|Type||Main battle tank|
|Place of origin||China|
|Manufacturer||First Inner Mongolia Machinery Factory|
|Armor||Classified (later models are fitted with armour modules and ERA plates)|
|125 mm smoothbore gun, capable of firing ATGM and depleted uranium round|
|7.62 mm coaxial machine gun
12.7 mm air-defence machine gun
1200 hp (882 kW)
The Type 96 is a Chinese Third Generation main battle tank (MBT). Based on the Type 85-III design, the Type 96 entered service with the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in 1997. An estimated 2,500+ Type 96 tanks are in service with the PLA.
Generally speaking, PLA's tank development can be divided into three generations. The first generation is a version of the Soviet T-54A and its derivatives, produced in China as the Type 59 and Type 69/79. The second-generation main battle tank started with the Type 80, which further branched into the Type 88 and Type 96, developed in parallel by different institutes but all funded by China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO). The Third-generation started with the developmental Type 98, to be heavily modified to yield the latest Type 99 tank.
After the Sino-Soviet split in the 1960s, relations between China and the Soviet Union gradually worsened, leading to border clashes in 1969. By the 1970s, over 1.5 million troops from both sides were stationed along the Sino-Soviet border. At the time the best Chinese tanks were copies of Soviet T-54A tanks, which were hopelessly outmatched by new Soviet designs like the T-62 and T-72.
The People's Liberation Army requested new tanks that could match the Soviets', which led to the development of the Type 69 by 617 Factory (now Inner-Mongolia First Machinery Group Company Ltd), incorporating some technologies from a captured Soviet T-62 tank. However, the Type 69 failed to satisfy PLA requirements and was more of a success in exports (over 2,000 sold) than in domestic use. As a result, new tank development was commenced and a new family of tanks that included many sub-families was developed.
The Type 85 was further developed into the Type 90, but besides a few test vehicles for evaluation, this tank was not adopted by the People's Liberation Army, instead, the tank became the export model for Pakistan which developed the MBT-2000 (Al-Khalid) tank based on the Type 90. This tank was jointly developed by Beijing 201 Institute (China North Vehicle Research Institute) and Inner Mongolia 617 Factory (Inner Mongolia First Machine Group Corporation).
This is the first Chinese tank to incorporate the modular design concept for its armor. The frontal arc of the turret is a modular design so that when more advanced composite armor is developed, it can be readily replace older composite armor.
This was the export model for the next generation main battle tank for Pakistan. The power plant is the British Perkins Shrewsbury CV12-1200 TCA diesel engine (used in the Challenger 2 tank), and the transmission is the French SESM ESM 500 automatic transmission (used in the Leclerc). However, the project was abandoned due to the arms embargo following the 1998 Pakistani nuclear tests.
In order to avoid the problem of embargo and reliance on foreign industry, the power plant of the Type 90-I was replaced by the domestic Chinese equivalent. However, the result was disappointing because China had yet to master the technology: although the power plant was somewhat adequate in the humid climate of southern China, its reliability did not meet the standard in northern China's arid conditions and Pakistan's harsh desert climate.
To overcome the shortcomings of the powerplant in earlier Type 90 versions, Ukrainian 6TD diesel was chosen. The selection was impressive enough that Pakistan decided to adopt this version as its Al-Khalid main battle tank, and 600 tanks were scheduled to be produced in Pakistan by 2007 based on the MBT-2000 which is the upgraded variant of the Type 90-IIM.
Type 96G / Type 96A
In 1995, Norinco developed the Type 85-III prototype with a 1,000-hp diesel engine and explosive reactive armor (ERA), after finally solving the engine problem. After further improvements, including incorporating expertise gained from the Type 90 such as the modular armor design, this version was accepted by the PLA in 1996, and entered service in 1997 as the Type 96. Production of the Type 88 stopped when the Type 96 became available, and the Type 96 was mass-produced in larger numbers than the Type 88, though sometimes mistakenly referred to as the Type 88C.
In comparison to the Type 85 and Type 88, the Type 96 features a new integrated thermal imaging/day sight, a Chinese infra-red/laser jamming system, a more powerful engine, improved electronics and a western-style turret. Recent photos suggest the Type 96 was heavily modified with add-on armor modules and explosive reactive armor, similar to the Type 99's. Its internal electronics may also have been upgraded to Type 99 standard. It features thermal sights aiding the commander and gunner. The three crewmembers have night vision. The commander is also able to target for the gunner. A laser defense system similar to the Shtora has been installed as well. Electro-optical jammers are found on the tank, which are able to jam enemy guided missiles, rangefinders, and designators.
Currently an estimated 2,000 to 2,500 are in service with the People's Liberation Army, and production is likely to continue. Norinco's official designation for the Type 96G'A is ZTZ-96G/A. Similarly to the Soviet Union's two-tank strategy with the basic T-72 and higher-technology T-64 and T-80, the Type 96 is likely to become the standardized main battle tank in service with the PLA throughout the decade, while the more advanced and expensive Type 99 is reserved for its elite units.
- Pakistan Army – About 500 Pakistan made Al Khalid MBT's in service.  Al Khalid tanks are based on Type 90-IIM / MBT-2000 tanks produced by China.
- Sudanese Army – 200 Type 96As. It has been rumored that the first ever recorded kill for the Type 96 was recorded in the 2012 War of Heglig when Sudanese Type 96s destroyed 4 South Sudanese T-72 MBTs. 
- Sri Lanka Army - 22 Al-Khalid MBT's on order from Pakistan. Al Khalid tanks are based on Type 90-IIM / MBT-2000 tanks produced by China.
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- option=com_content&view=article&id=304&Itemid=97 - Bangladesh Army - Type 96 Main Battle Tank