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Main Battle Tank (MBT)

Armor / Land Systems

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Image courtesy of the United States Department of Defense imagery database.
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Image courtesy of the United States Department of Defense imagery database.
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Image courtesy of the United States Department of Defense imagery database.

The Chinese-produced Type 69 Main Battle Tank - itself an evolution of the Soviet T-54A - went on to see strong export numbers.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 3/9/2020 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
The Type 69 Main Battle Tank (MBT) was a Chinese evolution of its own Type 59 MBT series first appearing in 1959. Production of this vehicle spanned 1958 to 1985 to which some 9,500 examples were acquired. Both the Type 69 and Type 59 owed their existence to the original Soviet-era T-54A model series, this system being introduced in 1946 and setting the groundwork for the upcoming T-55 family line. The Type 69 entered service in 1982 and remains operationally active, having seen combat service during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), the Gulf War (1990-1991) and the Iraq War (2003-2011) (with the Iraqi Army).

The vehicle emerged from design in a prototype form fitting an all-new diesel engine of 580 horsepower. An InfraRed (IR) searchlight was added as was a laser rangefinder to broaden tactical capabilities. The gun was of 100mm caliber and of smoothbore design. Another prototype, the Type 69-I was brought along the lines of the Soviet T-62 MBT and this included its own searchlight design as well as a much improved NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) suite.

Initial production models were designated simply and collectively as "Type 69" and included the first-run Type 69-IIA model of 1982. A new Fire Control System (FCS) was installed for accuracy that included twin-axis stabilization, a ballistics computer and laser rangefinder. Smoke grenade launchers were standard fittings. The Type 69-IIB/C models were command tank forms with additional communications equipment for their battlefield role. An auxiliary power supply was also added to run the applicable systems apart from the main power generator. The Type 653 ARV was an Armored Recovery Vehicle form based on the chassis of the Type 69 MBT - lacking its traversing turret but fielding a heavy duty powered crane and dozer blade.

The basic design was a 40.5 ton steel beast with a n overall length of 8.85 meters and a width of 3.3 meters to go along with a height of 2.8 meters. As in the T-54, the Type 69 was crewed by four personnel made up of the driver, commander, gunner and loader. Armor protection reached 203mm in thickness across the various facings while power was served through a Type 12150L-7BW V12 diesel-fueled engine of 580 horsepower. The hull sat atop a torsion bar suspension system and, coupled with the powerpack, allowed for an operational range out to 440 kilometers with a maximum road speed of 50 kmh. Primary armament was a 100mm smoothbore main gun with a 7.62mm machine gun in a coaxial fitting. A 12.7mm anti-aircraft heavy machine gun could be installed on the turret roof as optional.

From the Type 69-II line came the Type 69-III - also known as the "Type 79". Pilot vehicles emerged in the early 1980s with production beginning in 1984. Chief modifications to the line included "Westernized" equipment such as a 105mm rifled main gun based on the excellent British L7 model. NBC protection was improved as was the FCS. Power was served through a diesel-fueled engine of 730 horsepower output. In time, these vehicles also supported the use of Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) blocks for improved protection against tank-killing missiles.

Operators of the Type 69 (beyond the Chinese Army) have included Bangladesh, Burma, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Sudan. The Iraqi Army operated hundreds of Type 69 tanks though all have since been lost in combat or scrapped.

Iraqi Army forms included the Type 69-QM, the Type 69-QM1 and the Type 69-QM2. All were collectively nestled under the "T-55B" designation. The QM featured a 100mm rifled main gun with additional frontal armor protection and support for optional ERA blocks. The QM1 featured the 105mm L7-based rifle main gun as well as a laser rangefinder. The QM2 sported the massive 125mm smoothbore main gun popular with the leading Soviet/Russian combat tanks. A laser rangefinder was also standard.

At least 4,500 total Type 69 / Type 79 tanks were eventually produced across all mentioned marks.


China NORth INdustries COrporation (NORINCO) - China
4,785 Units
National flag of Albania National flag of Bangladesh National flag of China National flag of Iran National flag of Iraq National flag of Myanmar National flag of Pakistan National flag of Sri Lanka National flag of Sudan National flag of Thailand National flag of Zimbabwe Albania; Bangladesh; Burma; China; Iran; Iraq; Myanmar; Pakistan; Thailand; Sri Lanka; Zimbabwe; Sudan
- Engineering
- Tank vs Tank
- Main Battle Tank (MBT)
- Frontline
29.04 ft (8.85 m)
10.83 ft (3.3 m)
9.19 ft (2.8 m)
40 tons (36,700 kg; 80,910 lb)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the NORINCO Type 69 production model)
1 x Type 12150L-7BW V-12 liquid-cooled, diesel-fueled engine developing 580 horsepower at 2,000rpm driving conventional track-and-wheel arrangement.
(Showcased powerplant information pertains to the NORINCO Type 69 production model)
Maximum Speed:
31 mph (50 kph)
Maximum Range:
273 miles (440 km)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the NORINCO Type 69 production model; Compare this entry against any other in our database)
1 x 100mm smoothbore main gun OR 105mm rifled main gun.
1 x 7.62mm co-axial machine gun.
12 x Smoke Grenade Dischargers (if equipped).

1 x 12.7mm Anti-Aircraft (AA) Heavy Machine Gun (HMG).

34 x 100mm projectiles.
500 x 12.7mm ammunition (if equipped).
3,000 x 7.62mm ammunition.
12 x Smoke Grenades (if equipped).
(Showcased armament details pertain to the NORINCO Type 69 production model)
Type 69 - Prototype
Type 69-I - Prototype; Smoothbore main gun.
Type 69-II - Base Production Model; Rifled main gun.
Type 69-II-B/C - Command Version
Type 69-III (Type 79) - Improved Type 69-II

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