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ZTQ Light Tank / 201 Institute

After the domestic internet exposure of a new generation of light tank prototypes, it is considered that there are two variants. The CCTV documentary "Maoming: Casting Land War King" displayed a vehicle considered to be the North China Institute of Vehicle (201 Institute) new light tank prototype. The vehicle is characterized by the appearance of more "stealth" features, and suspected in front of the body in addition to the left side of the cockpit and there is a photoelectric window. At the same time the vehicle's turret shape is also different from the 617 model vehicle. The vehicle is called "201 prototype".

China has developed a new light tank specifically designed for operations in mountainous regions, Chinese media reported on 01 January 2015. These are replacements for the ZTQ-62s (Type 62) and will equip Southern-Jungle and High-Land units. The new tank was designated to serve in high-altitude, rugged terrain such as in the Tibet autonomous region, so it has a light weight and a powerful diesel engine suitable for oxygen-deficit environments, according to a report carried on huanqiu.com, a well-informed website that often discloses developments in China’s military modernization and defense technology.

Initially specialists knew very little about the new Chinese vehicle. Not known is even the official name of the new light tank. According to one version, this is the “light tank type 99A”, which makes it easy to confuse it with the latest modification of the Chinese main battle tank type 99. The ZTQ is probably about 30 tons or so [other soureces estimate it weighes between 20 to 35 tons], much heavier than Type 62’s 21 tons. Armor design has advanced greatly since the 1960s, as have artillery and heavy machine-guns.

A 105mm gun would not provide very good penetration power against any potential enemy tanks, like Indian T-72's, but the chassis is probably too light to take a larger caliber gun. It's main job is probably to support infantry, instead of fighting other tanks. It would certainly going to knock out any IFV that came against it. The ZPT-83-II 'long barrel' 105mm gun with its 600mm RHA penetration and ATGM capability is more than enough to deal with all those AFVs it could encounter in their areas of operation, which are either Indian T-72s or Vietnamese T-55s.

In 2006 Western observers believed that the replacement for the Type 62 would be the new ZBD 97 amphibious tank would, basically a scaled up IFV (Infantry Fighting Vehicle.) While the ZBD 97 was popular with Chinese marines, the army wanted its own new light tank.

More and more photos of the Chinese light tank of a new generation, released in 2014, possibly indicatinge that it had already being inducted into active service of the PLA in significant quantities for deployment in the mountainous areas in western China. While pictures of this new Chinese (ZTQ-??) light tank have been appearing in Chinese internet since Dec 2011 but its turret had not been revealed until 2015. Displaying pictures of the tank during trials on an unidentified plateau and during road and rail transport, the vehicle was equipped with a cutting-edge hydropneumatic suspension system that ensures better manuverability and higher survivability in mountainous regions.

The tank has an advanced fire-control system and a 105-mm main gun, which is able to fire shells and guided missiles, and it features a powerful combination of frontal armor on the hull and turret. The missile capability will enable the vehicle to strike helicopters, one of the major threats to tanks on a battlefield. The tank has a powerful combination of frontal armor of the hull and the turret, partly borrowed from the main tank type 99.

The tank has been developed by China North Industries Group Corp, popularly abbreviated as Norinco, the country’s biggest developer and maker of land armaments, to serve the People’s Liberation Army in mountainous terrain. However, it is also expected to be exported to other nations, according to Kanwa Defense Review, the Canada-based online publication of defense affairs and weapon technology.

"The new type of tank, which I think is the only light tank being developed in the world, will substantially strengthen the PLA’s combat capability in elevated, mountainous regions," said a military expert with close links to Norinco who refused to be named told China Daily.

"It will replace the old Type 62 tanks, and it is more convenient to transport compared to the much heavier Type-96 and Type-99 main battle tanks because of its light weight and small size," he added China developed its Type 62 light tank in the 1960s, and it was used by its armed forces in southern regions until 2013 when all of them were retired.

This is possibly the only model in modern world of a serially manufactured non-floating light tank, which is designed to perform the role of a main battle tank in areas of complex terrain conditions. The new tank is supposed to replace the old Chinese non-floating type 62 light tanks, which were not complicated and cheap tanks having a weak armor and weapons. The new Chinese light tank, in contrast, is of a very complex and original design. For example, its chassis is of a completely original design that is not found in other models of Chinese combat vehicles. It has a variable clearance and probably is quite complicated and expensive. In general, cost of this combat vehicle may well be comparable with the cost of the full-fledged main battle tank. Substantial resources and time must have been spent for its development and trials.

The question that arises was: why has China gone on with such a project, with no analogous model being produced in the world. The light tank, more or less, in essence, is superior in armaments to the infantry fighting vehicle WZ502G. For sure, it has strong armor defense, but the question remains open whether this gain is large enough to justify the cost of creation of a whole new model of combat vehicles.

With a mass of about 30 tons versus an average of about 50 tons of the main battle tanks, it will still be inferior to them in terms of protection. Threats of attack by infantry antitank missiles, artillery guns and aircraft weapons will affect it in the same way as the main battle tanks, operating on the plains. It should be remembered that an attempt of mass deployment of tanks of type 62 in the war with Vietnam in 1979 led to huge losses, after which China, for some time, discontinued with the development of new models of light tanks.

On the other hand, it is known that India is also considering purchase of light tanks for its mountain troops and in the past has unsuccessfully attempted to develop such tanks based on the chassis of the BMP-1. Perhaps this served as one of the reasons for development of a new combat vehicle by Chinese designers.

In Russia, the closest and analogous model of the Chinese tank is 125 mm self-propelled anti-tank gun “Sprut-SD”, which is being produced in small quantities since 2005 (about 40 units have been manufactured). Compared to the Chinese analogous model, the self-propelled gun “Sprut-SD” has more powerful weapons and is of a less weight (18 tons). It is capable of overcoming water obstacles and can be transported by air. Of course, armor protection of “Sprut-SD” is much weaker than that of the Chinese tank and the classification “self-propelled anti-tank gun”, implies that its tactical application will be different. The “Sprut-SD” uses a modified chassis of the BMD.

China has previously used the chassis of a light tank of Type 62 and of Type 63 for manufacturing a wide range of special equipments - engineering and recovery vehicles, artillery, armored personnel carriers, etc. Development of a fundamentally new chassis requires immense efforts and creation, on its base, of only one sample of a highly specialized combat vehicle was unanticipated.

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Page last modified: 12-12-2018 16:29:09 ZULU