NORINCO Type 80 / Type 85 / Type 88
Main Battle Tank (MBT)
The NORINCO Type 80 became the first Chinese 2nd Generation tank system and has been progressively evolved since service introduction.
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The Chinese Army Type 80 Main Battle Tank (MBT) is a further development of its Type 59/69 MBTs, the Type 59 itself an outgrowth of the hugely successful Soviet-era T-54A model series. Changes to the Type 80 over the Type 69 include an all-new, lengthened hull design with composite armor support as well as the turret system of the Type 79 MBT series with its 105mm L7-based rifled main gun. The Fire Control System (FCS) (with laser rangefinder) is taken from the Type 69-II model while side steel skirt armor protect the important upper components of the running gear (which were left exposed on the Type 69). The crew remains four - driver, commander, gunner and loader - while secondary armament consists of a 7.62mm co-axial machine gun in the turret and 12.7mm Anti-Aircraft (AA) Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) on the turret roof. Smoke grenade dischargers are fitted in two banks of four launchers along the frontal turret sides.
The Type 80 became the first "Second Generation" quality Chinese Army tank and its manufacture was handled by local defense powerhouse China NORth INdustries COrporation (NORINCO).
The Type 80 showcases an operating weight of 38 tons and overall length of 9.3 meters with a width of 3.4 meters and height of 2.3 meters. Power is served through a single 12150L-7BW diesel-fueled engine located at the back of the hull which provides the vehicle with a maximum road speed of 60 kmh and an operating range out to 430 kilometers (the latter can be extended by mounting fuel drums over the rear hull ). The vehicle seats the driver at front-left with the remaining three crew in the powered turret. Forty-four 105mm projectiles are carried. The running gear includes six double-tired road wheels to a track side with a rear-mounted drive sprocket and front-mounted track idler. Amphibious travel is possible by way of a snorkel. Cross-country travel is aided by the torsion bar suspension system common to all modern Soviet / Chinese tanks.
The Type 80 has been evolved into a few recognized variants including the Type 80-I which is its export version seen with a rounded steel cast turret fitting a slightly different 105mm main gun. The Type 80-II has an improved Fire Control System (FCS), NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) protection suite, and increased internal storage space.
As of 2005, Type 80 tanks are no longer in Chinese service.
The Type 85 is another offshoot of the Type 80 line, combining the Type 80/88 design with a welded steel turret. The series includes the Type 85-I, the Type-II, the modernized Type-IIM, and the Type 85-III.
The Type 85-III has a new 1,000 horsepower engine, enhancing performance, and supports Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) blocks for increased protection from more modern battlefield threats. The FCS has been improved / updated and a thermal night sight is a standard fit.
Type 88 is used to designate the local Chinese Army version of the Type 80. Early forms showcase the Soviet-style rounded steel cast turret. The Type 88A is the Type 80-I for export and differs slightly in its 105mm installation used. The Type 88B is the Type 80-II for the Chinese Army.
The Type 88C is the Type 85-III for local operation. This form sees an angular welded turret and sports a more powerful 125mm main gun in a three-man crew arrangement with auto-loader function. An upgraded FCS and rangefinder are part of the equipment as is full stabilization of the main gun for firing on-the-move.
Type 80 series tanks are currently (2020) in use by the armies of China (Type 88A/B models), Pakistan (Type 85), Sudan (Type 85-II-M as the "Al Bashier"), and Uganda (Type 85-II-M). As many as 3,000 units may have been produced.