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Type 96 Tank

Type 96 Main Battle Tank

Type 96 Tank
Unveiled / Entered Service
Type 96 Tank
In Service
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Table of Contents

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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 96A was unveiled.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Variants and Marks

Type 96A

The Type 96A Tank is a second generation Chinese Main Battle Tank. It entered PLA service in 2006 as an upgraded version of the earlier Type 96 Tank. READ MORE

VT-2 Tank

Export variant of Type-96A. READ MORE

Type 96B

The Type 96B Tank (aka ZTZ 96B Tank) is the latest version of the Type 96 Tank and made its first public debut at the 2016 Tank Biathlon. READ MORE



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.


Main Gun
125mm, calibre Length 48 smoothbore Elevation -4 to +12 (?)
Secondary Weapons
Coaxial 7.62mm Machine Gun, commanders 50 cal machine gun
Ammunition Storage
x42 125mm, x2,350 7.62mm, x500 12.7mm
1000hp Liquid-cooled, turbocharged Diesel
Top Road Speed
65 km/h
Road Range
400 km
Fuel Capacity
Vertical Obstacle
Water Capability
1.4m (5m with Snorkel)
Trench Crossing
60% (?)
Side Slope
30% (?)
Length Gun Forward
Length Hull
6.33m (?)
2.3m (roof top)
Ground Clearance
41.5 tonne combat
NBC Protected
Standard Armor(s) Type
Steel, Composite, Spaced, Modular
Optional Add-on Armor(s) Type
Active Protection Systems
Commander, Gunner, Driver