Type 63 Light Amphibious Tank
Type 63G/A Light Amphibious Tank
The Type 63 Light Amphibious Tank design is based on mounting the Type 62 turret on a Chinese copy of the hull of the Soviet PT-76 Light Amphibious Tank.
An amphibious tank was designed by the Military Engineering Institute (or MEI) and the No. 60 Research Institute. The design of the tank was completed in 1962 and was sent to the No. 615 Factory for continued research and eventual production in 1963. After successful testing in rivers, lakes, and sea trials, it was approved and designated as the Type 63 Amphibious Tank. The Type 63 can also reach speeds of up 64 km/h on land and 12 km/h while in water.
The Type 63 LAT has an all-welded rolled-steel hull divided into three main compartments with the driver at the front, fighting compartment in the center, and the engine and transmission at the rear. The turret is in cast-steel sections welded together. The Type 63 has a four-man crew consisting of the tank commander, driver, gunner and loader. The tank commander sits on the left side of the turret with the gunner on the same side in front and the loader to the right. The Type 63 is fully amphibious, being propelled in the water by two water jets of Soviet design.
The hull is similar to the PT-76 apart from a nearly horizontal glacis plate and different engine grills. There are three separate vertical slot side inlets on the Type 63, in contrast to the single large inlet with inset vertical baffle plates on the PT-76.
The Type 63 LAT has a fully amphibious capability, six rubber-tired road wheels with the drive sprocket at the rear, idler at the front and no track return rollers, a shallow glacis plate, a trim board folded back onto the glacis plate that is erected at the front of the hull before entering the water and a single-piece driver's hatch cover that has three periscopes mounted forward of the hatch. The Type 63 can cross a 2.9-meter trench, mount a 0.87-meter vertical step, climb a 60-percent grade and can ford amphibiously.
Also, the Type 63 has a infrared driving light on the right side of the hull front, a commander's hatch that opens forward and a loader's hatch that opens to the rear, a dome-shaped ventilator mounted in the turret roof to the rear of the commander's and gunner's hatches, optional fuel tanks that can be fitted on top of the hull to increase operational range and a Chinese designed laser rangefinder (fitted on some models) over the rear part of the 85mm gun. This is identical to the laser rangefinder found on some Chinese Type 59 MBTs.
The Type 63 has a 85-mm gun, probably identical to that installed in the Type 62 light tank. A normal ammunition load for the main armament is 47 rounds. The 85mm gun can fire AP, APHE, HE, and HEAT rounds, though the turret has a ventilator dome with a snorkel fitting. Secondary armament consists of a 12.7mm anti-aircraft machine gun, a 7.62mm Type 54 (Soviet M1938/46 DShKM) heavy machine gun mounted at the loader's station for anti-aircraft defense and another 7.62mm machine gun mounted coaxially to the main armament.
The upgraded amphibious Type 63A tank (sometimes referred to as the ZTS63A) has a welded turret and rifled 105mm tank gun. These tanks also have an image-stabilized fire-control system, satellite navigation system, and simple thermal imaging system. Type 63As ha ve been fielded to PLA and Marine units in southeastern China. Type 63 tanks are deployed in large numbers with PLA Navy Marine units, who are the primary user. The Type 63A also has a revised hull structure, more boat-like in appearance, with additional floation cells for increased stabilization during prolonged travel in the water. Unlike the standard Type 63, the Type 63 was designed for launch from landing ships up to 7 kilometers offshore. The Type 63A evolved from an armament upgrade to the standard Type 63, sometimes referred to as Type 63G.
The number of Type 63s in the PLA inventory remained fairly consistent for roughly 15 years at around 1,200 vehicles. In 2002 the Military Balance indicated that the number of Type 62s had declined to around 500 vehicles though the 2003 edition stated that there were some 700 tanks while the 2004 editions states there are roughly 600 in operation. No explanation for the revision have been offerred. The IISS estimate remained underchanged as of 2008.
The Type 63 has been exported to and has been used by North Korea, Pakistan, Sudan and Vietnam, among other.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|