Type 59

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For other uses, see Type 59 (disambiguation).
Type 59
Type 59 bovington.JPG
A Type 59 tank at The Bovington Tank Museum
Type Main battle tank
Place of origin China
Service history
In service 1959 – present
Production history
Manufacturer First Inner Mongolia Machinery Factory, Norinco
Produced 1958 – 1985
Number built 9,500
Specifications
Weight 36 tonnes (35 long tons; 40 short tons)[1]
Length 6.04 metres (19.8 ft) (hull)[1]
Width 3.27 metres (10.7 ft)[1]
Height 2.59 metres (8 ft 6 in)[1]
Crew 4[1]

Armor 20 - 203 mm[2]
Main
armament
100 mm rifled gun
Secondary
armament
2 x Type 59T 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun,[3] Type 54 12.7 mm air-defence machine gun
Engine Model 12150L V-12 liquid-cooled diesel
520 hp (390 kW)
Power/weight 14.44 hp/tonne[1]
Suspension torsion bar
Operational
range
450 km,[1] 600 km with external tanks
Speed 50 kilometres per hour (31 mph)[1]

The Type 59 (Chinese: 59式; pinyin: Wǔjiǔ shì; industrial designation: WZ-120) main battle tank is a Chinese-produced version of the Soviet T-54A tank, the earliest model of the ubiquitous T-54/55 series. The first vehicles were produced in 1958 and it was accepted into service in 1959, with serial production beginning in 1963. Over 10,000 of the tanks were produced by the time production ended in 1980 with approximately 5,500 serving with the Chinese armed forces. The tank formed the backbone of the Chinese People's Liberation Army until the early 2000s (decade) with an estimated 5,000 of the later Type 59-I and Type 59-II variants in service in 2002.

The Type 59 was modified several times during its service with the replacement of the 100 mm Type 59 rifled gun with a 105 mm rifled gun. It was also the basis of several later Chinese tank designs including the Type 69 and Type 79 tanks.

Description[edit]

Note the gap between the first road wheel and the second, and the small hole below the splash board for the bow mounted machine gun.

Essentially the Type 59 is almost identical to the early production Soviet T-54As, however there are some key differences. The Type 59 was not originally fitted with the infrared searchlight or main gun stabilization of the T-54.

The Type 59 has a conventional post-war layout with the fighting compartment at the front, an engine compartment at the rear, and a cast dome-shaped gun turret in the centre of the hull. The hull is welded steel varying in thickness between 99 mm on the front lower glacis to 20 mm on the hull floor. The turret varies from 39–100 mm thick.

The driver sits in the front left of the hull, and is provided with hatch immediately above his seat, which opens to the left. The driver has two pop-up vision blocks which give coverage ahead and slightly to the right when buttoned up. The commander sits in the turret along with the gunner and loader. The commander's hatch is on the turret left, with the gunner sitting forward and below him. The loader sits on the right of the turret and has a hatch above him. The turret has a non-rotating floor, which complicated the crew's operations.

The turret mounts a rifled 100 mm Type 59 cannon, for which 34 rounds are typically carried. A Type 59T 7.62 mm machine gun is mounted coaxially with the main gun. A Type 54 12.7 mm anti-aircraft machine gun (a Chinese copy of the Russian 12.7 mm M1938/46 DShKM[3]) is provided above the gunner's hatch for which 200 rounds is carried. Additionally a Type 59T 7.62 mm bow machine gun is provided for the driver, which fires through a very small hole in the center of the glacis. 3,500 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition are normally carried.

Type 59 tank in Royal Australian Armoured Corps Tank Museum, captured by ARVN troops in South Vietnam on 4 July 1972.

The turret has a powered traverse mechanism that is probably comparable to the T-54 traverse mechanism which can rotate the turret through 360 degrees in 21 seconds. Very early models of the Type 59 gun had manual elevation gear, later replaced with a powered system which allowed the gun to be aimed at between +17 and -4 degrees (the average depression for Western tanks is -10, which allows for better usage of hull-down tactics). Later models added vertical stabilization to make firing on the move practical. An infrared searchlight based night vision system was retrofitted to the tank with infrared periscope for the commander gunner and driver.

The tank is powered by a Model 12150L V-12 liquid-cooled diesel engine, which develops 520 horsepower at 2,000 rpm. The engine feeds a manual gearbox with five forward and one reverse gear. A total of 815 litres of diesel can be carried internally in the tank, with a further 400 litres carried externally giving a maximum road range of 600 kilometers, or approximately 430 km using only internal fuel. The tank has five road wheels on each side with a prominent gap between the first and second road wheel. The track is driven by a drive sprocket at the rear, with an idler at the front. It is notable that there are no return rollers. The suspension is a torsion bar system. Engine exhaust is on the left fender.

Ammunition is stored inside the turret, which increases the odds of a catastrophic secondary explosion should the tank's interior be penetrated by enemy fire. Crew survivability is hence low. (Gelbart 1996:16)

History[edit]

Type 59 in PRC's 10th National Day parade

After the signing of Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance, and Mutual Assistance, the Soviets agreed to assist China in building a tank manufacturing facility to manufacture the T-54A MBT in 1956. Initially, the tanks were assembled with Soviet-supplied parts, which were gradually replaced by Chinese-made components. The tank was accepted into service by the PLA in 1959,[1] and given the designation Type 59.

Over the years, the Type 59 design was enhanced with various domestically developed and western technologies; When the PLA captured a Soviet T-62 during the Sino-Soviet border conflict in 1969, improvements based on the T-62 were incorporated into the Type 59 design to become the Type 69 MBT. The Type 69 was further upgraded with Western technology and became the Type 79 MBT. The Type 59 was therefore, the first in China's first generation of main battle tanks, the Type 79 being the last. The Type 79 was superseded by the Type 80 second-generation MBT.

The Type 59 MBT is also known as WZ-120 by its manufacturer. Over 10,000 were produced between 1959 to mid 1980s,.[1] This tank gained worldwide infamy after the "Tank Man" incident in 1989. The Type 59, and its successor, the Type 69, were widely exported, with thousands sold overseas. Today an estimated 5,000 Type 59 MBTs remain in PLA inventory, but its being supplemented by the more capable Type 96 and Type 99 MBTs.

Combat Service[edit]

The Sino-Vietnamese War was the largest use of tanks to date by the People's Liberation Army. China committed nearly 300 Type 59, Type 62, and Type 63 tanks into the conflict, of which 48 were lost to Vietnamese action. The tanks of 42nd Corps as the vanguard force responsible for cutting off the city of Cao Bằng bore the brunt of the losses, advancing only 30 km in 3 days. The poor performance of tanks in this battle was attributed to the mountainous terrain in North Vietnam that was inherently unsuited for mechanized warfare. The light armor on the Type 62 variant also proved inadequate in protection against small anti-tank weapons.

Variants[edit]

A line-up of Chinese armoured vehicles at Shenyang training base, in the foreground are two Type 59-II tanks. Note the bore evacuator in the middle of the barrel.
Albanian Type 59 Tanks at the border during the Albania-Yugoslav border incident (1999).

Type 59[edit]

The basic variant, a T-54A clone without IR searchlight. Entered production in 1957.

Type 59-I[edit]

Improved variant fitted with a Type 69-II 100 mm rifled gun, as well as a laser rangefinder, hydraulic servo-system, primitive fire-control system, automatic fire suppression system, and rubber track skirt. The Type 59-I includes several versions with different armour and fire control configurations.

Type 59-II[edit]

The Type 59-II (also known as WZ-120B) is an upgrade mounting a 105 mm. rifled gun, similar to the Royal Ordnance L7, and adding an image intensification/infrared night sight. Mass increased to 36.5 tonnes.[4]

Type 59D[edit]

The Type 59D (also known as WZ-120C) is an upgrade with explosive reactive armour, computerized stabilized fire-control system, the 105 mm. gun of the Type 59-II, and night vision system.[4]

The Type 59D1 has a longer 105 mm. gun, called Type 83A. The gun has a range of 2000 m., and may fire ATGMs out to 5500 m. A thermal sight is available.[4]

Type 59G[edit]

An upgrade of the Type 59.[5]

Type 62 Light Tank[edit]

Main article: Type 62

In the late 1950s, the PLA submitted requirements for a light tank more suitable for operations in China's southern region. Development on the new Type 62 tank began in 1958, which was a scaled-down Type 59 MBT with simplified equipment. The Type 62 light tank entered batch production in 1963, and approx. 800 were produced by 1978. The Type 62 light tank weights only 21 tons, and is equipped with a Type 62-85TC 85 mm rifled gun, and 3 machine guns. An improved Type 62-I version was produced with better FCS with laser rangefinder, and turret storage racks for added protection. Other versions based on the Type 62 include the Type 79 recovery vehicle (prototype only) and Type 82 earth-mover.

The PLA deployed the Type 62 light tank to Vietnam during the 1979 Sino-Vietnam conflict. They found that the thin armor of the Type 62 tank could be penetrated easily by hand-held anti-tank weapons, such as the 40 mm RPG. The Type 62 tank suffered severe losses during the conflict, which convinced the PLA to develop new second-generation MBTs. The Type 62 tank received a major upgrade in 2000, with new welded turret, vertically stabilized 105 mm rifled gun, fire-control system, night vision device, smoke grenade launchers, and explosive reactive armor (ERA) package.[6]

Type 69 / 79[edit]

Main article: Type 69/79

Improved Type 59 MBT built by 617 Factory (Inner Mongolia First Machine Group Co. Ltd). Only saw limited service in the PLA, but was an export success in the 1980s with more than 2,000 sold worldwide.

Type 73[edit]

This armored recovery vehicle is a Type 59 with its turret removed. The vehicle is armed with a single 12.7 mm machine gun. This armored recovery vehicle is not believed to have a winch and is limited to towing operations.[3]

Foreign variants[edit]

United Kingdom[edit]

The 105-mm L7 gun was offered as an upgrade package for owners of the Type 59. No Type 59s served with British forces.[3] Marconi offered their Marksman anti-aircraft system as a conversion to operators of the Type 59. The Marksman consisted of a twin 35 mm autocannon system in a turret that could be fitted to almost any MBT.[3]

Iran[edit]

North Korea[edit]

  • Kok'san - 170 mm artillery piece, based on the Type 59 chassis.

Pakistan[edit]

Al-Zarrar MBT
  • Al-Zarrar - Heavy Industries Taxila of Pakistan has introduced the Al-Zarrar Main Battle Tank. The Al-Zarrar series was designed to improve and rebuild the Pakistani army's Type 59 tanks by way of more modern armament, fire control, defensive equipment, etc. Improvements include:

Operators[edit]

Map of Type 59 operators in blue with former operators in red

Current operators[edit]

 Albania

  • ~721 Type 59 delivered by China from 1966-1975.[5] 3 in service in 2014.[7]

 Bangladesh

  • 30 T-54 delivered by Egypt as aid in 1975;[5] later converted to use Type 59 parts with help from China.[2] 36 Type 59s delivered by China as aid in 1980-1981.[5] ~50 Type 69-I and 69-IIs delivered by China in 1991.[5]
  • 80 Type 59s and Type 69s in service in 2004 and 2006.[8][9] According to IISS, 174 Type 59s and 58 Type 69s in service in 2010;[10] 174 Type 59s, and 58 Type 69/Type 69Gs in 2014.[11] According to SIPRI, ordered ~300 Type 59Gs from China in 2010, the total including upgraded Bangladeshi Type 59s and Type 69s; ~205 Type 59Gs in service in 2014.[5]

 Cambodia

  • 50 Type 59s in service in 2004 to 2006,[8][9] and 2010 and 2014.[12][13]

 People's Republic of China

  • 4000+ Type 59-I and 59-IIs in service in 2010.[14] 2200 Type 59s, 550 Type 59-IIs, and 650 Type 59Ds in service in 2014.[15]

 Democratic Republic of the Congo

  • 12-17 Type 59s in 2010 and 2014, but may be unserviceable.[16][17]

 Republic of the Congo

  • ~15 delivered by China in 1978.[5] 15 in service in 2010 and 2014.[18][19]

 Iran

  • ~300 Type 59s delivered by China from 1982-1984, and ~500 Type 69-IIs from 1986-1988 (possibly through North Korea.)[5]
  • 540 T-54/T-55/Type 59s in service in 2004 through 2010,[8][9][20] with that number including Safir 74 conversions by 2014.[21]

 Iraq

  • 250-1300 Type 59s delivered by China from 1982-1987, and ~1500 Type 69-I and 69-IIs delivered from 1983-1987.[5]
  • ~3000 T-54, T-55, Type 59 and Type 69s before the Gulf War.[22] 1000 T-54, T-55, T-77, Type 59 and Type 69s in service in 2003.[23]

 North Korea

  • ~175 Type 59s delivered by China from 1973-1975. ~250 ZSU-57-2 turrets delivered by the Soviet Union in 1968-1977 and fitted to Type 59 hulls from China.[5] 175 Type 59s in 1985 and 1990 and 500 in 2000;[2][24] ~3500 T-34s, T-54s, T-55s, T-62s and Type 59s in 2004;[8] and more than 3500 in 2006 through 2014.[9][25]

 Pakistan

  • ~200 Type 59s delivered by China (possibly as aid) from 1965-1966; ~550 Type 59s delivered (also possibly as aid) from 1967-1970; ~100 Type 59s delivered as aid in 1972; ~825 delivered (possibly as aid) from 1978 to 1988.[5] 1100 Type 59s in service in 2010;[26] 1100 Type 59/Al-Zarrars in service in 2014.[27]

 Sudan

  • ~50 Type 59s delivered by China in 1972; according to SIPRI, ~40 of those rebuild in Sudan as Type 59Ds from 2010-2014.[5] According to IISS, 60 Type 59 and Type 59Ds in service in 2010 and 2014.[28][29]

 Tanzania

  • ~30 Type 59s delivered by China from 1971-1973; according to SIPRI, these were rebuilt as Type 59Gs from 2011-2013.[5] According to IISS, 15 Type 59s in service in 2010,[30] and 15 Type 59Gs in service in 2014.[31]

 Vietnam

  • ~350 Type 59s delivered by China in 1970-1972.[5] 350 Type 59s in service in 2010 and 2014.[32][33]

 Zambia

 Zimbabwe

  • ~22 delivered by China in 1985-1986.[5] 30 in 2006;[2] 30 in 2010 and 2014, but may be unserviceable.[36][37]

Former Operators[edit]

 Iraq

  • 250-1300 Type 59s delivered by China from 1982-1987, and ~1500 Type 69-I and 69-IIs delivered from 1983-1987.[5]
  • ~3000 T-54, T-55, Type 59 and Type 69s before the Gulf War.[22] 1000 T-54, T-55, T-77, Type 59 and Type 69s in service in 2003.[23]

 Sri Lanka

  • ~25 Type 59 delivered by China in 1991.[5] None in service by 2010.[38]

 Burma

  • ~25 Type 59D delivered by China in 2004.[5] None in service by 2010.[39]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Gelbart, Marsh (1996). Tanks main battle and light tanks. Brassey’s UK Ltd. pp. 16–17. ISBN 1-85753-168-X. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Christopher F Foss. Jane's Armour and Artillery 2005-2006. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Gary's Combat Vehicle Reference Guide"
  4. ^ a b c Ground Systems (PDF). Worldwide Equipment Guide 1 (2011 ed.). US Army TRADOC Intelligence Support Activity. pp. 5–39, 5–41, 5–42. Retrieved 16 July 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "Arms Transfers Database". Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. 
  6. ^ "Type 62 Light Tank". SinoDefence.com. 2009-02-20. Retrieved 2010-03-21. 
  7. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2014, p.75
  8. ^ a b c d Military balance 2004-2005
  9. ^ a b c d Military balance 2006-2007
  10. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2010, p.358
  11. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2014, p.227
  12. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2010, p.398
  13. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2014, p.230
  14. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2010, p.400
  15. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2014, p.232
  16. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2010, p.303
  17. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2014, p.432
  18. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2010, p.301
  19. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2014, p.429
  20. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2010, p.251
  21. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2014, p.319
  22. ^ a b Cordesman: p. 4
  23. ^ a b Cordesman: p. 63
  24. ^ Global Security.org North Korea
  25. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2014, p.412
  26. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2010, p.368
  27. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2014, p.270
  28. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2010, p.327
  29. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2014, p.461
  30. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2010, p.329
  31. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2014, p.463
  32. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2010, p.433
  33. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2014, p.287
  34. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2010, p.331
  35. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2014, p.467
  36. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2010, p.332
  37. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2014, p.468
  38. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2010, p.370
  39. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2010, p.420
Bibliography

External links[edit]