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Type 62 / WZ-132 Light Tank
Type 62-I Light Tank
Type 62G Light Tank

The relatively light-weight 21-ton Type 62 light tank (also known by its industrial designator WZ-132) was in many ways a scaled-down version of the Type 59, and the 2 tanks shared many similar features. The cast and welded Type 62 turret was slightly smaller with nearly identical hatches and fittings. The road wheels and tracks were smaller and lighter than those of the Type 59, but were of a similar overall design. The Type 62 was designed mainly for use in armored divisions stationed in China's southern hilly areas, and was intended to carry out reconnaissance missions and engage enemy light armored vehicles, as well as perform other combat tasks that would make use of the vehicle's mobility, firepower and protection.

China's ordnance industry initiated research and development of armored vehicles in 1958, beginning with light tanks, amphibious tanks, and tracked armored personnel carriers. In 1962, the No. 674 Factory began developing the Type 62 Light Tank. The research and development of the tank was completed the same year and was found very appropriate for the river areas and hills in South China.

The Type 62 had a 4-man crew with the driver at the front of the hull on the left and the other 3 crew members in the fighting compartment and turret. The vehicle's commander and gunner were seated on the left side of the turret with the loader on the right. The driver's position was fitted with two vision ports, which were capable of being fitted with night vision devices. The commander's cupola on the turret had four vision ports and an observation periscope. The engine and transmission were at the rear of the hull. The Type 62 could cross a 2.55 meter trench, mount a 0.7 meter vertical step, climb a 60 percent grade, and ford 1.3 meters without a snorkel.

The Type 62's main armament was an 85mm Type 62-85TC gun, the same used on the Type 63 light amphibious tank. The normal ammunition load for this weapon was 47 rounds. The 85mm gun could fire armor piercing, armor-piercing high-explosive, high explosive, and high-explosive anti-tank. Plans existed for development of improved ammunition types such as high-explosive squash-head and reportedly a gun-launched missile. The 85mm gun could be depressed 5 degrees and elevated 20 degrees. The tank also had secondary armament, consisting of a 12.7mm anti-aircraft Type 54 heavy machine gun (Chinese copy of the Soviet DShK) mounted at the loader's position for anti-aircraft use and a 7.62mm machine gun mounted co-axially to the right of the main armament. Another 7.62mm machine gun was mounted at the bow. The tank was also equipped with semi-automatic fire-fighting system and smoke grenade launchers.

The Type 62 tank was powered by a rear-mounted Norinco 12150L-3 water-cooled diesel engine, rated at 316 kilowatts and with a rated speed of 1800 revolutions per minute. The vehicle had 0.7 gear ratio, multi-plate clutch, fixed-shaft gearbox, with 5 forward gears and one reverse gear. The left side of the gearbox had a one-piece steering clutch and side gear reduction ratio of 5.1. The vehicle had 5 road wheels on each side and an independent torsion bar suspension. The first and fifth road wheels on each side mounted a hydraulic damper.

The original armor of the Type 62 was obsolete by modern standards, and vulnerable to advanced anti-tank munitions. A variant, referred to as Type 62-I (also written Type 62-1), developed following the experiences of the Sino-Vietnamese conflict, featured side armor skirts and a armored around the vehicle's anti-aircraft machine gun position. The vehicle's front hull had 35mm of armor with a 30 degree slope. The thickness of the turret front armor was 45mm. The improved Type 62-I tank was also equipped with an improved laser rangefinder, a bustle rack on the turret, and armored skirts on either side of the vehicle. A further upgrade program was initiated after 2000 that replaced the original cast iron turret with an angular welded design. This vehicle also featuring an explosive reactive armor suite. An upgrade package that would fit an 105mm gun, common to many other upgraded variants of older PLA tanks such as the Type 59 and Type 79, was also proposed. The variant would also feature more advanced fire control components. This variant was referred to as Type 62G. The Type 62 also formed the basis of the Type 79 light armored recovery vehicle and the Type 82 engineering vehicle.

The Type 62 tank was largely relegated to secondary defense and training duties by the end of the 20th century, though it remained in service with the PLA in large numbers. The number of Type 62s in the PLA inventory had remained the same, 800, for the previous 20 years prior to 2004 according to IISS. This, however, changed in the 2004 edition of The Military Balance, with the number stated to be approximately 400. No explanation was given for the revision. The IISS estimate was unchanged as of 2008, but by 2010 the vehicles were reported to be in storage and by 2013 all the vehicles had been removed from service, having been replaced by the ZTD-05 armored fighting vehicle. Type 62 tanks were also exported to and had been used in Albania, Congo, Mali, North Korea, Sudan, Tanzania, and Zaire (which subsequently became the Democratic Republic of Congo). North Korea was also reported to received some 50 Type 62 light tanks between 1971 and 1972, but it was possible that these vehicles had been confused with the North Korean Ch'onma-Ho, a derivative of the Soviet T-62. The Ch'onma-Ho had no obvious relationship to the Type 62 light tank and the North Koreans subsequently developed an indigenous light tank design.




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