Type 69/79
Further development from the Type 59 (a copy of the Soviet T-54) resulted in the Type 69, China's first independently designed tank. Externally, the Type 69 differed little from its predecessor, retaining the round cast turret that is typical of Soviet tanks, and a conventional layout with four crew members. Initial versions of the Type 69 featured 100-mm smoothbore gun, but it was later decided to retain the earlier rifled model as it was deemed more accurate. Most other differences involve the equipment which is more advanced and includes some of Western origin. Like most Soviet tanks, however, the Type 69 has complete NBC protection, semi-automatic fire extinguishing systems, and can lay a smoke screen by injecting diesel fuel into the exhaust system. More recent variants also feature 'Boom Shields' on the turret grid designed to detonate HEAT rounds prematurely. The Type 69 was adopted in small numbers by the PLA but was an export success, being adopted by Bangladesh, Burma, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan among others. A few hundred were used by Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War. A more modern version of the Type 69, the Type 79 was not exported but served in small numbers with the PLA.

Development of a successor to the Type 59 began in the 1960s but did not result in a finished vehicle until 1982. The resulting Type 69 (WZ-120) borrowed some technologies from the Soviet T-62, one of which was captured during a the Sino-Soviet border conflict of 1969. The two main early variants were distinguished by their armament: the Type 69-I featured a new smoothbore gun, whereas the Type 69-II retained the earlier rifled model. The latter also featured numerous equipment upgrades (including a laser rangefinder) as well as improved protection from the turret 'Boom Shields'. Sub-variants include the Type 69-IIB and -IIC command versions. A further resulted in the Type 79, often referred to as the Type 69-III (WZ-121D). This version features a 105-mm Type 83 rifled gun, more advanced laser rangefinder and a more powerful engine among other equipment improvements. Some of these were also fitted on the Type 69-IIG rebuilds of existing tanks. Anti-aircraft versions use the Type 69 chassis but either twin 37-mm or 57-mm gun systems (the latter known as the Type 80. Lastly, non-combat variants include the Type 84 AVLB vehicle-launched bridge and the Type 653 ARV armored recovery vehicle.

DesignWZ 121AWZ 121D
NameType 69-IIType 79
Code Name--
TypeMain Battle TankMain Battle Tank
Type 69
105-mm (L/52)
Type 83
Elevation-5° / 18°-5° / 18°
Penetration290 mm @ 2 km460 mm @ 2 km
1 x 7.62-mm (c)
1 x 7.62-mm (b)
1 x 12.7-mm
1 x 7.62-mm (c)
1 x 7.62-mm (b)
1 x 12.7-mm
Length Overall8.59 m8.59 m
Length6.24 m6.24 m
Width3.31 m3.31 m
Height2.81 m2.81 m
Loaded36,700 kg37,500 kg
Ground Pressure0.82 kg/cm²0.84 kg/cm²
Power/Weight15.80 hp/t19.47 hp/t
SuspensionTorsion barTorsion bar
Engine1 x 580hp
Type 12150L-7BW
1 x 730hp
FuelDiesel (V12)Diesel (V12)
Range440 km440 km
Speed50 km/h50 km/h
Fording1.40 m1.40 m
Vertical Obstacle0.80 m0.80 m
Trench2.70 m2.70 m
Thickness0 - 260 mm0 - 260 mm
Max Effective195 - 260 mm RHAe195 - 260 mm RHAe
Hull Upper Front195 mm195 mm
Turret Front260 mm260 mm