According to recent media reports, China’s state television aired footage of what is believed to be the country’s under-development latest main battle tank (MBT).
The cutting-edge tank was reportedly highlighted by China’s state-owned broadcaster, CCTV, as part of a series on the modernization of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). One of the episodes that aired on October 9 showed the footage of the new tank, which was mostly covered, with a caption reading, “The strongest on the surface in the future.”
Reports suggest that China could soon unveil its futuristic fourth-generation main battle tank (MBT). Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert, told the South China Morning Post (SCMP) that the partial reveal of the tank indicated that the “development of China’s most advanced main battle tank is almost complete.”
Notably, this comes as the US unveiled its next-generation Abrams main battle tank, the AbramsX, earlier this month. Videos of Russia’s most advanced main battle tank, the T-14 Armata, recently also surfaced online.
While no details have been officially disclosed about the progress of the fourth-generation battle tank since its development was revealed in 2016, there have been some hints from Chinese media about possible features of the new tank.
What Do We Know So Far About China’s Next-Gen Tank?
According to reports, the next-generation main battle tank will have two crews instead of the three currently used for the Type 99, China’s third-generation main battle tank. Even the Russian-made T-14 Armata and the AbramsX are operated by a crew of three.
Of the two crewmen on China’s next-generation MBT, one will perform combat-related tasks, and the other will mainly focus on driving.
Interestingly, in 2019, China Ordnance Industry Corporation released a promotional video providing a glimpse of what appeared to be a two-seater main battle tank simulation cockpit.
Soon after, the screengrab of this simulation cockpit from the video began circulating on Chinese social media, with Chinese military enthusiasts suggesting it was the simulation cabin of the fourth-generation main battle tank.
Based on the tank gun barrel visible on display in the middle of the simulated cockpit in the video, a commentary published by a prominent Chinese portal, Sina Military, suggested that the simulation cabin in question belonged to the main battle tank, not an infantry fighting vehicle, or any other such platform.
Furthermore, the Sina Military article noted that the left side of the simulation cabin appears to be the driver’s seat, and the steering wheel installed with various control buttons resembles the one found on a racing car.
On the right side of the cabin appeared to be the commander’s seat equipped with a control system handle and the gun control system joystick, similar to the control panel for controlling the firepower of the whole vehicle – including the main gun, remote weapon station – as well as defense – the active and passive defense system.
The whole system is set up according to the principle of “left maneuver, right fire,” reported Sina Military.
Apart from that, the next-generation tank is believed to have high mobility, stealth, and strong strike capabilities, according to Chinese military analyst Song Zhongping.
As per a Chinese media report in 2016, the fourth-generation tank’s design would emphasize ‘informatization,’ as part of which it could feature optoelectronic equipment that will enable the tank to maintain the same level of operational capability during day and night.
The same report cited Liu Jiangping, a Beijing-based military expert, saying that the optoelectronic equipment onboard the tank could also jam the incoming laser-guided anti-tank missiles.
More details could soon emerge once China finally unveils its fourth-generation tank.
For now, the Type 99 and its upgraded Type 99A version remain PLA’s most advanced main battle tanks. Type 99 entered service in 2001, and more than 1,200 upgraded versions of the tanks have reportedly been produced in the past two decades.
Last year, China deployed the Type 99A to its high-altitude Karakoram mountain range along the border with India to boost its firepower there, as per state-owned media reports.