Details Emerge on China’s New ‘Mountain Tank’

February 3, 2016 Updated: February 7, 2016

A recently-unveiled photo of the Chinese military’s new light tank is the first to show details of the vehicle from the front, including explosive reactive armor blocks.

On Jan. 20, China’s Sina Military Network published a report confirming speculated information about the tank, which first appeared in blog photos in 2011.

Dubbed “ZTQ” (ZTQ being the generic designation for Chinese light tanks) by some bloggers, the armored vehicle has a turret similar to that of the heavier ZTZ-99A2 main battle tank, which is currently China’s most advanced model. The ZTQ carries a 105-millimeter main cannon.

(Sina Military Network)
(Sina Military Network)

Sina says that the gun can fire tungsten alloy shells, which rely on sheer kinetic striking power to penetrate and destroy enemy vehicles, as well as guided missiles. 

According to the website of Jane’s Defence Weekly, the cannon’s main sights and the commander’s optics are likely derived from the new ZTZ-99A2 tank. The gun also seems to feature a shell-tracking radar. Detachable reactive armor blocks and laser detectors can be seen on the large wedge-shaped-turret. Explosive reactive armor is made to explode outwards away from the tank when impacted, 

Coming in at 35 tons, the four-man ZTQ is the latest in a long history of Chinese light tank development that began in the 1950s. In particular, it was feared that southern China, with its soggy rice paddies and poor transport infrastructure, would be too difficult for heavier vehicles to traverse effectively.

While Chinese infrastructure has improved in recent decades, the need to fight in jungle or mountain terrain along China’s southern borders is still relevant. In the 1960s and 1970s, China fought wars with both India and Vietnam, and the ZTQ is intended to shine in these old battlefields.

According to Jane’s, the ZTQ is the result of a project that began in the 2000s. Prior to that, the Chinese military used the lightly-armored, 20-ton ZTQ-62, developed in the 1950s and deployed in the following decade.

The Chinese military has yet to release any official information about the new vehicle.