ZTZ 99 – the best Chinese main battle tank


Chinese industry marks a steady and rapid growth in past couple of decades and they are quickly becoming one of the most powerful countries in the world. Their aviation industry took some serious steps forward and slowly the other parts of the military industry are picking up the pace. For decades China was mostly producing licensed or copied main battle tanks but in the later years they started developing their own tank industry. The latest product of their tank design is the ZTZ 99.

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The development of the ZTZ 99 has begun in the 1989. Some 10 years of development and testing were needed until on the army parade in 1999 the first small batch of Type 98 (as the tank was designated back then) was first shown to the public. In the following years, the further improvements were implemented and in 2001 the first batch of Type 98G (the base for ZTZ 99) was issued to the army. Finally, after adding a sloped armor and some other minor improvements the Type 99 tank got its final designation and ever since is known as ZTZ 99. Some additional modifications were implemented over the years resulting in Type 99G, Type 99A1 and heavily improved Type 99A2. A light tank based on Type 99A2 has also been spotted but due to secrecy the Chinese enforce about their army there are no reliable data about it. The final version of ZTZ 99 reached the price of $2 million per unit and since the Chinese army needs a lot of tanks, the 700 manufactured were deployed to their armored units while the rest of the army is using less sophisticated and much cheaper Type 96 tanks.

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Main characteristics

The main weapon of ZTZ 99 is a 125 mm smoothbore gun, very similar to those used by the Russian tank constructors. Also, it has a commander’s machine gun (12.7 mm) and one coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun. This provides quite enough firepower for this class of tank and at such a low price.

It is powered by the 1200hp diesel engine and since the weight scales from 54 tons to 58 tons it provides it around 27hp per ton which is quite enough power to weight ratio. The newer models have the sloped composite armor (the main ingredients are classified) and the later versions also have additional composite panels added to the sides. The latest ZTZ 99 tanks (Type 99A2 series) also have a Chinese made APS with undisclosed capabilities.

The autoloader is a part of standard equipment thus the crew consists of only 3 men. This is also one of the fastest tanks in the world with the maximum speed of 80 km/h. The targeting and sensor systems are classified but for 2 million USD it is almost certain that they don’t possess any of the most advanced solutions in that sphere.

The bottom line is that ZTZ 99 represents advancement in the Chinese tank construction but it is still pretty far from its Russian and NATO counterparts. Still, they are very cheap and can be built in huge numbers in case of war so they definitely are the force to reckon with.