The PLA makes replacement of antiquated equipment the top priority China is developing an advanced 'super tank' that, if fielded, would be the most powerful vehicle of its type, according to Jane's Defence Weekly. In an article to appear in next week's issue, the magazine quotes unidentified sources as saying the new main battle tank would incorporate most of the advanced systems used in modern western armour, and would be equipped with a 152mm main gun fed by an automatic loader. Most tanks use 120mm or 125mm main guns.'[The main gun] would be coupled to an advanced day/thermal sighting system that will allow moving targets to be engaged with a high first-round-hit probability while the vehicle is stationary or mobile,'' the article says. The International Institute of Strategic studies estimates the People's Liberation Army has 8,300 main battle tanks, more than any other nation. About 6,000 of the tanks, however, are based on a design from the 1950s and are obsolete. Only a few hundred PLA tanks could match tanks fielded by the US or European nations. The PLA has made the replacement of its large stock of antiquated equipment with more modern weapons a top priority. The interest in new tanks is not surprising, given that Taiwan is interested in buying US M1 Abrams tanks. The Abrams was highly effective in both Iraq wars, and the American armour was easily able to destroy Iraq's tanks, many of which were supplied by China in the 1980s, while suffering few losses. China has modelled its tanks on Soviet designs in the past, and the article said there were indications that Russia had supplied some of the technology for the latest project to earn foreign currency to fund its own tank programmes. News of China's intention to develop a super tank comes as many countries re-evaluate the way they use heavy armour in warfare. During the latest war in Iraq, the US and British forces used main battle tanks but also fielded large forces of lightly armed troops that were more nimble and easier to support. France, Germany, the UK and the US were all working on the 140mm Future Tank Main Armament programme, but with the end of the Cold War and the lack of a clearly defined threat, work on this project has now ceased, Jane's Defence Weekly said. The most modern main battle tank in People's Liberation Army (PLA) service is the Type 98. This was first shown during a public parade in Beijing in late 1999.