NORINCO Type 99 (ZTZ-99) History

The Type 99 is a relatively new addition to the armored corps of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China. The Type 99 was first unveiled in 1999 and was a showpiece of the October 1999 National Day Parade. To date (2020), total production from NORINCO has reached beyond 1,000 units, replacing many of China's aged, outgoing Cold War-era designs in circulation. The Type 99 represents a major Chinese break from the previous heavy reliance on Soviet-Russian tank design influence - bringing the nation on par with global counterparts.

The Type 99 entered frontline service with Chinese forces in 2001 and represents a 3rd Generation MBT design.

The Type 99 was born from work undertaken by Chinese engineers to design, develop, and produce a wholly Chinese tank. At this point, the "Type 80" had evolved into the export "Type 85" and the domestic "Type 88". The Type 88 was further evolved to become the "Type 96" of 1997 in service. Meanwhile the Type 90 (Type 90-II) was used to form the Pakistani Army's Al-Khalid series while this same mark was known domestically to the Chinese Army under the designation of "Type 98" and its improved form became the "Type 98G". The Type 98G then formally became the "Type 99" when introduced in 2001.

Despite this, the Type 96 remains the primary fighting tank of PLA forces due to costs in running, maintaining, and repairing the Type 99 series.

The pilot vehicle of the Type 99 carried the designation of Project 9910 and industrial designation of WZ-123. Prototypes were powered by a 1,200 horsepower diesel engine. The first production forms were marked simply as Type 99, Type 99A1, or Type 99G and showcased applique armor at the wedge-shaped turret, added a modern thermal sighting device, mated the engine to a semi-automatic gearbox, and supported 3rd Generation Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) blocks for enhanced survivability.

An improved model, the Type 99A, was publically revealed in the 2015 Victory Day Parade. This variant was established back in 2003 and tested in 2007 until operationally fielded in 2011. This mark carried an relocated driver's hatch (centered in the hull from front-left), enhanced Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) support through its main gun, an active protection system / laser warning receiver to increase crew and systems survivability, support for 3rd Generation ERA blocks, and remodeled, enlarged turret with applique armor and sharper angles. Power is no from a 1,500 horsepower turbocharged diesel unit.

Primary armament of the series is the powerful 125mm ZPT-98 smoothbore gun attached to an auto-loading system that pulls projectiles from awaiting stocks (thus removing the traditional fourth crewman from the equation). The main gun can also fire laser-guided ATGMs similar in fashion to Soviet-Russian tank designs. The main gun is supported by a 7. 62mm Type 59 anti-infantry machine gun in a co-axial mounting in the front turret face. A 12. 7mm Type 85 Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) is featured for Anti-Aircraft (AA) / anti-armor (light) service. An all-modern Fire Control System (FCS) aids the tank crew in firing on-the-move actions and increasing first-hit round accuracy. The Type 99 also sports an integrated active laser defense system that assists the crew in spotting any engaging enemy tanks at distance and attempts to debilitate the target's optics system through blinding the enemy crew.

Beyond its improved firing capabilities, the Type 99 incorporates crew survival features on par with Russian and Western offerings. The turret is welded and constructed with composites and spaced modular armor. Saw tooth "skirt" armor panels help to protect the upper regions of the hull sides and track. The vehicle's low profile, typical of Soviet-Russian tank designs, also aids in making the tank a hard target to hit on the horizon at range.

As fielded, the Type 99 features a maximum road speed of 80 kmh with an operational range out to 600 kilometers on internal fuel (this can be augmented by the carrying of a large fuel drum over the hull rear). The chassis is suspended atop a torsion bar suspension system which provides the needed comfort over rough terrain / cross-country.

The Type 99 MBT influenced the design and development of the export-minded VT-4 MBT detailed elsewhere on this site. The Type 99 itself has not been offered for export to Chinese allies / customers to date.

Currently, the modern Chinese Army fields over 500 Type 99A MBTs along with about 500 original Type 99 tank units. This is in addition to 2,500 Type 96/96A/96B tanks and the Type 15 Light Tank forming the Chinese armored spearhead.

NORINCO Type 99 (ZTZ-99) Specification

BASICS

Year:
2001
Crew:
3
Manufacturing:
China NORth INdustries COmpany (NORINCO) - China
Production:
1,005 Units

ROLES

- Tank vs Tank

- Main Battle Tank (MBT)

- Frontline

STRUCTURAL

Length:

36. 09 ft (11 m)

Width/Span:

11. 15 ft (3. 4 m)

Height:

7. 22 ft (2. 2 m)

Weight:

60 tons (54,000 kg; 119,050 lb)

POWER

1 x 1500HB V12 liquid-cooled, diesel fueled turbocharged engine developing 1,500 horsepower driving conventional track-and-wheel arrangement.

PERFORMANCE

Maximum Speed:

50 mph (80 kph)

Maximum Range:

280 miles (450 km)

ARMAMENT

1 x 125mm main gun in turret with autoloader function.

1 x 7. 62mm co-axial machine gun in turret.

1 x 12. 7mm Anti-Aircraft (AA) heavy machine gun at commander's cupola on turret roof.

10 x Smoke Grenade Launchers in two banks of five grenades each on front turret sides.

Ammunition:

ESTIMATED:

42 x 125mm projectiles.

2,000 x 7. 62mm ammunition.

500 x 12. 7mm ammunition.

10 x Smoke grenades.

VARIANTS

Type 99 - Base Series Designation.

Project 9910 - Protoype designation; 1,200 horsepower diesel engine.

WZ-123 - Alternative prototype designation.

Type 99 - Initial production form; applique armor; 3rd Gen ERA block support; enhanced thermal vision sighting device; semi-automatic gearbox; wedged-shaped turret structure.

Type 99G - Alternative Type 99 designation.

Type 99A1 - Alternative Type 99 designation.

Type 99A - Improved model of 2011; relocated driver's hatch to front-center from front-left; 3rd Gen ERA support; 1,500 horsepower diesel engine; improved missile-firing from main gun; laser warning receiver; enlarged turret with revised armor scheme.

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