Jaguar tank used an improved Type 59 chassis, a T-54 variant made in China.

In the 1970s, the diplomatic relationship between the United States and China changed dramatically, moving from confrontation to dialogue to stabilize the global balance of power, creating a counterbalance to the Soviet Union, as well as Strengthen Beijing’s position in the world arena. As a result, military cooperation between the two great powers was also established, in which the United States agreed to transfer to China many important military technologies, Jaguar main battle tank was one of the legacies of this period.

Jaguar can be considered a rare military cooperation project between the US and China since the end of World War II. It was expected to help Beijing modernize its Type 59 tanks or its variants. From a political perspective, a project like Jaguar was unthinkable during the Cold War but the warming in Washington and Beijing relations set the stage for Jaguar.

Jaguar MBT review

The Jaguar development program took place in the mid-1980s, the first prototype was introduced in 1988, the two main developers were Cadillac Gage and the China National Machinery & Equipment Import & Export Corporation. As expected Jaguar would be completed in 1989 but the Tiananmen event has seriously affected the project, the US and China had lost their common voice. Beijing then showed no interest in this main battle tank. Left alone, Cadillac Gage continued its work by combining a new hull and turret in October 1989.

Jaguar tank used an improved Type 59 chassis, a T-54 variant made in China. Combined with a Western-style turret, the Jaguar tank weighs 41.7 tons, a length of 9.6m, a width of 3.13m, a height of 2.62m and a crew of 4 solider. The new turret was formed by flat armor plates installed at different angles. The engine compartment and fuel tanks on the shelves over the tracks were armour-protected.

The Jaguar’s original V-12 engine had been replaced with a 750 horsepower Detroit Diesel 8V-92TA diesel engine, an Allison XTG-411 automatic transmission with 4 forward and 2 reverse gears. Jaguar suspension was similar to Type 59, they used the same standard steel tracks but the wheel and torsion bar are different types.

The maximum speed of Jaguar reached 55 km/h on flat roads, a range of 540 km. It was capable of crossing 60% slopes, running on 30% inclined planes, crossing obstacles 0.8m high, crossing 2.7m wide trenches, wading into 1.4m deep water when not prepared or 4.5 m with extra breathing tube attached.

The Soviet-made 100 mm gun was replaced with the M68 105 mm rifled gun fitted with a thermal sleeve, which was developed by the US based on the British Ordnance L7 105mm gun. A Marconi fire control system which was originally developed for the American light tank Stingray was fitted. The vehicle incorporated a Cadillac-Gage weapon stabilizer and gunner’s sight equipped with an integral laser rangefinder. The main gun of this MBT was two-axis stabilized with 34 shells, an auxiliary weapon was a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun and a M2HB heavy machine gun with 600 bullets mounted on the tower, accompanied by 8 smoke grenade launchers.

The protection of Jaguar was much better than the original Type 59, it could be fitted with explosive reactive armor when necessary, in addition, the tank was equipped with automatic fire suppression systems, and NBC protection. New generation devices were also equipped, notably the passive thermal viewfinder, laser rangefinder, digital computer, advanced fire control system, etc. Jaguar was capable of destroying moving targets from the first shot with very high probability.

Despite completing the development stage and producing the first prototype, Cadillac Gage’s efforts could not help Jaguar survive when it lost its largest customer, China. On the other hand, the weapons market during the Cold War tanks was just an ordinary commodity, any country could buy large numbers of tanks from the Soviet Union at a cheaper price that drove Jaguar to the end.

It can be said that the Jaguar military cooperation program most clearly shows US and Chinese relations. From the time Jaguar appeared, it created a confusion for many military experts at that time. An upgraded Chinese tank with American technology and itself derived from a Soviet tank, eventually equipped with British weapons. Jaguar’s fate quickly ended due to the opposing political views between Washington and Beijing, as well as skepticism about its role in modern warfare, only 2 prototypes were completed.

However, the Jaguar project was not completely meaningless, many of the technologies applied on it were later fitted to the Stingray light tank, another Caddilac Gage product.

As for China, after the Jaguar project fell apart, Beijing began to research and develop its own Type 59 upgrades based on technologies it already has on hand or purchased from abroad. The 105mm gun was also one of the Chinese technologies acquired during the modernization of Type 59. On the other hand, in the subsequent variants of the Type 59, they began to strengthen their defenses with a new protective armor system combined with modernization equipments such as automatic fire extinguishing, bulletproof lining for crews, armored ammunition compartment and NBC protection system. Later Type 59 variants were equipped with optical reconnaissance equipment to support night operations, fire control computer systems and many other electronic equipment, helping it close the gap with major battle tanks of both the West and Russia.

After 30 years since the Jaguar project failed, China’s technology for making tanks has changed dramatically, it was developed not only by foreign technology but also by the internal power of China. The current main battle tanks of China are among the best tanks in the world, even surpassing some Western countries.


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