|Manufacturer:||NORINCO - China North Industries Group Corporation - CNGC|
|Product type:||Armoured Vehicles|
|Name:||Main battle tank|
The Type 85 main battle tank (MBT) family is based on, and derived from the Type 80/88 MBT. The later variants of the Type 85 have both been exported to foreign customers under the designation Type 85-IIM/IIAP/III, and in service with the PLA under designation Type 96 (also known as Type 88C). Over 400 Type 96s have been delivered to the PLA, with more expected in the decade. As the most advanced MBT in current service, the Type 96s are assigned to the most elite units of the PLA, including 6th Armour Division (38th Group Army) in Beijing Military Region and 8th Armour Division (26th Group Army) in Jinan Military Region.
The Type 96 (sometimes also referred to as Type 88C) is the final development variant of China's second generation main battle tank, with certain performance approaching the standard of the Western and Russian third generation main battle tanks. It inherits features of the previous second generation MBT that China developed including the Type 85 and Type 88 series.
The development of the Type 96 began right after the 1991 Gulf War. The result of the war made Chinese tank designers realise that the existing second generation tanks such as the Type 80 and Type 85 could not match the latest Western tanks such as M1A1, Challenger-II, and Leopard-II. This has eventually resulted in the introduction of a radically upgraded variant of the Type 85, which was designated as the Type 85-IIM.
The Type 85-IIM was the first Chinese tank to be fitted with a 125 mm smoothbore gun and an autoloader. It also features sophisticated night vision and fire control systems. Around few hundred Type 85IIMs were exported to the Pakistan Army. Later in 1996 the final approval certificate was issued to the domestic variant of the Type 85IIM, and the mass production began in 1997. Originally the PLA variant of the Type 85IIM was designated as Type 88C, but this later changed to Type 96.
It is surprising that China has developed two MBTs, the Type 96 and the Type 98, with similar performance at the same time. Although the Type 96 was regarded as the second generation MBT, while the Type 98 as the third generation MBT, they are comparable in term of general performance and technology. One possible explanation is that the Type 98 will be equipped by the most elite units in a relatively small number, while the Type 96, with less sophisticated technology and therefore cheaper unit price, will replace the bulk of Type 59/69 in current service.
- Type 85: Type 80 chassis plus welded turret prototype.
- Type 85-I: Production version with heat sleeve for main gun.
- Type 85-II: Adopted all solid-state electronics.
- Type 85-IIA: Developed for Pakistan, same as Type 85-II but integrates Weston Simfire 2 training equipment.
- Type 85-IIM: First version with the autoloading 125mm smoothbore gun. Export to Pakistan.
- Type 85-III: Prototype upengined to 1,000 hp diesel. Pics showing new reactive armor installed.
- Type 96 (Type 88C): Domestic version of the Type 85-III in use with PLA.
The Type 96 uses a conventional layout with three crewmembers. The driver compartment is located in the left front; the turret is mounted in the middle and the engine compartment in the rear. Six smaller road wheels on each side.
The Type 96 has an indigenous smoothbore 125 mm gun with autoloader of Russian 2A46M design. By introducing the autoloader to reduce the crew to three men, more rounds are available for the higher rate of fire. The tank can carry 42 rounds, 22 of them stored in the carousel of the autoloader, and the gun can fire at 6~8 rounds per minute.
The main gun is capable firing APFSDS, HEAT, and HEAT-FRAG. The more recent BK-27 HEAT round offers a triple-shaped charge warhead and increased penetration against conventional armour and explosive reactive armour (ERA). The BK-29 round, with a hard penetrator in the nose is specially designed for use against reactive armour, and as an MP round has fragmentation effects. In addition, the gun could also fire laser guided anti-tank missiles (ATGMs).
Auxiliary weapons include one 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun, with a maximum fire-range of 1,800 m and a fire rate of 250 rounds/min. A 12.7-mm/50-calibre anti-aircraft machine gun is mounted on the command cupola, with a maximum fire-range of 2,000 m.
Fire accuracy is attained by an ISFCS-212 image-stabilised fire control system with laser rangefinder input. In addition, the tank may be fitted with GPS and infrared jamming/disturbing systems.
The hull and turret are protected by composite armour plating. Wheels and tracks are protected by rubber hull skirts. The turret is surrounded by storage racks are more of a Western design influence. Those storage racks not only offer extra places for the crew to store their equipment but it also provides additional protections against HEAT projectiles. There are six smoke grenade launchers on each side of the turret. Additional smoke can be generated by injecting diesel fuel in to the engine's exhaust.
The Type 96 has a combat weight of 41 tonnes. It is powered by a liquid cooled 730 hp diesel engine, providing a power to weight ratio of about 17.8 hp/ton. The engine can be replaced within 40 minutes in field conditions, and gives the tank a maximum road speed of 57 km/h.