China has inducted its much- publicised light battle tank, introduced in Tibet during the height of the Dokalam standoff with India, and for the first time the Army displayed its photo at a military exhibition here, a media report said today. Developed by the China North Industries Group Corp, the country’s biggest maker of land armaments, the light tank, whose weight ranges from 25 to 35 metric tonnes, is equipped with a hydropneumatic suspension system that ensures good manoeuvrability and survivability in mountainous regions. Its main weapon is a 105-mm gun that is able to fire both shells and guided missiles, according to weapons experts, who said the tank’s main task is to fight on plateaus even at very low temperatures. By comparison, a main battle tank, such as the US’ M1 Abrams and China’s Type 99A, weighs up to 65 tonnes, state-run China Daily reported. The light tank whose name and details are yet to be revealed was deployed for the first time into well publicised exercises of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the Tibet plateau in June as part of the pressure tactics against India during the 73-day Dokalam standoff which ended on August 28. The 2.3-million-strong PLA has confirmed the deployment of a new light tank, which observers say will suit combat operations on plateaus, the Daily report quoted experts as saying.
Chinese military spokesman Colonel Wu Qian said the tank undertook trial on the Tibetan plateau and was also displayed at a military parade held on July 30. A photo of the tank on snowy ground has been displayed at an exposition in the Beijing Exhibition Centre to showcase achievements made by China over the past five years, the Daily report said. The caption accompanying the picture says it is a new type of light tank, without giving details. This is the first time the Chinese military has officially published a picture of the tank, it said.
Earlier, Chinese official media reports said a brigade of the PLA in Tibet had carried out an exercise involving a new type of 35 tonne light tank. The new tank has the higher barrel and better defence than the type 968 tank and claimed to be better than T-90 battle tank used by the Indian army, the report said. Du Wenlong, an equipment researcher at the PLA Academy of Military Science, said the vehicle was designed to operate in China’s southern regions and on plateaus, which meant the Indian border along Tibet.
“The shortage of oxygen on plateaus means its engine must be very powerful and can work well with a limited amount of oxygen. Similarly, its power, fire control and ammunition systems must have been specially designed for high altitudes,” he said.
Ge Lide, a defence technology researcher at PLA National Defense University, told the Daily that while the tank falls into the light-duty category, its combat capability is strong, considering its firepower, mobility, defencive features and information capacity.
He said the tank would be capable of moving through many kinds of tough terrain and should be able to outperform all other PLA tanks and armoured vehicles off-road. China developed the Type 62 light tank in the 1960s and had used it in its armoured forces in southern regions for more than 50 years until retiring them in 2013.