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WZ122 “triple-hydro”

China is the first country in the world to be equipped with a 120mm smoothbore tank gun. On September 25, 1970, the first 122 "three-liquid" prototype completed the final assembly. In contrast, West Germany did not receive it until 1972 at the earliest the Keiler test tank (the predecessor of the Leopard 2) was equipped with a 120mm smoothbore gun. The 122 tank therefore became the world's first tank equipped with a 120mm smoothbore gun. Tthe first tracked 120mm self-propelled anti-tank gun equipped by the People's Liberation Army, the 89-type self-propelled anti-tank gun began to be developed in 1967. From the political friction between China and the Soviet Union in the late 1950s, it gradually developed into border armed friction in the northeast and Xinjiang in the 1960s, to the outbreak of the medium-speed Zhenbao Island war in March 1969. Throughout the 1960s, the People’s Liberation Army was forced to respond to the pressure of the Soviet Army’s armored assault operations on China’s "Three Norths" (Northeast, North, and Northwest), and accelerated the production of Type 59 main battle tanks and the development of Type 69 main battle tanks. In addition, the research and development projects of a variety of anti-armor weapons including 120mm anti-tank guns have been established. At that time, the main anti-tank weapons equipped by our army, such as 75mm recoilless guns, 85mm cannons, and 56-type rocket launchers, could not effectively penetrate the frontal armor of the Soviet T-62 main battle tank. Undoubtedly, once the Soviet armored torrent in the battle of Zhenbao Island and subsequent large-scale armored raids on China's "Three Norths" area, regardless of political consequences, the Chinese army was equipped with all armored technical weapons and anti-armor firearms, and it would not be able to mechanize and mechanize Soviet armored forces. The infantry carried out an effective counterattack. This situation made the Central Military Commission determined to develop a new type of main battle tank, a variety of caliber anti-tank artillery and anti-tank missile technology. The low-pressure 120mm anti-tank gun project was established in 1967 (only for the rebound of the artillery, and for the development and integration of vehicles). After the Sino-Soviet Zhenbao Island battle in March 1969, it was considered that the anti-armor capability was insufficient and began Re-research and develop comprehensive efficiency enhancements based on the original plan. From 1972 to 1978, the 120mm anti-tank gun made great breakthroughs in the development of artillery barrels, high chamber pressure, and anti-tank ammunition. The original plan was to match the 120mm caliber anti-tank gun to the 122 project "three-liquid" tank. However, the "Great Leap Forward" type of research and development has a high technical starting point, and the overall reliability cannot meet the needs of the PLA in an actual combat environment. The "three-liquid" prototype of the 122 plan used advanced technologies such as a hydraulic transmission system, a hydraulic control system and an adjustable liquid-pneumatic suspension. The car requires a 515 kilowatt engine, a 120mm smoothbore gun (anti-tank gun), and a micro Optical night vision night sight device, composite armor, three-proof device and other new components. However, because the "three-liquid" technology failed to pass, the development of the car was suspended after only a short-term performance. The 122 series "three-liquid" tank prototype was dismounted ahead of schedule, making the 120mm anti-tank gun in a "cannon without vehicle" state. Even if the 120mm anti-tank gun is technically calibrated and finalized, it may be abolished by the overall project. Immediately, the research and development project team successfully "integrated" the 120mm self-propelled anti-tank gun into another Type 321 universal crawler vehicle (the Type 83 152mm self-propelled howitzer vehicle). In the end, the high-pressure 120mm anti-tank gun with a muzzle velocity of nearly 1800m/s was finalized in 1990, and mass production began and became the standard armored technical weapon of the People's Liberation Army.

China has gone through a tortuous road in the development of tanks. During the period, it not only copied the imported Soviet-made tanks, but also explored its own research and development; it also carried out joint research and development with Western countries and seized the foreign trade market. Rushed to the system. This has led to both successful models and regrets of dismounting on this thorny road. Therefore, in liberation In addition to the tank sequence officially installed by the army, there are many little-known dismounted tank projects. Although these tanks have not been finalized or installed, their contribution to the field of Chinese tank research is indelible. When we are cheering for the huge leap in Chinese tank technology, don't forget the unsung heroes behind it. Advanced 122 medium tank The 122 type medium tank is an advanced attempt by China in the field of tank development. Its various performance indicators are relatively advanced, but in the end, it was forced to dismount due to the design being too advanced and the technical indicators too high. It has accumulated a wealth of experience and technology for the development of new Chinese tanks and the improvement of old tanks. In the 1960s, with the advent of the second generation of tanks, there was a technological leap in the field of world tanks. This posed a severe challenge to the development of China's new combat vehicles at that time. On February 4, 1970, the Armored Forces and the Fifth Ministry of Machinery Industry jointly established the "Five New Type Vehicle Battle Leading Group", under which the "Second Fourth Battle Office" (referred to as the "Second Fourth Meeting Office") was established. The 122 medium tank is one of the five new types of vehicles. The official development of the 122 medium tank began in March 1970. The main technical indicators proposed at that time were: new large-caliber artillery, capable of dealing with existing and possible medium/heavy tanks; having a greatly increased ammunition base, capable of launching ammunition with combustible cartridges; installing excellent range finding , Bistable, night vision and other equipment to improve the first hit rate. In addition, 122 medium-sized tanks are required: reduce the total combat weight; install large power, small size, low fuel consumption and can use a variety of fuels. Engine and matching, reliable and easy-to-operate transmission and walking system; reasonable deployment of armor thickness distribution, improved armor materials, and improved anti-elasticity performance; optimized tank shape, and actively studied measures to defend against anti-tank special bombs; Collective protection of chemical weapons; improve the reliability of parts and components, facilitate use and maintenance, and reduce maintenance workload; increase the noise reduction device to improve the working conditions of the occupants as much as possible. In September 1970, the first prototype of the 122 medium tank was completed. Because the prototype car uses advanced hydraulic transmission, hydraulic control and adjustable liquid-pneumatic suspension, it is also called a "three-liquid" car. The prototype car also plans to install a 515 kilowatt engine (later changed to 478 kilowatts), a 120mm smoothbore gun, a low-light night vision device, and composite armor. However, due to the failure of the "three-liquid" technology, the development of the vehicle was suspended after only a short-term test. In theory, the liquid-pneumatic suspension device can greatly improve the maneuverability of the tank, but today, more than 30 years later, world-class main battle tanks, such as the American M1A2, the Russian T-90, and the German Leopard-II tank Still using an improved torsion bar suspension system, the liquid-pneumatic suspension has its shortcomings both in terms of technology and cost. Therefore, the use of liquid-gas suspension for the 122 medium tank is too advanced, and it is inevitable that it will be abandoned halfway. At the end of 1970, the development and steering of the 122 tank adopted mature technologies such as mechanical transmission, torsion bar suspension, and mechanical manipulation. In January 1971, the assembly of two "three-machine" prototype vehicles was completed. The "three-machine" prototype has been tested for nearly 3,000 kilometers in China from 1971 to 1973, and has achieved certain results, but there are still many problems in the performance of the vehicle and the structure of the components. Around 1974 was an eventful period in Chinese history. The 122 project was discontinued at this moment and there was no finalized production. After the "three-liquid" and "three-machine" prototype vehicles, relevant units have developed a medium-sized tank test vehicle on this basis, and have done a lot of basic work for the development of new tanks and the improvement of old tanks in the future. The most striking thing about the 122 medium tank is its unparalleled firepower. The powerful combination of 120mm smoothbore gun and 4 anti-tank missiles has been unmatched so far. The 120mm smoothbore gun was enough to destroy any tank in the world at that time. In view of the artillery design problems, the Type 59 medium tank turret has the defects of high front and poor anti-ballistic performance. The design of the 122 tank’s main gun has been improved. The retreat machine, recoil machine and bistable parts are installed under the cradle of the artillery, which greatly reduces the height of the front of the turret. The angle of armor here is correspondingly increased, which improves the turret’s anti-ballistic ability. . This feature is evident in the actual turret of the 122 tank displayed at the Beijing Tank Museum. The 122 tank turret is also equipped with 4 missile launch tubes on both sides, and 4 wire-guided anti-tank missiles are installed inside. The infrared goniometer of the anti-tank missile is installed on the anti-shield, and the gunner can track the target through the sight. The missile launcher is pitched synchronously with the artillery. The installation of anti-tank missiles for main battle tanks can increase the long-range strike power of tanks, but due to the high cost and troublesome use, such programs are no longer fashionable after the 1980s (Russian gun-launched missiles are a special case). In addition, the "three-liquid" prototype of the 122 medium tank has also used a 20mm anti-aircraft gun, which shows that our tank designers have made unremitting efforts to improve the tank's air defense capabilities.
The domestic 120mm smoothbore gun was formally developed in February 1970, and was soon designated as the main gun of the second-generation main tank "122 three liquid" and "122 three machine". The length of the barrel is 5750 mm, and the barrel length is 47.9 times the diameter. The barrel length data is surprisingly consistent with the barrel length (5740 mm) of the 115 mm gun of the T62 tank. The shelling armor-piercing projectile has a muzzle velocity of 1610 meters per second, which can penetrate a homogeneous steel armor plate of 120 mm/65° at a distance of 1000 meters, and the chamber pressure is about 330 MPa. Its technical level was not enough to penetrate the first armor of the T-72 tank at that time. After several years of research and development, it was suspended as a technical reserve.

WZ1222 “triple-mechanical”

The Baotou Plant 617 took the order, as expected, because there was no other factory capable of designing tanks in China that time. Being a byproduct of the disastrous Chinese cultural revolution, the technical specification of the first 122 design was greatly exaggerated, while the actual capability of Chinese tank industry did not meet the requirements. The first 122 design is usually called as “triple-hydro”, as it features hydraulic transmission, hydropneumatic suspension and hydro-assistive control. The Chinese tank designer creatively installed 2 missile launchers on each side of the turret, firing ATGM. The “triple-hydro” had a wholly-cast turret with 120mm smoothbore cannon installed in it. The first 120mm smoothbored gun on 122 has a barrel length of 5.75m, which is incredibly close to U-5TS. It has a muzzle velocity of 1610m/s and can penetrate the 120mm RHA placed at 65° from 1000m, with a muzzle pressure of 330MPa. Interestingly, the 122 “triple-hydro” is the very first tank that uses the 120mm smoothbore cannon in the world. Unsurprisingly, Chinese were unable to put hydropneumatic suspension and hydraulic torque converter into mass production. Again, like Kotin’s compromise on Object 252, here came the second edition of 122, the “triple-mechanical” that replaced those radical parts with mechanical transmission and torsion bar suspension. Apart from these, the 122 “triple-mechanical” retains most of the design of the very first initial “triple-hydro”, including the shape of hull, turret powerpack. However, it has a new 120mm gun with different fume extractor, which looks so visually similar with 115mm U-5TS that this tank is usually confused with some replicated T-62. However, the actual performance of it remains classified even until today, as it is the origin of the Type 89 Self-propelled Anti-tank Gun. Unfortuanately, the lack of new elements made it ordinary again. It was discarded so soon that the missile launchers were even not installed on it.

WZ1223 / 704 tank

By the time when the second design of Project 122 was rejected, the Chinese authority had worry about Soviet assault on China from the north. As a result, the reseaches of Project 122 and the facilities of Plant 617 were replicated and transferred to a farther city on the south, Luoyang, which is like the Chinese version of Chelyabinsk, but only smaller and less famous as an industrial city. The setup of new factory in Luoyang was in April 1970, so the factory was named after this. Plant 704 restored the mature design of “triple-mechanical” and introduced a mechanical autoloader on the new tank. Comparing with the “triple-mechanical”, the new design changed the shape of the rear part of the turret to suit the autoloader, which is in fact a semi-auto loading assistive mechanism, like a crossover between the ones on French AMX-50 and Soviet IS-7, or neither. It works reliably but not really helpful because it is too slow. Ironically, this product of Plant 704 never really has any official name, it is usually simply called “the 704 tank” and often confused with ChKZ’s Object 704. In fact, it is the third design of Project 122, and the one reserved the best until today, yet known the least due to the high confidentiality. The 704 tank is usually regarded as a parallel project or a “fork” of 122, however, it is the very “missing” third edition of project 122. It was discontinued by Plant 704 because of the priority of producing Type 59. Nevertheless, the main branch of project remains in Plant 617. The 1226 prototype, which has an ugly cast turret and an engine compartment longer than 1224



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Page last modified: 01-08-2021 14:07:12 ZULU