Type 79 Tank

Type 79 Tank model: Type 79-II Improved Export Model

The Type 79 Tank is the PLA designation of the Type 69-III, an improved model of the earlier Type 69 Tank featuring Western technology.

The original Type 69 and Type 69-I prototype tanks had not been accepted into Chinese PLA (Peoples Liberation Army) service, nor the upgraded Type 69-II, which was exported to 7 other countries.

Type 79 Tank Development

The improving relations between China and Western countries such as America and Britain following the Sino-Soviet Split allowed China to import new technology. This included the Marconi fire-control system and image-enhancement night vision.

The first Type 79 mock-up was completed in 1981 followed by 2 prototypes in 1983. The finalised design was ready for production in 1984.

The vehicle has a standard four man crew. The drive sits in the front left of hull with ammunition storage to his right.The driver’s hatch has three periscope vision blocks and the centre vision block can be removed and replaced with a low-light periscope with a 50m range.

Centrally mounted in the hull is the turret, which has a full 360 degree traverse. The Commander and Gunner sit in tandem on the left side of the hull, with the commander in an elevated position behind the Gunner. To their right is the main gun and breach located in the centre of the turret with the Loader (aka Operator) standing on the right side of the turret.

Type 79 Tank Firepower

Type 79 Tank

Type 79 Tank on PLA Exercise

The Type 79 (aka WZ-121D) was the first of the Type 69 models to use a 105mm rifled main gun, the improved Type 83 fitted with a thermal sleeve to regulate barrel temperature for improved performance. The 105mm main gun could be identified by its fume extractor centrally located in the barrel.

It was fitted with  the Marconi Fire-Control System and image-enhancement night vision, which was later replaced with a thermal imager on later manufactured vehicles.

Type 79 Tank Protection

The Type 79 is an all-steel construction of varying thickness. It has a relatively low profile relying on sloped steel armor over the hull front and an oval-shaped turret.

The later production models were equipped with sections of storage rack that ran around the turret. It is not clear if this was strong enough to act as bar armor against RPG attacks. Anything stored in the racks would have assisted HEAT ammunition penetrate the turret.

It  could be fitted with Explosive Reactive Armor over the hull and turret front to protect against tank fired HEAT rounds and Anti-Tank Missiles.

Type 79 Tank Mobility

Type 79 Tank

Type 79 Tank

The Type 79 was fitted with metal tracks, but had the addition of rubber pads. This reduced the vibrations of the vehicle when travelling road and enabled it to go faster. The reduced vibrations lowered the level of fatigue the crew experience and any potential damage to delicate electronics in the vehicle.

The Type 79 had an improved liquid-cooled 730hp diesel engine, increasing its power to weight ratio giving an improved acceleration and slope climbing ability.

Type 79-II Tank

There isn’t a great deal of knowledge about this tank. It’s reported that it was an improved export model with a new Fire Control System and new engine.

Type 79 (69-II) Tank Specifications


Main Gun 105mm, Rifled
Elevation ?
Secondary Weapons x1 coaxial 7.62mm MG, x1 12.7mm MG
Ammunition Storage ?
Engine 730hp Diesel
Transmission Manual
Top Road Speed 50 km/h
Road Range 420+ km
Fuel Capacity 935 Litres
Vertical Obstacle 0.8m
Water Capability 1.4m
Trench Crossing 2.7m
Gradient 60%
Side Slope 40%
Length Gun Forward 8.58m
Length Hull 6.24m
3.307m (incl side-skirts)
Height 2.8m (mount 12.7mm MG)
Ground Clearance 0.425m
Weight 36,700kg aka 36.7 tonne combat
NBC Protected Yes
Armor Type Steel/Explosive Reactive (ERA)
Active Protection Systems No
Commander Yes
Gunner Yes
Loader Yes
Driver Yes
Additional Crew
Troops Carried n/a

See Also: