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Type 96B / ZTZ-96 - Main Battle Tank

China's military is likely to deploy the Type-96B tank as the pillar of its tank fleet, replacing most of its old models, observers said. Gao Zhuo, a military observer in Shanghai who has close contact with the People's Liberation Army, told China Daily August 10, 2016 that the excellent capabilities of the Type-96B qualify it to be the backbone of China's tank force. "The Type-96B is the strongest variant of the Type-96 family and is truly an advanced, third-generation main battle tank," he said. "The PLA will use it to replace the old tanks such as the Type-59 and Type-69 models."

His remarks came as the 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. The PLA sent several Type-96B tanks to take part in the tank competition, the most watched part of the Russia-hosted International Army Games. The eight-day individual part of the competition, which involved 54 teams from 17 countries, ended on 07 August 2016, with the Chinese delegation scoring the highest. All of the PLA's three teams were to compete in the semifinal that started on 09 August 2016.

Huang Guozhi, senior editor at Modern Weaponry magazine, said that despite the fact that Type-99 series tanks are more advanced, their high price and limited production capacity mean that it's unrealistic for the PLA to purchase and deploy them on a large scale. "Therefore, the Type-96B, with a better price and satisfactory capabilities, is very attractive to the Chinese and foreign militaries. It is the best option for the PLA to modernize its armored forces," he said.

According to an article posted by China North Industries Group Corp on its WeChat social media account, the Type-96B - compared with its predecessors in the Type-96 family - has a high-performance 125 mm smoothbore gun, an improved, more powerful engine, newly developed transmission gear and a state-of-the-art fire-control system. Yu Shuo, a tank researcher in Beijing, said the Type-96B is among the latest achievements by the nation's land arms industry. He suggested that too much emphasis should not be placed on the results of the Tank Biathlon, as the experience gained is more important to the PLA.

Designated to participate in the 2021 International Army Games, China's Type 96B tank came with several new features this year that are expected to help the Chinese team reach good results at the ongoing competition, media reported. The tank biathlon contests of this year's International Army Games kicked off in Moscow, Russia with the Chinese team using the Type 96B tank, China Central Television reported on 30 August 2021.

Compared with the Type 96B tank that participated last year, the current version has a smaller storage room on the sides of the turret, making it thinner and less likely to hit obstacles which could affect the results, Beijing-based magazine Tank & Armoured Vehicle said on its social media account. It also added a fume extraction device on the top of the turret which can extract carbon monoxide from the tank and protect the crew from intoxication, the magazine reported, noting that the commander's panoramic sight was also upgraded to provide a larger field of view.

According to the magazine, more than 100 modifications were made to the tanks. Although the Type 96B had not entered PLA combat service yet, its participation in the games can inspire new upgrades and provide a good testing ground for new technologies and concepts, a military expert who wished to remain anonymous told the Global Times on 01 September 2021, adding that the experiences gained in this competition could be used in the development of future equipment.

Page last modified: 06-09-2021 15:12:54 ZULU