Armor: September 27, 2004

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China appears to have built yet another advanced variant of their Type 98 tank. This one has a new turret that can handle a 152mm main gun, although these tanks are currently equipped with a 125mm gun. A 152mm weapon has also been under consideration by the Russians (as well as a 140mm weapon.) A 152mm main gun would be able to fire a larger, and more effective guided missile, as well as a much more powerful anti-tank shell. The 60 ton Type 98 is basically a scaled up 50 ton Type 96, which in turn is actually a Type 90 III. The Type 98 has more armor, and both the 96 and 98 have three man crews and modern sensors and electronics. The 90 series tanks are Chinese designs, and there appear to be as many as 2500 Type 90 series tanks in service, with as many as two thirds of them Type 98s. There are another 700 Type 79s and 80s, both of which were stepping stones to the 90 series. Most Chinese tanks, about 5,000, are Type 59s. Most of these have been upgraded from being a clone of the Russian T-54 to T-54 clones equipped with Western guns (copy of the British L7 105mm gun, firing depleted uranium shells) and modern electronics. China also has a copy of the German 120mm gun, which it may try to install in some Type 59 upgrades. Those Type 59s that dont get upgraded are going to be scrapped. This apparently means that the Type 59 force will shrink by at least several hundred tanks a year until all are gone. 

China is very strict about keeping information on its tank force secret. In the last three years, American spy satellites have spent most of their time supporting the war on terror, so even the CIA may not be sure of the exact state of the Chinese armored force. Then again, maybe not. 

 


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