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Type 99
Type 99 MBT front left.jpg
A Type 99 tank at the China People's Revolution Military Museum in Beijing during the 2007 Our troops towards the sun exhibition.
Type Main battle tank
Place of origin  People's Republic of China
Production history
Manufacturer Norinco
Unit cost ¥ 16,000,000 Renminbi
(approx 2,000,000 USD)
Number built 700+
Weight ~54 tonnes for Type-99G
~57 tonnes for Type-99A1
~58 tonnes for Type-99A2
Length 11.0 m
Width 3.5 m
Height 2.37 m
Crew 3

Armor Classified, Al2O3, ERA, composite, with laser dazzler, soft kill defense system, hard kill defense system
125 mm smoothbore tank gun
Type 85 heavy machine gun 12.7x108 mm commander's machine gun, 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun
Engine liquid-cooled diesel
1,500 hp (1,100 kW); 2,100 hp for Type 99KM
Power/weight 27.8 hp/tonne; 28 hp/tonne for Type 99KM
Suspension torsion bar
600 km (373 miles)
Speed 80 km/h (50 mph)

The Type 99 (Chinese: 99式; pinyin: Jiǔjiǔ shì), also known as ZTZ-99 and WZ-123, developed from the Type 98G (in turn, a development of the Type 98), is a third generation main battle tank (MBT) fielded by the Chinese People's Liberation Army. It is made to compete with other modern tanks. It is currently the most advanced MBT fielded by China. The ZTZ-99 MBT is a successor to the Type 98G tank manufactured for the People's Liberation Army (PLA).


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At the end of 1970, the Type 122 Experimental Medium Tank project was aborted after three years of development. In February 1977, work on a second-generation PRC tank was begun, and in April 1978, the development goals for the new project were set. The Soviet T-72 was the tank's primary projected combat target. In March 1979, Chinese government Institutes 617 and 201 developed the new Type 1224 experimental chassis, which had been installed with the MB8v331TC41 model tank imported from Germany. Later, another two models were developed, the Type 1226, with the "8V165", a 763 kW, 1,000-horsepower diesel engine by Factory 636, and the Type 1226F2, with the "12V150" 763 kW, 1,000-horsepower engine by Factory 616. All three prototypes were armed with 120 mm smoothbore cannons. Ammunition was placed behind the turret, similar to the design philosophy of the German Leopard 2 A1.

After the designation of the Type 80 as the PRC's second-generation tank in 1981, groups emerged within the Chinese military who argued that a third, more advanced tank generation was still needed. Out of these, two main camps emerged. One group argued for a design based on the Soviet T-72, with three crewmembers and a 125 mm autoloader cannon. The other favored an Israeli Merkava-styled design with a power pack closer to the front of the tank, a 120 mm semi-automatic-loading cannon, and a high-output diesel or gas turbine engine. The project was delayed for some years because of the division. Finally, in July 1984, the Army settled on the T-72-based design. In the summer of 1986, the plan was submitted to China's State Council and Central Military Commission. It was approved in the same year, and incorporated into the Major Weapons Development program of China's Seventh Five-Year Plan.

In the Spring of 1989, Norinco signed a contract with the Chinese government to manufacture the Type 99. At the beginning of the following year, its Factory 617 produced the first Type 99 prototype. In 1993, the front armor plating on the Type 99 was increased from 600 mm to 700 mm to meet government specifications. In August 1994, two prototypes produced by Norinco underwent climate durability tests in southern China. During the tests, the prototypes were driven 3800 kilometers and 200 rounds were fired. In September 1994, reliability and fording tests were carried out in the Tuoli and Huiahuling regions outside of Beijing. Additionally, from 1995 to 1996, three prototypes underwent arctic climate tests in Tahe County, Heilongjiang.

On March 12, 1996, the Type 99 project formally moved into the final stage of development. In May 1996, Norinco's Factory 617 started the assembly of a finalized prototype. At the end of December 1996, two finalized prototypes were again transported to Tahe for further arctic testing. Within the two-month testing period, the prototypes were driven a total of 6,900 kilometers and 20 government testing programs were completed. At the end of 1997, four finalized prototypes underwent additional testing, travelling a collective 20,000 kilometers and test firing 760 rounds. Finally, at the end of 1999, following over five years of extensive government testing, the design of the Type 98, as it was then known, was fully completed. Its firepower, control systems, armor and electronics were deemed by the Army to have met or exceeded the project's original goals. Small-scale production of the Type 98 was begun in time for the tank to be featured in the PRC's National Day parade in 1999.

Following the completion of the Type 98, research into improved versions of the tank continued within the Chinese government. These programs produced the Type 98G, a refined iteration of the Type 98 with a better reliability record. At the end of 2001, the first batch of 40 Type 98G tanks entered service with the regular Army. The Type 98G eventually gave rise to what is now known as the Type 99, which was officially revealed by the government in 2001. The final version of the Type 99 included a 1,500-horsepower engine, as opposed to its immediate predecessor's 1,200-horsepower powertrain. Also added were a Leopard 2A5-style sloped-arrow armor plate on the front of the turret, and additional composite armor layers on the sides.

Norinco's official designation for the Type 99 is ZTZ-99. The tank is also known as the "WZ-123 MBT". The unit price for one Type 99 is estimated to be 16 million yuan, (2 million US, 1.6 million EUR). In part due to its high cost, the tank is not expected to be deployed in large numbers, unlike earlier Chinese designs such as the Type 59. Because of the limited nature of its production, the Type 99 is currently only operated by the PLA's most elite divisions, while the Type 96 tank has become the force's new backbone.

Type 98

The Chinese government made a decision to modernize their tank force by incorporating advanced features into their next-generation MBT, as their older tanks were becoming ineffective. The resulting tank had a hull (chassis) similar to the T-72 or T-80 while having a welded turret like most Western tanks. The aim was to create a tank which could defeat the Soviet T-72/T-80 and approach the capabilities of the German Leopard 2 and US M1A1. Norinco's official designation for the Type 98 is ZTZ-98.

Type 98

Type 98 tank seen here in rehearsal for the October 1st 1999 National Day Military Parade.

This prototype is unique among current Chinese designs. Instead of an autoloader, it has a fourth crew member to manually load the western-style single unit ammunition rounds. Traditional Soviet-style autoloaders were designed to separately load the propellant and warhead components. The transmission is manual instead of automatic like those on the newer Type 90. The tank can also fire DU (Depleted Uranium) rounds.

Type 98G

The most obvious feature is that a modified autoloader was installed so that the crew was reduced to three from the original four. The power plant is a domestic 150HB 1,200-hp diesel engine. It is able to fire depleted uranium rounds.

The basic variant of the Type 99 series it has a laser defence system that can temporarily damage the enemy tank's optics. The latest variant that is in full service is the Type 99A2 with a 1,500-hp water cooled diesel engine and getting re-designed at some parts. The newest in trial is the Type 99KM.

The Type 99A2 has increased armor on the turret. The self-defense laser module has been replaced by an active defensive module. The ZTZ-99A2 also installed ERA on the front and side turret. The tank hull will follow the MBT 2000 configuration instead of the previously used hull.

Type 99G

CNGC has been deploying a further modified version of the ZTZ99, possibly known as ZTZ99G. A photo released by the Chinese official Xinhua News Agency in February 2008 revealed an improved variant of the ZTZ99 that features a laser warning system,[1] newly designed observation and active protection system (APS). The commander viewer of the new tank appears to be slightly larger than that of the basic variant ZTZ99, suggesting a possible independent commander thermal imaging viewer.

Type 99A1

The Type 99A1 is the latest version in service of the PLA while the more advanced variant the Type 99A2 is still in various trials and did not make it to the National Day Parade in 2009. While the earlier Type 99 that entered service several years ago had additional armor packages on the original Type 98 turret and the chassis, the Type 99A1 has its turret top reshaped, having the hump on the turret's top removed by thickening it. This might be the result for changing the height of the turret itself to improve more protection or more space for the tank commander and gunner. Other distinct details are the armor packages on the front and at its sides, the ERA panels have been extended. The Type 99A1 might also have received further upgrades in terms of targeting computers etc.

Type 99A2

The much-improved Type 99 variant, with many major upgrades and improvements. Some of the improvement and upgrades include a longer-barreled gun, a reaction improved aiming system, a digital battlefield information terminal, a newly designed arrow-shaped armor, a larger turret, an expanded tail chamber, a new commander's periscope, an Integrated Propulsion System, a hard kill defense system and an Active Protection System mounted on the turret with millimeter-wave radar that will replace the laser defence system.[2][3]


A Type 99 MBT from the rear.

The development of the new tank was initiated in the early 1990s during the Gulf War. Western tanks had destroyed numerous Iraqi Soviet-made T-72Ms, and were superior to the most advanced tank design in the PLA at the time, the Type 90 tank.[4] The PLA realised that the Type 90 were still no match for the Western MBT designs such as the Challenger 2 and M1A1, and initiated a project to develop a new, modern main battle tank which eventually resulted in the highly advanced and successful Type 99. The design was based on the Chinese T-85IIM, instead of the Type 90. Other influences include the Soviet T-80 and the German Leopard 2.[citation needed] Features include sloped turret armor and an overall low profile turret for increased protection. The driver's compartment is in the front while the fighting compartment lies directly behind it, with the engine installed in the rear.

To accommodate more equipment and ammunition, the Type 98's turret is slightly larger than that of the Type 90, resulting in a gap between the turret and hull in the front. This could be a major disadvantage in battle, as it acts as a shot trap and exposes the turret ring, increasing the likelihood of hits from the front jamming the turret. Norinco has since provided armor upgrades to the Type 99, which minimizes the gap to avoid a shot trap.

The tank is equipped with an active laser defense system. The laser warning receiver can determine the location of an attacking enemy tank, while the high-powered laser dazzler can temporarily damage the enemy tank's optics. It can also be used as a secure communications device.

Counter Measures and Communications

The type-VHF-2000 tank communication system on the Type 98 (and mostly the Type 99 too) has electronic countermeasures, electro-magnetic compatibility and multiple workstation capability. Mounted behind the commander's hatch is a laser communication and IFF system. It is a compact and multifunctional system used for IFF, sending digital command signal, voiced communication and laser detection. its receiver could function as a laser warning system on the wavelength of 0.9–1.06 µm. it has a working range of >3,600m. up and down angle of +45 degree to -10 degree (same as the commander's sight), 360 degree at horizontal level, target detection time is <0.6sec, 60 encrypted IFF code is stored in the system.

Further back on top of the turret is the type-9602 GPS navigation and position signal receiving antenna, its a two channel C/A code receiver and provide 3D military grade coordinates under all weather condition, data on tank's moving direction and speed along with those of the target can be established to provide suitable navigation route. type-9602 has a relatively low precision of 100m that fell short of some tactical requirement, once the Type 98G is equipped with the successfully developed GLONSS/GPS navigation and positioning system, the precision can be increased to 20 meters.

On the back of the gunner's hatch is an active laser suppression system designated JT-1, which is claimed to be designed to directly attack the various guidance systems on the opponent's weapon system. it can be operated by either the commander or the gunner, the laser ray could interfere or permanently damage IR sensor's components (laser ranger; night-vision equipment; TV camera head; telescopic sight; etc.) and has obvious effect against naked eyes. The system consists of a micro-computer control box; target tracking sub-system; laser suppressor and thermal image jammer. The system can be rotated 360 degrees, +90 degree to -12 degree, horizontal tracking speed 45 degree/sec, vertical tracking speed 40 degree/sec, laser energy output is 1.000 MHz, laser pulse's working repetition rate is 10ps, maximum working range is 4,000m, continues working time is 30min, laser beamer has a lifespan of 1.2 million. But other sources suspect it to be ATM guidance device, even a patent description claims it to be laser-based IFF system.[citation needed] A special reporting book published a photo of an electro-optical active protection suite resembling Russian Shtora, called JD-3, but it has never appeared on the Type 99 and instead appeared on some of the prototype 96Gs.[citation needed] In addition, the Type 98/99's driver is equipped with anti-laser glass for protection from similar systems fielded on an opponent's platform.[5]

The new Type 99A2 variant is believed to be also fitted with a hard kill active protection system, similar to the ARENA active defense system but of indigenous design, as well as new millimeter wave radar defense apparatus.[2]


Type 99 Its 125 mm gun in clear view

The ZTZ99's main armament includes a dual-axis fully stabilised 125 mm/51-calibre ZPT98 smoothbore gun with a carousel-style autoloader, a thermal sleeve, and a fume extractor. The gun can be fired by either electronics or manual control. The gun barrel can be replaced within one hour. Loading is mechanical with 41 rounds carried inside the turret and vehicle hull while 22 rounds are stored within the autoloader. The gun can fire about 4 rounds per minute using autoloader and 1~2 rounds per minute with manual loading. Ammunition includes armour-piercing fin stabilized discarding sabot (APFSDS), HEAT, and HE-FRAG projectiles. China has also reportedly manufactured Soviet AT-11 laser-guided anti-tank missiles[citation needed] to be fired from the 125 mm gun for enemy tank with Explosive Reactive Armour, with an effective range of 4 km. In addition, the Chinese have developed depleted uranium (DU) rounds for their tanks and these may be available for the Type 99. Its muzzle velocity is 1780 m/s.[6] The 3rd generation kinetic energy armour-piercing ammunition for the 125 mm tank gun is the APFSDS round with a 30:1 length/calibre heavy tungsten alloy penetrator and is claimed to be capable of penetrating 860  mm steel armor at a distance of 2,000 m.[6] A HEAT shell was able to defeat 1100 mm rolled homogenous armor.[7] A depleted uranium (DU) APFSDS round is available which is claimed to be able to penetrate 1050mm steel armour at a distance of 2,000 m.[8][9]

From Type 98 to all Type 99 variants, they are all armed with a ZPT98 125 mm smoothbore gun with a length/calibre ratio of 51:1. The barrel is made of high-intensity PCrN13NoV, muzzle velocity is comparable to that of Soviet 2A46M-1 type 125 mm gun. Hydraulic self-strengthening technology has resulted in a much stiffer barrel, the length is 6,412 mm. The thermal sleeve is of a double aluminium plate structure with air gap, it consists of 5 non-interchangeable parts, its effective rate is 70%. A severely damaged ZPT98 can have its parts repaired and/or replaced on the battlefield within one hour.


Currently, the actual armor composition of the Type-99/ZTZ-99 remains unknown. There are public photos of experimental Chinese composite armors, specifically Al2O3 under test. The armor didn't sustain any significant damage after being shot by a T-72C 125 mm armament seven times or a 105 mm armament nine times in a range of 1,800 meters.[citation needed] The front armor protection, with added ERA, would be estimated to be equivalent to 1200 mm of steel armor against chemical energy weapons on the turret, and about 1000mm against APFSDS on the turret.[citation needed] [9]

Another theory that has been suggested is that the armor additions are not ERA (Explosive Reactive Armour), but composite layers in block form. The reason is that the blocks are too large to be effectively used as ERA, since one detonation leads to a large unprotected area. Further support is given in the fact that Eastern Bloc armies had two armor packages after the introduction of ERA. Live ERA blocks for wartime and composite blocks for peacetime, as maintaining ERA blocks during operational conditions is both expensive and hazardous as well as leading to an increase in weight.

Fire Control and observation

The driver's position.

Fire accuracy is attained by the laser rangefinder, wind sensor, ballistic computer, and thermal barrel sleeve, while essential muzzle reference system is invisible in released photographs. Dual axis stabilization ensures effective firing on the move. The commander has six periscopes and a stabilized panoramic sight. Both the commander and gunner have roof-mounted stabilized sights fitted with day/thermal channels, a laser rangefinder and an auto tracker facility. The commander has a display showing the gunner's thermal sight, enabling the commander to fire the main gun. The Thermal Imaging System (TIS) with cooled detector using processing in the element (SPRITE) technology has narrow field of view magnification of ×11.4 and ×5 in wide field of view.

The Type 99 is also fitted with a computerized onboard information processing system, which can collect information from vehicle navigation (Inertia/GPS), observation systems and sensors, process it in the computer and display it on the commander's display, giving the ability of real-time command and beyond-vision-range target engaging.


The Type 99 is powered by a liquid cooled, turbocharged 1,500 hp diesel derived from the German MB871ka501 diesel technology. At its current battle weight of 54 tons, this gives a power-to-weight ratio of about 27.78 hp/ton. The maximum speed on road is 80 km/h and is claimed to be 60 km/h on cross country.[1] Acceleration from 0 to 32 km/h only takes 12 seconds. The transmission provides seven forward and one reverse gears.[10]


  •  People's Republic of China: 700+ in service[11]

Related or preceding designs

Tanks of comparable role, performance and era


External links


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