Initial Operational Capability (IOC):
Also Known As: T-96, Type 85 III, Type 90, Type 96 and ZTZ96
Description: The Type 96A, also reported as Type 90 for export customers, Main Battle Tank (MBT) is an improved derivative of the Type 85 II tank which was developed on the basis of the Soviet-made T-54 chassis. After the Gulf War in 1991, the Chinese military realized that Type 88 was no match to Western-made tanks and launched the development of more advanced MBTs which led to Type 96 and Type 99. The Type 96A MBT, originally known as Type 85 III, was deployed by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) at the end of the 1990s replacing Type 59 and Type 69 in PLA's elite units.
The Type 96A features advanced modular armor for enhanced survivability, a new turret, a stabilized 125mm smoothbore gun with autoloader, thermal imaging and laser rangefinder, and an accurate fire control system. Moreover, the Type 96A MBT can be outfitted with Explosive Reactive Armor enhancing its survivability. Overall, Type 96A MBT is the one of the most powerful and sophisticated main battle tanks currently being produced in China and its performance is close to Western-made MBTs. NORINCO developed this tank based on the Type 88C design.
In addition to the 125mm main gun, Type 96A MBT has one roof-mounted 12.7mm and one coaxial 7.62mm machine guns. The 125mm cannon is capable of firing Russian-made Refleks anti-tank missile. Its 780-hp diesel engine provides a top speed on road of 65 kilometers per hour, a 1,000-hp engine is also available for export customers. As of late 2005, the PLA had received an estimated 1,500 - 2,000 tanks. Series production at NORINCO could keep on through 2010 or beyond, bringing the total production to 3,000 units. Type 96A may be upgraded with advanced technologies coming from Type 99 MBT. As of August 2014 the People's Liberation Army has deployed roughly 2,500 Type 96A tanks as the backbone of its heavy armored forces.
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