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Commentary: Type-96A tank's performance in competition unrelated to real combat

(Source: China Military Online)   2014-08-15

  BEIJING, August 15 (ChinaMil) -- While the Russian “Tank Biathlon-2014” International Competition is in full swing, news from the “frontline” seems to picture Chinese tanks as dissatisfactory in performance.

  The type-96A tank of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) participating in the competition is successfully developed and commissioned to the PLA Army under the author’s leadership, so I have my own views on the performance.

  The type-96A tank’s outstanding advantage lies in its firepower and protective power, whereas its innate defect lies in its driving power.

  To be more specific, the advantages in information technology application endow the type-96A tank with faster and more precise fire strike than the T-72 tank series, which is fully demonstrated by the fact that the Chinese team hit all three targets in the competition.

  However, the type-96A tank’s innate defect in weak maneuvering power is also fully exposed during this competition. But it must be pointed out that the current power of 780hp is already the upper limit of this type of engine. If a larger engine is installed, the power cabin in the tank has to be expanded, which is a big “operation”, because it will either occupy the combat space or lead to the enlargement of the tank.

  Then why don’t we apply all high technologies to a certain type of tank? We have to keep the combat requirement and the performance-price ratio (PPR) into consideration.

  The type-96 tank series is mainly used in the Central Plains and the south of the Yangtze River of China, so it doesn’t make high demands on off-road maneuvering.

  Besides, the PPR is another important factor that must be considered. A tank integrating all kinds of high technologies is extremely expensive, and combat capacity relies on tank “cluster” instead of just several tanks. Since the price of three type-96 tanks is the same as that of one type-99 tank, the type-96 series highlights “fair price and good quality”.

  As a competition to test the tank-men’s driving and shooting skills, the “Tank Biathlon-2014” International Competition can partly reflect the tank’s inherent maneuvering power and firepower, but cannot comprehensively reflect its combat capacity.

  Moreover, if the competition cannot comprehensively reflect the tank’s protective power, information capacity, sustainability on the battlefield and maintainability, the artillery power and ammunition penetration cannot be reflected either.

  As the competition cannot be mentioned in the same breath as tank confrontation on the battlefield, it’s unnecessary to judge it with warfare requirements.

  (Wang Hongguang, former deputy commander of the PLA Nanjing Military Area Command)

Editor:Zhang Tao
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