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Type 96 Main Battle Tank / ZTZ-96

By the end of 2015, the Chinese military had more than 7,000 tanks in active service, including about 2,000 Type-96s and Type-96As, as well as about 600 Type-99s and Type-99As, so the majority of the PLA armored force is still equipped with tanks made several decades ago.

Type 96 basic military equipment was the first using welded turret and modular armored main battle tanks, in its front part and the front turret (guns on both sides) were equipped with three 683 composite armor. This three composite armor modules are connected by means of bolts and can be quickly replaced when damaged armor pieces, with the use of a great deal of flexibility and the emergence of the new armored module for quick upgrades. According to "Contemporary China's weapons industry," a book about 683 composite armor system by the 52 and 617 plants and other units in the country's first self-developed composite armor - 681 composite armor based on the improvements made, using the "Special material + metal + nonmetal metal", "sandwich"-type structure, for fin-stabilized projectile and warhead has good defensive skills. v By type of special armored equipment 683, Type 96 basic turret armor at 2000 meters distance on APFSDS protection capacity has reached 530 mm homogeneous steel armor level. This indicator with the Russian T-90 tanks (not equipped with reactive armor) considerably, exceeding Woguo Type 90 (520 mm), but significantly lower than the M-1A2 (700 mm). Taking into account Type 96 basic-and M-1A2 in fighting the whole weight of the gap (96 basic combat weight of 41 tons, while the M-1A2 reached a staggering 63 tons), so that the gap is also reasonable.

In early 2000s, Type 96 is the PLA's main armored firepower for maneuver warfare units. 31 tanks are deployed in an armored battalion and 10 tanks are deployed in a company. After the 2017 Chinese military reform, Type 96 is deployed in the combined arms battalion of the new heavy combined arms brigade. Each battalion features two tank companies and two mechanized infantry companies, with each company having 14 vehicles. Production of the Type 96 tank continued through the mid-2000s, though the rate of increase seemed to have declined as US Department of Defense estimates became more static. Military Balance indicates that China had roughly 400 Type 96s in 2000, though this estimate may have been incorrect, or lacked confidence as IISS refused to give any individual system estimates in 2001. In 2002 The Military Balance indicated that the PLA had some 550 Type 88Cs and "some" Type 96s. The 2003 edition's stipulation that the PLA has 800 Type 96s may reflect IISS's realization that the two systems were actually the same tank.

The annual report on the Chinese military issued by the Department of Defense in 2002 stated that the total number of Type 96s deployed would reach 1,800 by 2005 but this estimate was decreased to 1,500 in 2003 report, without an explanation for the revision. By 2008 the PLA was reported to have between 1,200 and 1,500 Type 96 tanks. Production of the Type 96 tank reportedly ceased between 2005 and 2006, but production continued after that time of the improved Type 96G (also referred to as ZTZ-96G) variant.

Type 96A Main Battle Tank

The Type-96A is a third-generation main battle tank developed by China North Industries Group Corp based on its Type 88C design. It entered service in 1997, and more than 2,500 were estimated to be in service with the PLA by 2015. Unlike predecessors such as the Type-85 and Type-88, the Type-96A features advanced imaging and jamming instruments, a more-powerful engine, improved electronics, add-on armor modules and explosive reactive armor.

Additional "arrow shaped" modular armor similar to the Type 99 is installed on the turret front. The back of the hull is now completely flat compared to the Type 96. The Type 96A was first revealed in 2006, but in-service tanks were first seen in a military parade in 2009. The adoption of cutting-edge ergonomic technologies has substantially reduced the number of complaints about discomfort from soldiers.

The Type 96A is a third-generation upgrade of the Type 96. Its internal electronics may have been upgraded to Type 99 standards. The visual profile of the Type 96A is similar to the Type 99. However, the Type 96A can be distinguished from the Type 99 by the driver's position of the left side of the hull. FY-4 ERA was added on front upper glacis. The vehicle is equipped with a thermal imager. Features an upgraded 800 hp (600 kW) engine. TCS-2 electro-optical active defense system, similar to the Shtora, has been installed. Electro-optical jammers which are able to jam enemy guided missiles, rangefinders, and designators are found on the tank.

China's tanks have advanced weapons, armor and automation systems, but their engines need to be improved, according to military officers and experts. "The Type-96A main battle tank is the backbone of the armored units in the People's Liberation Army's ground force," said Senior Colonel Li Shengli, head of the training department at the PLA Academy of Armored Forces Engineering.

"Its weapons, fire control and sight devices and computer and automation systems can compete with any other tank of its kind used by foreign militaries." Colonel Yu Kuilong, a researcher at the academy who specializes in vehicle engineering, said the PLA ground force has continually upgraded its armaments over recent years and its tanks are much better than before. "Now our tanks have supreme performance in terms of maneuverability, firepower and control," he said.

"Though the engines of our tanks still need to be improved, their real combat capability must be tested by actual operations rather than a single competition," added Yu, referring to the second Tank Biathlon world championships in Alabino, Russia, that ended on 18 August 2014. The Chinese team won the bronze medal in the team event, behind first-place Russia and runner-up Armenia. Twelve nations took part in the competition, including Belarus, Venezuela and India. The PLA sent four Type-96As, while other contestants used the Russian-made T-72 series tank.

Lieutenant Hou Peng, who took part in the biathlon, said the Type-96A performed well in shooting contests, hitting every target. "However, the tanks used by the Russian team have a 1,130-horsepower engine that is 300 horsepower more powerful than ours, so their tanks run faster," he told China Central Television. Chinese engineers are well-aware that the engine's relative lack of power poses a severe problem for the PLA's tank regiments, according to Wang Hongguang, former deputy commander of the Nanjing Military Command, who oversaw the development of the Type-96A.

"The power of the Type-96A's engine is constrained by a host of factors such as its materials, structure and several key parts," he told Global Times. "However, considering the costs of an upgrade and the fact that it is designed to be deployed in China's central and southern regions, its current speed is fast enough." Qin Zhen, executive editor of Ordnance Knowledge magazine, said, "In a real battle, what truly matters is a tank's protective armor, use of information, survivability and ability to detect enemies and move faster than them." Wang added, "The public should be confident in China's tanks."


The VT-1/VT-2 and VT-4 are export versions of the Type 90-IIM/MBT-2000 mixing features of the Al Khalid and Type 96A/G. VT-1 MBT is the new name for the "MBT-2000" [the old export designation for the same tank], originally called Type 90II at home. VT-1A MBT is a improved version of VT-1/MBT-2000.

The VT-2 MBT is the ZTZ-96A export version. It was reported that a modernized tank planned to establish a more powerful engine of 1000 hp But, apparently, the Chinese engineers for VT-2 managed to force an old 12150L7BW from 730 to 800 hp. The discussions that this tank may seem a 1500 hp motor, unfounded, because the suspension of the tank is at the limit of their own abilities.

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Page last modified: 06-09-2021 15:12:53 ZULU