Armor: August 25, 2004

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Chinas new, well, sort of new, T-98 tank is still something of a work in progress. Mass production has not yet begun, although small number have been turned out every month since the late 1990s. Based on Russian designs, the T-98 is a 50 ton tank with a 125mm gun, a three man crew, an auto-loader and a growing list of modern equipment and ideas. The design is new, and Chinese, as is the 125mm gun. The armor is apparently modular. There are large cavities in the from of the chassis and turret for the armor modules. This allows for damaged modules to be replaced or, more likely, older modules replaced with more effective ones. The fire control system includes a laser rangefinder, computer, wind sensor and, in the latest model, thermal imaging equipment. Its also suspected that Israel is selling China its highly effective M711 125mm APFSDS armor piercing round. If this is true, the Chinese may be equipping it with a depleted uranium penetrator. The Chinese are already selling a 100mm shells with depleted uranium penetrators, so they obviously know how to deal with depleted uranium. An M711 shell using depleted uranium might not be able to knock out an American M-1 from the front, but from any other angle, it would be lethal.

With its 1200 horsepower diesel engine, the T-98 is as mobile as the M-1, and has much better gas mileage. The autoloader, when its well maintained, can get out eight rounds a minute. But this is not as important as getting off very accurate shots. This is where the T-98 may be in trouble. Little is known of how good the entire fire control system of the T-98 is. But the Chinese are not known to be producing high end fire control gear, yet. Its also not known how well trained their T-98 crews are. The American M-1, with first class fire control and very well trained crews, has proven unstoppable so far. But at the rate the T-98 is developing, the Chinese may have, or may soon have, a tank that can at least slow the M-1 down. In addition, the Chinese are looking into Russian made anti-missile defenses for tanks as well. The Chinese are trying to leap-frog the M-1 design if they can, or at least give the American tank a formidable opponent.

 


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