive years and she was also the only female among the participants in this test. Over the years, under the guidance of her mentor, Wang Yuyu has been fully involved in the testing and evaluation projects for a certain type of equipment. She spent an average of nearly 200 days per year on the plateau, in the desert, or frigid regions, carrying out missions in the field.

When asked about her New Year’s wish, Wang Yuyu said, “I hope this winter slow down a bit slower this year.” With numerous cold region testing tasks waiting to be implemented, Wang Yuyu was filled with inner anxiety.

As the Spring Festival approaches and the window period of severe cold becomes shorter and shorter, the officers and soldiers are accelerating the pace of testing this year. With another group of migrating birds about to arrive, a new round of battle is around the corner.

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