An indigenously built Chinese battle tank that has created a buzz in military circles could become the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) primary tank of the future, reports said on Wednesday.
The Type-96B – a new tank in the Type-96 family – is ready to replace its predecessors after performing well at ongoing war games organised by Russia. China currently has more than 7,000 battle tanks in service.
Military observers worldwide wait for the secretive PLA to reveal new weapons and equipment and it was the same with the new tank.
“The Type-96B is the strongest variant of the Type-96 family and is truly an advanced, third-generation main battle tank,” Gao Zhuo, a Shanghai-based military analyst, told state-controlled China Daily newspaper.
“The PLA will use it to replace the old tanks such as the Type-59 and Type-69 models.”
In July, the IHS Jane website wrote about the tank, saying one of the country’s “biggest military manufacturers, China North Industries Corporation (Norinco), has developed a new variant of its Type 96 (ZTZ-96) main battle tank in time to participate in the 30 July to 16 August International Army Games organised by the Russian Ministry of Defence”.
Quoting Russian media reports, it said five T-96Bs had arrived in Russia on July 7 to participate in the “Masters of Automobile and Tank Hardware competition”. IHS Jane added: “The new T-96B variant was revealed on Chinese online forums on 5 July by a blogger posting a video of the tank on its way to high altitude testing. Two days later images emerged of the new tank beginning its trip to Russia.”
According to an article posted by Norinco, the Type-96B has a high-performance 125mm smooth-bore gun, an improved, more powerful engine, newly developed transmission gear and a modern fire control system.
Chinese state media said the tank had performed well in the war games. “Type-96B delivered impressive performances in the ongoing Masters of Automobile and Tank Hardware competition, also known as the Tank Biathlon, at the Alabino training range in Moscow,” China Daily reported.
Of the PLA tanks in service, about 2,000 are Type-96s and Type-96As and about 600 are Type-99s and Type-99As. A majority of these tanks were made several decades ago, foreign military analysts say.