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Chinese Tanks For Everyone
by James Dunnigan
May 6, 2012

Chinese MBT-2000 (also known as the VT1A) tanks have recently appeared in Myanmar. Last year Bangladesh bought 44 MBT-2000 tanks, plus three recovery vehicles for about $5 million each. The MBT-2000 is a major upgrade for both countries.

Bangladesh currently has a force of some 500 heavy tanks, about 60 percent of them the Chinese Type 59 (a copy of the Russian T-54), with the rest being Type 69 (copies of the Russian T-55). Both are 1950s technology, with some upgrades. Myanmar has about 1,100 tanks but they are, as in neighboring Bangladesh, mostly elderly Chinese models.

The MBT 2000 is an export version of the Chinese Type 98/99, although they also look similar to the Type 90/Al Khalid (a Type 90 variant developed by China and Pakistan for Pakistani service). The Type 98/99/90/MBT-2000 vehicles are all "improved T-72s." There are lots of improvements, though, many of them similar to what's found in the Russian T-80UM2. The workmanship on these vehicles is a little better than on the T-80UM2 but the Chinese don't have as much experience building tanks. This has shown itself in the numerous technical glitches that have shown up. The basic T-72 design has been around for over 30 years and has proved reliable, although not particularly effective on the battlefield. That was mostly due to poor crews. The Chinese have moved to volunteer crews and more intensive training, which makes any tank more effective. The MBT 2000 is a 49 ton tank with a 125mm gun and a three man crew (plus an autoloader).

China has long supplied Moslem Bangladesh with weapons, partly to annoy India. Bangladesh and India often have strained relations, usually over illegal migrants from Bangladesh crossing the poorly guarded border and establishing communities in remote border areas. Bangladesh is a very poor nation and without the cheap credit and weapons from China, would have much less capable armed forces. Myanmar has become a major economic partner of China, supplying oil and hydroelectric power, as well as other raw materials.  

 


 

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