Type 69 tank

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Type 69-II
Type 69-II Iraq.jpg
Iraqi Type 69-II captured during the Gulf War
Type Main battle tank
Place of origin China
Service history
In service 1982–present
Wars Iran–Iraq War, Gulf War, Iraq War
Production history
Designer No. 60 Research Institute
Designed 1963–1974
Manufacturer First Inner Mongolia Machinery Factory (Inner Mongolia First Machinery Group Corporation)
Weight 36.7 tonnes[1]
Length 6.24 m (Hull)[1]
Width 3.3 m[1]
Height 2.80 m
Crew 4

Armor 203 mm
100/105 mm rifled tank gun
7.62 mm coaxial and bow machine guns, 12.7 mm antiaircraft machine gun
Engine diesel
580 hp[1] (430 kW)
Power/weight 15.8 hp/tonne[1]
Suspension torsion-bar
440 km[1]
Speed 50 km/h[1]

The Type 69 (Chinese: 69式; pinyin: Liùjiǔ shì) and Type 79 (Chinese: 79式; pinyin: Qījiǔ shì) are Chinese main battle tanks. Both were developments of the Type 59 (based on the Soviet T-54A). They were the first main battle tanks developed independently by China.[2] Their lineage can be seen through the distinct gap between the first and second road wheels. Other improvements included a new engine, ballistic computers, and laser rangefinders. The more advanced Type 79 variant was equipped with a 105 mm rifled gun which was also found on the Type 80 tank.[1]


After the Sino-Soviet split, the Soviet Union withdrew its technical staff and support to China's arms industry. This caused China's domestic tank development to stagnate significantly. In 1963, the PLA ordered the development of a new tank based on the Type 59 and which was to be named the "Type 69". In 1965, development objectives were finalized and the product was named "WZ121" internally. In 1966, the first prototype rolled off the factory. However, the Cultural Revolution and its resulting chaos further curtailed tank development.[3]

During the 1969 Sino-Soviet border conflict, the PLA was able to capture a Soviet T-62 MBT. The captured tank was examined, and some of its components, such as the Soviet Luna IR searchlight system, were copied and integrated into the Type 69 design. After around a decade of development, the first domestically developed and produced Chinese tank was inducted into the PLA ground forces as the Type 1969 Medium Tank or Type 69 Tank for short.[3] However, the early version of the Type 69 were only used in limited quantities.

Relations between China and the West warmed in the 1980s, and China was able to import some Western technologies to improve its weapon systems. The Type 69 was upgraded with Western systems such as the British Marconi FCS, and the L7 105 mm gun. The new version received the designation Type 79, which represented the conclusion of China's first-generation tank development.

The PLA was unsatisfied with the Type 69's performance, but it still became one of China's most successful armored vehicle exports. Over 2,000 were sold worldwide in the 1980s. The simplicity, robustness and low cost of the tanks made them attractive on the export market, and China sold hundreds to both sides during the Iran–Iraq War. (Gelbart 1996:18) Many of the vehicles were later used by Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq War.

Myanmar Army Type 69 tanks also reportedly engaged Royal Thai Army M60A3 tanks in 2001 during the battle for Border Post 9631, although it is unclear if either side lost any vehicles.

Both the Type 69 and Type 79 tanks share almost identical hulls and turrets with the older Type 59. The only difference is that the two more recent tank models have been upgraded with better technologies that were either captured or bought from more advanced countries. (Gelbart 1996:17-19) The Chinese Type 59, 69 and 79 tanks can therefore be viewed as part of the same, evolutionary tank family in the same way that the Soviet T-54, -55 and -62 tanks share a common lineage.

Today only a couple hundred Type 69/Type 79s remain in PLA inventory, mostly deployed with training or reserve units. The Type 69/Type 79 are being replaced by the newer Type 96 and Type 99 MBTs.

In Iraqi service[edit]

Type 69 Main Battle Tank (MBT) north of the An Nu'maniyah Bridge on Highway 27 destroyed during the US Invasion of Iraq in April 2003

During the 1980s, China sold hundreds of Type 69 MBTs to Iraq. By the Persian Gulf War of 1990 and 1991, western analysts claim that Iraq had upgraded some Type 69s with a 105 mm gun, a 60 mm mortar, and a 125 mm gun with an auto-loader. All of them were reinforced with frontal layer armor welded on the glacis plate.[4] All these versions were known as Type 69-QMs. It was reported during the 1991 Gulf War that the Iraqi Type 69 units fought harder than the elite Republican Guard units, equipped with T-72 MBTs. One possible explanation is that Saddam ordered his Republican Guard units to preserve their strength, while sending the rest of the army, equipped with inferior Type 69 tanks, to frontline fight.

According to battle reports from the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Type 69-QMs were used by the Iraqi Army units defending Nasiriyah in March 2003, most of them being employed as artillery pillboxes.[5] They played an important role in the ambushes mounted against the US Army 507th Maintenance Company and Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, before AH-1 Cobra helicopters wiped out the Iraqi tanks. Two Type 69s destroyed at least four vehicles of the 507th, among them a heavy truck rammed by one of the tanks.[6] There is also a first hand account of about four Type 69s hidden behind some buildings, pounding the Marines' Charlie Company with indirect fire and likely disabling several AAVs.[7] Some combat useless Type 59/69s were emplaced as decoys or mere obstacles.[8]


Type 69.


  • Type 69 – Prototype based on the Type 59 hull, fitted with new 580 hp diesel engine, Type 69 100 mm smoothbore gun, IR searchlight, and laser rangefinder.
  • Type 69-I – Prototype incorporating some technologies from captured Soviet T-62 MBT, such as the Luna IR searchlight system, and improved NBC protection.

Production variants[edit]

Type 69-II.
Iraqi Type 69-II.

Type 69[edit]

  • Type 69-IIA – First production version released in 1982, fitted with:
    • Type 69-II 100 mm rifled gun
    • New FCS system with:
      • TSFC 2-axis gun stabilization
      • Type 70 gunner sight
      • TCRLA Laser rangefinder
      • BCLA Ballistic computer
    • Type 889 radio
    • Armored track skirts
    • Storage racks on turret
    • Smoke grenade launchers
    • 2 diamond shaped oil cap on angled plate behind engine deck

This version was widely exported and produced under license in Pakistan by Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT). The Type 69-II is referred to as the Type 30 in the Royal Thai Army.[9]

  • Type 69-IIB/C – Command version of the Type 69-II with additional communications equipment and auxiliary power pack. Features a long radio aerial and two storage boxes on the rear, containing cables and field phone.
  • Type 653 ARVArmored recovery vehicle based on the chassis of Type 69 MBT.[10] The Type 653 ARV is fielded with no turret but instead features a powered structure controlling a dozer blade at the front of the hull and a hydraulically powered crane. The crane is capable of lifting up to 70 tons.[11]

Type 79[edit]

Chinese Type 79 (Type 69-III, WZ-121D).
  • Type 69-III (Type 79) – Also designated WZ-121D, an improved Type 69-II incorporating Western technologies. In service with the PLA as the Type 79 MBT. In 1981, the first prototype was modified as per specification as Type 69-III. Two formal prototypes were built in 1983, equipped with key components such as a laser rangefinder. The Type 79 entered production in 1984, and was shown in public at the PRC's 35th anniversary parade in 1984. Improvements include:
    • Rubber-padded tracks
    • Hatches that automatically on detection of NBC agents
    • Type 83 105 mm gun (improved L7 copy) with replaceable indigenous thermal sleeve (Type 79II)
    • Passive IR sights or thermal imaging system
    • British Marconi FCS with:
      • TLRLA laser rangefinder
      • BCLA ballistic computer
      • TGSA gunner sight
    • Type 79 liquid-cooled 730 hp diesel engine
  • Type 79 fitted with Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA)

Foreign variants[edit]


  • Type 69-QM – Also known as T-55B inside the Iraqi Army. Type 69-II with standard 100 mm rifled main gun, armour reinforced with layer armour on the front glacis, an observation mast and, on some units, a 60 mm mortar. Command vehicles often fitted with blocks of appliqué spaced armour, similar to the so-called Enigma T-55s. Produced 1986–1988.
  • Type 69-QM1 – Type 69-II upgraded with NATO standard 105 mm rifled gun and laser range-finder. Produced 1984–1988.
  • Type 69-QM2 – Type 69-II upgraded with Warsaw Pact standard 125 mm (L80) smoothbore main gun and laser range-finder. Produced 1986–1991.


Type 69-IIG MBT of Bangladesh Army
Bangladesh Army's Type-69IIMk.2G..

Bangladesh Army Engineers improved its weaponry and armor system to make it more effective.


  • Myanmar army have Type-69 MBT 50 and Type-69-2 MBT 80. All were upgraded in 2007 May.[citation needed]

Non-military applications[edit]

A civilian variant of the Type 69/79 was used to develop the Chinese firefighting tank. Currently only three fire brigades in China have purchased such a vehicle.


Current operators[edit]

Map of Type 69 operators in blue with former operators in red

Former operators[edit]

  • Royal Thai Army: 100 Type 69-II entered service with the Thai Army in 1987 and were decommissioned in 2004.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Gelbart, Marsh (1996). Tanks main battle and light tanks. Brassey’s UK Ltd. pp. 18–19. ISBN 1-85753-168-X. 
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-09-05. Retrieved 2010-09-09. 
  3. ^ a b "坦克装甲专题_新浪网". mil.news.sina.com.cn. Retrieved 2017-02-28. 
  4. ^ Modern Battle Tanks and Support Vehicles (PDF), UA: Al Port [permanent dead link].
  5. ^ "Deadliest battle of war so far", Sarasota Herald-Tribune, The New York Times News Service, March 24, 2003 .
  6. ^ (PDF), USA: SFTT https://web.archive.org/web/20070810090705/http://www.sftt.us/PDF/article07102003a.pdf#prof, archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-08-10  Missing or empty |title= (help).
  7. ^ Zeigler, Martin (2006). Three Block War II: Snipers in the Sky. iUniverse, pp. 34, 36. ISBN 0-595-38816-7
  8. ^ Scales, Robert H. and Murray, Williamson (2003). The Iraq war: a military history. Harvard University Press, p. 120. ISBN 0-674-01280-1
  9. ^ Jane's Armour and Artillery 1997-98 ISBN 0-7106-1542-6
  10. ^ F Foss, Christopher (22 November 2000). "Al Khalid MBT to enter production". Retrieved 15 April 2013. 
  11. ^ "Chinese Type 653 ARV". Retrieved 2013-04-15. 
  12. ^ "Trade-Register-1971-2016.rft". Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. 
  13. ^ "กองพันรถถัง กองพลนาวิกโยธิน" (in Thai). marines.navy.mi.th. Archived from the original on 2017-02-25. Retrieved February 24, 2017. 

External links[edit]