China’s new light tank for mountainous areas goes into service

  • Type 15 has better mobility than other PLA tanks and will strengthen combat readiness in sensitive regions such as Tibet and plateau border, analysts say
PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 December, 2018, 6:39pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 December, 2018, 5:45am

China’s new-generation lightweight battle tank has gone into service, as the military seeks to boost combat ability in high-altitude areas.

The Type 15 light tank has better mobility than other tanks used by the People’s Liberation Army and will strengthen combat readiness in plateau regions such as Tibet, military analysts said.

The tank was on show at an exhibition in Beijing last month to mark the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up, but the defence ministry only confirmed the deployment on Thursday.

Defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian said the emphasis of China’s military build-up was “innovation and sustainable development”.

“We’re following the overall plan and focusing on key equipment – we have made major achievements in our equipment build-up,” Wu said.

“As for the Type 15 light tank, according to my information, it has been handed over to our troops.”

He added that in the past four decades of reform and opening up, the Chinese military had made efforts to build an “informationalised equipment system”.

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Designed to be operated in mountainous areas and over rugged terrain, the tank is equipped with a 105mm main gun that can fire armour-piercing rounds and gun-launched missiles.

The Type 15 has an engine capable of 1,000 horsepower and is significantly lighter than the PLA’s other main battle tanks in service, weighing about 32 to 35 tonnes. That compares to the Type 99, which weighs 54 to 58 tonnes, and the Type 96 at 42.8 tonnes.

Military analysts said the tank could be quickly deployed to sensitive regions such as Tibet and the plateau border area if a dispute broke out.

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Beijing-based military affairs commentator Song Zhongping said the PLA Marine Corps needed to upgrade some of its key equipment.

He said they were using the Type 62 tank, which only has about 500 horsepower and an 85mm main gun. “The Type 62 tank is lagging behind,” he said. “The Type 15 has much better protection capability and manoeuvrability.”