The Type 62 light tank was designed to be a downscaled Type 59 main battle tank.

Developed as a light version of the Type 59 medium tank starting in 1957 by NORINCO, the Type-62 was capable of maneuvering in the swampy and mountainous terrain that was common in Southern China at that time. The first prototype was built in 1962. Later the vehicle underwent several modernizations.

The vehicle was classified as a light tank, is virtually a scaled-down Type 59 MBT and has a lower ground pressure. In addition to being used by the Chinese Army the Type 62 is also used by the Chinese marines who come under naval command. The Type-62 can accompany infantry into the worst terrain for motorized vehicles. This was also the reason why the Type 62 served for 50 years – the longest in the Chinese army until retiring in 2013. About 1,500 were produced between 1963 and 1989, and still in use with other nations.

The Type 62 light tank was designed to be a downscaled Type 59 main battle tank, armed with a smaller 85 mm Type 62-85TC rifled main gun and with a much simpler gunner sight and thinner armour in order to reduce overall weight. The layout of the tank is identical to the Type 59, with the driver seated at the front of the hull on the left and the other three crew members in the turret. The commander and gunner are seated on the left of the turret with the loader on the right. The engine and transmission are at the rear of the hull.

The tank weighs only 21 tons compared to 36 tons for the Type 59. It has an overall length of 7.9 m, width of 2.9 m, and height of 2.3 m. The torsion bar suspension consists of five roadwheels with a distinct gap between the first and second wheels. The drive sprocket is at the rear and the idler at the front.

Armor of the Type 62 light tank is relatively thin. It protects only from small arms bullets and artillery splinters. These tanks were fitted with automatic fire extinguishing system, but lacked NBC protection system. Combat experience showed that the Type 62 tanks are highly vulnerable on the battlefield to all anti-tank weapons. Like the Type 59 the Type 62 light tank has a capability to make its own smoke screen by injecting raw diesel fuel into the exhaust manifold.

Primary armament consists of 85 mm Type 62-85TC rifled main gun with fume extractor almost at the end of the barrel. A total of 47 rounds for the main gun are carried. Maximum range of effective fire is only 1,200 meters. Accuracy of the Type 62 is poor as it lacks fire control system or night vision equipment. Only simple optical sights are used for aiming. Late production models were fitted with laser rangefinders.

As a secondary armament the Type 62 light tank was given the 12.7 mm Type 54 anti-aircraft heavy machine gun mounted on a rotatable mount on top of the loader’s hatch on the right hand side of the roof of the turret and two 7.62 mm Type 59T medium machine guns, one mounted coaxially with the main gun and the other one mounted at the bow of the tank. Also a 7.62 mm Type 59T anti-aircraft medium machine gun can be additionally fitted to left hand side turret hatch.

In effort to reduce the overall weight of the tank the original 12150L 12-cylinder liquid-cooled diesel engine from Type 59 tank was powered down from 523 hp (390 kW) to 430 hp (321 kW). This modified version of the engine weights considerably less and was designated 12150L-3. This new engine gave the Type 62 a maximum road speed of 60 km/h, maximum cross country speed of 35 km/h, maximum road operational range of 500 km and power-to-weight ratio of 20.5 hp/tonne. The tank can cross 0.8 m high vertical obstacles, 2.85 m trenches, 30° side slopes and ford 1.4 m deep water obstacles.

The Type 62 was primarily deployed in Southern China. It first saw combat during the Vietnam War. The PRC supplied the Type 62 light tanks to the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) in the 1960s and 1970s and took part in the Ho Chi Minh Campaign in 1975. In 1979 it again saw combat against the PAVN during the Sino–Vietnamese War, when the PLA used about two hundred tanks, mostly Type 62s. They suffered severe losses in combat due to tank’s poor protection, as the tank’s thin armour could be easily penetrated by RPG launchers.

An upgrade package was developed for the Type 62 soon after the war and was designated Type 62-I. Based on the improvement programs after the Sino–Vietnamese War the Type 62 was found to be too lightly armoured and too poorly armed to be used as a normal tank. Of the two hundred tanks which invaded Vietnam about half were knocked out, underscoring the Type 62’s lack of armour and armament. Since then the Type 62 has been shifted to secondary duties in Southern China, such as reconnaissance, fire support and combat with enemy lightly armoured vehicles.

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