China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) is likely to be equipping its ground units with new light tanks, according to the photos published on Chinese online forums.
Posted on 31 December on the CJDBY and FYJS websites, the images disabout 10 tanks on railway flatbed cars, resembling the Guilin railway station in China's southern Guangxi Province. The tanks were first seen in 2011. The tanks' transit through Guilin could indicate their initial delivery to units assigned to the PLA's new Southern Theatre Command, IHS Janes' 360 reported Thursday.
Chinese web portal Sina.com published a report in January 2016 on the tank that assessed its history and missions and provided new details on its armament and features. The tank weighs about 35 tonnes and it has a crew of four. There has also been speculation that the use of an autoloader for its 105 mm main gun reduces its crew to three.
The gun can fire tungsten alloy anti-tank rounds that can penetrate up to 500 mm of armour as well as gun-launched missiles, the Sina.com reported.
The gun's main sights and the commander's optics appear to be derived from the new T-99A2 main battle tank and shell-tracking radar is probably mounted on the gun. The wedge-shaped 'arrowhead' turret features detachable reactive armour blocks and laser detectors, while the turret bustle can also carry smoke grenade launchers.
The tank may also feature liquid-gas suspension, enabling it to 'crouch' to better exploit terrain for concealment and to assist with rail and air transport. Due to its wide tracks the tank reportedly has a ground pressure rating similar to the Chinese Type 62 light tank developed in the early 1960s: low enough to overcome rice paddies.