August 27, 2007:
China is in the final stages of
testing a new version of its Type 99 tank, the Type 99A2. There is improved
reactive armor, as well as fixes to the engine, electronics and mechanical
components. This is China's most powerful tank, and is based on the Russian
T-80 (which is itself based on the T-72).
A lot of Chinese believe that, on paper, it's new
Type 99 tank is a match for the American M-1. For protection, the Type 99 has
500-600mm or armor, plus two layers of reactive army, giving it the equivalent
of 1,000-1,200mm of armor. China believes the maximum penetration of the M-1
120mm gun is 810mm. China believes that the protection on the M1 is 600-700mm,
and states that the Type 99 main gun can penetrate 850mm (or 950mm with a new
However, China has only produced about 200 Type 99s
so far. There are several reasons for this. First, the cost (about $2 million
per tank). This is more than twice as much as other Chinese built tanks cost.
There are some practical considerations, as well. The Type 99 is too heavy for
many Chinese bridges, not to mention railroad equipment. Most Chinese tanks are
closer to 40 tons, while the Type 99 is closer to 60 tons.
The performance data on the Type 99 (also called
the ZTZ-99) is not official. There is very little in the way of official
weapons performance data coming out of the Chinese government. At the same
time, the Chinese military leaks real, and inflated, data for PR purposes.
While China is not a democracy, in this age of the Internet, public opinion can
have an influence when the military budget is being put together each year.
Developing the Type 99A2 seems to indicate that
more will be produced, or existing ones will be upgraded (or both options may
be carried out.)