Chinese media confidently stated, Type 99 is the “King of tanks” in Asia, with offensive and defensive power that completely surpasses rivals from Japan, South Korea or India.


In the past, Chinese weapon technology has learned a lot from other countries, usually the Soviet Union. But today, much of China’s hardware is becoming completely localized.

The impetus is to create products that are entirely Chinese in nature, and it has come a long way, although the quality and reliability may still be an issue.

Similar to other weapons, China now has the largest force of tanks on the planet, half of them obsolete. This is changing rapidly as Beijing is actively developing new models and producing them in large quantities. China has a total of about 7,000 tanks, of which the Type 99 is the country’s most advanced main battle tank.

Chinese media confidently stated, Type 99 is the “King of tanks” in Asia, with offensive and defensive power that completely surpasses rivals from Japan, South Korea or India. However, US military analysts say that China’s new tank is actually only equivalent to the first generation M1 Abrams. Comparison of parameters, especially with the latest variant, the M1A2C Abrams, the Chinese tanks are still far behind.

Mao Ming, chief engineer of the Type-99 “super tank”, also acknowledged that the new tanks of the country are very modern, but they still have many technical problems and have not reached the world’s advanced level and are not as refined, especially in the engine departament.


Type-99 is considered the quintessence of China’s defense industry, and the pride of the country. The Type 99 is also known as the ZT99, which originated from the Type 90-II, a prototype developed in the early 1990s to replace the Type 88 tanks.

The Type 90-II was developed based on studies obtained from T-72 tanks: the chassis was based on the T-72’s hull combined with Chinese subsystems. The Type 90-II did not eventually join the People’s Liberation Army service, but it was an export success. It is better known as Al-Khalid, a licensed tank in Pakistan.

At home, China continued to develop Type 90-II, which led to Type 98 derivative or WZ-123, which were first seen in rehearsals for the 1999 National Parade and were officially disclosed on October 1, 1999. Shortly after, a slightly improved version was named Type 98G, later renamed Type 99 or ZT99.

The first generation of the Type 99 was produced from 2001 to 2011. An upgraded version later called the Type 99A was manufactured in 2007 and continues to be produced today. In total, nearly 900 Type 99s have been produced.


Basically, the Type 99 is a 54-ton steel block, which looks quite similar to the Russian T-72 series, but a little longer. The Chinese tank has a hull length of 7m (23 ft), a width of 3.7m (12 ft) and a height of 2.35m (7.7 ft).

The tank’s design is a mix of Russia and the West with an angled welded turret. Applique modular armor blocks are evenly spaced along with skirt armor on each side. The frontal protection is comparable to the M1 Abrams.

In the upgraded Type 99A, explosive reactive armor was added to the front of the turret and hull, providing protection against tandem-charge warheads. Also, the weight of Type 99A increased to 58 tons.

Similar to the advanced Western tanks, the Type 99 has a nuclear bio-chemical protection system as well as an automatic fire detection and extinguishing system. The storage baskets on either side of the turret and the rear are buffer spaces, protected by explosive reactive armor.

The tank is also equipped with an active protection system, called the Active Protection System GL5. This system can track warheads and anti-tank missiles from a distance of 100 meters and fire two small missiles to intercept.

The suspension system consists of six rubber tired road wheels on each side with power sprocket at the rear. The first, second and sixth road wheels are equipped with special hydraulic shock-buffer. The automatic reloading system reduced the crewman to three, including the driver, gunner and commander. The driver sits in the center front of the hull.


To ensure maneuverability, the Type 99 is equipped with a 1,500-horsepower liquid-cooled V12 twin-turbo diesel 33.9 litre diesel engine. The ratio of power to weight is about 27.78 hp per ton.

The manual transmission in the original version was replaced with a semi-automatic transmission in later upgraded versions, including 6 forward and 1 reverse.

When on the road, Type 99 can reach a maximum speed of 80 km/h and off-road speed of 60 km/h. Operational range of 600 to 800 km before refueling. The tank can be equipped with a snorkel for deep fording. With the deep fording kit, the Type 99A can cross waters up to 4.5 meters in depth.


In contrast to most Western tanks, which usually have a 120 mm main gun, the Type 99 uses a slightly larger 125 mm smoothbore main gun. Referring to the Type 99 main battle tank, we must mention the 2-plane stabilization system that it is equipped with.

This system allows the Type 99 to fire on the move, accompanied by an automatic loading system that it is said to be inspired by Russia’s T-90. Of course, the Type 99’s main gun can work well in both automatic and manual firing modes. However, even in manual mode, the stabilization system still makes it easier for the gunner to fire.

The first Type 99 version was capable of carrying up to 42 shells, of which 22 in the autoloader, the remaining 20 in stockpiles. The rate of fire is extremely good, up to 8 rounds per minute for automatic reloading and 2 rounds per minute for manual reloading.

Like many other modern tanks, the Type 99 main gun is compatible with a variety of ammunitions, including APFSDS-T, HEAT, high-explosive fragmentation, and the old-style 125mm shells used by the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries.

In addition, the gun of the Type 99 is capable of launching ATGM anti-tank missiles, similar to the current Russian tanks, allowing the increase in destroying efficiency to a maximum of 5 km.

Theoretically this ability could be useful for fighting against low-flying helicopters. Most vehicles are equipped with 12.7 mm heavy machine guns and 7.62mm coaxial machine guns.

The Type 99 is equipped with the improved Fire Control System, thus improving ballistic trajectory under adverse conditions. On improved tank versions, equipped with data links, global positioning systems and other types of communication equipment, allowing combat coordination with other forces such as aircraft and infantry.


Overall, on paper, the Type 99 is impressive, but the Abrams or T-90s have been exported, and have been proven in combat missions. Weapons that have been experienced through battle always have an advantage, but victory can come to any party that is better trained.

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