The Type 96 Tank is a second generation Chinese Main Battle Tank that numerically forms the backbone of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.  It entered service in 1997 and in 2006 its upgraded version, the Type 96G was unveiled.

Type 96 Tank Development

Type 96 Tank

Type 96 Tank Prototype Monument outside the People’s Liberation Army Tank Museum

During the 1980’s and 1990’s China North Industries Corporation (Norinco) completed development and production of a string of tanks based on the Type 88 Tank. Whilst the Type 88, Type 88B and Type 88A entered PLA service with a cast egg-shaped turret, new tanks with a welded turret on a similar (if not identical) hull were developed. These were the Type 85-II series.

Originally mounting the same 105mm rifled main gun of the Type 88, The Type 85-II was fitted with a 125mm smoothbore and autoloader, resulting in the Type 85-IIM. It is believed in Western publications that due to the almost identical external shape, the Type 96 is the Type 85-IIM for PLA service.

Others refer to the Type 96 as the much earlier Type 88C or Type 85-IIM with the added upgrades of the Type 85-III, but there are no clear Chinese sources supporting these theories.

Accepted into PLA service in 1996, first deliveries of the Type 96 (ZTZ 96) to the PLA started in 1997. Since then the tank has been upgraded to the Type 96A Tank and an export model, the VT-2 has been marketed since 2012.

Type 96 Tank Firepower

Type 96 Tank 2C46M-1 Main Gun

Type 96 Tank 2C46M-1 Main Gun

The Type 96 was the first mass-produced tank in PLA service to use a 125mm, caliber Length 48 smoothbore main gun called the 2C46M-1. It has a thermal sleeve with 4 distinct sections with a seeming running along the top. It has a fume extractor but lacks a TISH on the bore. It is capable of firing launch APFSDS, HEAT and HEAT-FRAG. The Latest BK-27 HEAT ammunition reportedly has a triple shaped charge and maybe the Russian VBK27 HEAT round.

The main gun is loaded via an autoloader, reducing the crew to x3. The autoloader is a similar design to that of the Russian T-72 Tank with a carousel magazine at the bottom of the turret and provides an effective rate of fire of 6 to 8 rounds per minute.

The Type 96 uses the ISFCS-212 image-stabilised Fire Control System, consisting of  laser range finder, wind sensor, Gunners multi-channel sight (1 day, 1 night) and targeting computer. The Commander has a built-in sight in his cupola, but lacks a Commanders Independent Sight. A CIS provides a tank with a “Hunter Killer” capability defining it as a 3rd Generation.

The main gun is stabilized for firing on the move. Secondary weapons include a coaxial 7.62mm Machine Gun and 12.7mm Machine Gun mounted on the Commanders cupola.

Type 96 Tank Protection

Type 96 Tank Turret Armor

Type 96 Tank Turret Armor – Highlighted in Blue is the missing module

The Type 96 hull and turret are a welded steel construction with composite armor added to the hulls upper glacis plate. The front of the turret has modular armor with composite armor inserts. This enables the composite to be updated and also acts as a form of spaced armor.

It is equipped with an NBC protection system and a bank of x6 Smoke Grenade Launchers on either side of the turret. Storage racks run the length of the rear and part of the sides of the turret. It is not known if these can withstand an RPG attack.

Type 96 Tank Mobility

Type 96 Tank Tracks

Type 96 Tank Tracks

The Type 96 engine is the same 1000hp diesel of the Type 85-III prototype, giving the vehicle a top road speed of 65km/h and power-to-weight ratio of 24.1hp/t. It also uses torsion bar suspension. It has an operational range of 400km, which is increased to 600km with external fuel tanks.

Looking at the tracks and wheel layout, there is a larger gap between road wheels 1 to 2 and 2 to 3. You will note there are 3 return rollers at the top marked in yellow circles. The front and rear ones sit on the inside of the tracks teeth and the middle one sits on the outside of the teeth. The Type 96 Tank tracks are solid metal and lack rubber pads.

Type 96 Tank Operators

China: In 2016, IHS Janes reported that “China Daily” had stated some 2000 Type 96 and the upgraded version, the Type 96A tank are in PLA Service. The Type 96A is still in production for the forcible future (until production swaps to the Type 96B) despite the production of the superior and more capable 3rd Generation Type 99.

Sudan (Speculated): Some sites state that the Sudan has received the Type 96, however this is incorrect. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Database shows only x25, Type 85-IIM Tanks to have been delivered between 2002 to 2006.

Type 96 Tank Specifications

Firepower
Main Gun  125mm, calibre Length 48 smoothbore
Elevation -4 to +12 (?)
Secondary Weapons x1 coaxial 7.62mm MG, x1 12.7mm MG
Ammunition Storage x42 125mm, x2,350 7.62mm, x500 12.7mm
Mobility
Engine 1000hp Liquid-cooled, turbocharged Diesel
Transmission Manual
Top Road Speed 65 km/h
Road Range 400 km
Fuel Capacity ?
Vertical Obstacle ?
Water Capability 1.4m (5m with Snorkel)
Trench Crossing ?
Gradient 60% (?)
Side Slope ?
Dimensions
Length Gun Forward 10.65m
Length Hull 6.33m (?)
Width
3.3m
Height 2.3m (roof top)
Ground Clearance ?
Weight 41,500kg aka 41.5 tonne combat
Protection
NBC Protected Yes
Armor Type Steel/Composite/Modular
Active Protection Systems No

See Also:

Type 96 Tank Series Images Page

Type 96A Tank Page

Type 96B Tank Page

References:

Fire Control – http://baike.baidu.com/view/817067.htm

Worldwide  Equipment Guide U.S. ARMY TRADOC G-2

Specifications – https://web.archive.org/web/20110307061214/http://www.sinodefence.com/army/tank/type96.asp

http://armstrade.sipri.org/armstrade/page/trade_register.php

Service Numbers – http://www.janes.com/article/62900/china-s-type-96b-mbt-expected-to-replace-pla-s-older-tanks