China would develop a new generation medium tank with no equivalent in the West

In recent weeks, the news of the battle tank has been particularly rich, with the launch of the development of the American M1E3 Abrams, the progress made concerning the European MGCS program, or even the details given around the Leopard 2AX from KNDS.

This naturally echoes the decisive role played by the battle tank in the war in Ukraine, with sometimes harsh observations on certain certainties which were current until now in the West.

In fact, faced with the setbacks encountered in Ukraine by the American M1A1, the British Challenger 2, and to a lesser extent, the Leopard 2 Germans, the new Western programs, such as the M1E3, the MGCS and even the Russian T-14, all aim for a smaller combat mass, of the order of 50 to 55 tonnes, rather than 65 to 70 tonnes.

Until now, China was not at the forefront in the field of battle tanks. Thus, although considered very capable and efficient, the Type 99A, its most efficient and most modern tank, was only produced in 600 examples. The Chinese general staff, in fact, gave priority to the air and naval forces in terms of modernization.

Entering service in 2011 and perfectly modern, one would have thought that this tank would have represented the pillar of the Chinese response in this area, for several decades, under the guise of continuous improvements. However, it is a very different tank, and, in many respects, without equivalent in the West, which was recently photographed in the colors of the People's Liberation Army.

Type 96, Type 99A and Type 15: the tanks of the People's Liberation Army have progressed greatly in recent decades

If the land component of the People's Liberation Army remains the largest army on the planet, with a million active soldiers, its fleet of combat tanks may seem relatively modest.

Type 96 battle tank
If the Type 99A is the most modern Chinese tank, it is the Type 96 which constitutes the backbone of its fleet of heavy tanks.

Indeed, today it is made up of 4 combat tanks, including 500 Type 600A, the most modern version, with a combat mass of 99 tonnes, armed with a 55 mm cannon. , and equipped, it seems, with a soft-kill defense system. Added to this are 125 Type 600s, which precede it, weighing 99 tonnes, with similar armament, but with less advanced on-board electronics.

The bulk of the Chinese fleet is made up of 2500 Type 96 medium tanks, an armored vehicle designed in the 90s, with a combat mass ranging from 40 to 45 tonnes, and of a generation comparable to that of the Soviet T-72, although that very different in appearance. Armed with a 125 mm tube, this tank serves as the basis for the VT4, the export model proposed by Beijing.

Since 2018, the PLA has also acquired 500 Type 15 light tanks, an armored vehicle weighing 33 to 36 tonnes in combat, armed with a 105 mm cannon, specially designed for armed reconnaissance missions, but also to operate on difficult terrain impassable by heavier tanks, such as on the plateaus of Indian Ladakh, or in the subtropical spaces of the South China Sea.

Finally, the Chinese armies have a thousand much older tanks, such as the Type-88 and Type-79, serving as reserves, but intended to be gradually replaced.

light chr Type 15 APL
The Type 15 light tank was specifically designed to operate in the Himalayan highlands along the border line with India.

Until now, therefore, the Chinese tank fleet was not very different, in its constitution, as in its evolution, from Russian or Western fleets, with in particular a significant increase in mass, protection, lethality and therefore, price, over the course of new versions.

The photo published a few days ago on Chinese social networks, showing a battle tank with a design that profoundly breaks with these paradigms, could however indicate that the People's Liberation Army would have taken a much more radical trajectory, concerning the paradigms applied to the design of its new battle tank.


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