The Chinese Type 62 Light Tank (industrial designation of "WZ131") was produced from 1963 until 2013 to the tune of some 2,500 examples and based in the earlier Type 59 Main Battle Tank (MBT) design. The Type 59, itself, was a locally-produced version of the very successful Soviet-era Type 54 (specifically the T-54A model) which entered Chinese service in 1959. The MBT went on to featured in a myriad of wars of the 20th Century including the Vietnam War (1955-1975), the Indo-Pak War (1971), the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), and the Gulf War (1991). Production spanned from 1958 until 1985.
With this framework, the Type 62 was envisioned as a light weight, simplified tracked combat vehicle. This resulted in a reduction of armor protection, a smaller main gun caliber, and reduced onboard systems. In many respects, the Type 62 is essentially a dimensionally smaller form of the full-sized Type 59, retaining its crew of four (vehicle commander, driver, gunner, and loader). The lightweight nature of the revised design was intended to better contend with the rugged terrain encountered across southern China.
While the Type 62 Light Tank is no longer a frontline solution for the People's Liberation Army Ground Forces, it still features in the inventories of other global operators including Bangladesh, Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Tanzania, Vietnam, and Thailand. Former operators include Albania, China, Mali, North Korea, and Zaire.
Because of its origination from the Type 59, the Type 62 has the same four-man crew arrangement internally. The driver is seated in the front-left hull while the remaining three crewmen take their positions in the turret. The engine is seated at the rear of the hull. The vehicle is suspended atop a torsion bar suspension system which aids in cross-country travel. Power is from a 12150L-3 V-12 liquid-cooled, diesel-fueled engine of 430 horsepower driving a conventional track-and-wheel arrangement. There are five roadwheels to a hull side and the drive sprocket is featured at rear with the track idler at front. No track-return rollers are featured in the arrangement.
The Type 62 can hit road speeds of 60 kph out to ranges of 500 kilometers.
The turret is well-rounded for basic ballistics protection and the glacis plate is well-sloped for the same reason. The overall profile is low which aids in system survivability at range. Primary armament is an 85mm Type 62085TC rifled main gun firing a spectrum of typical projectile types including High-Explosive (HE), Armor-Piercing (AP), High-Explosive, Anti-Tank (HEAT) and smoke rounds. The gun can elevate within its housing from +20 to -4 degrees while the turret offers complete 360-degree traversal from centerline. As in other tanks, a co-axial machine gun (7.62mm Type 59T) is also featured at the front turret face. Beyond this is a rather anachronistic bow-mounted 7.62mm Type 59T machine gun as an added anti-infantry measure and an optional 12.7mm Type 54 Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) can be installed on a trainable mounting on the turret roof for Anti-Aircraft (AA) work. The vehicle can also produce its own screening measure by injecting raw fuel into the running engine.
Armor thickness ranges from 50mm at the turret to 12.5mm at the hull.
Overall the vehicle weighs 21 tonnes and has a running length of 7.9 meters with a beam measuring 2.9 meters and a height of 2.3 meters to the top of the turret.
The Type 62 was eventually upgraded through the Type 62-I offering, bringing about solutions to issues encountered during active use in the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979. An improved rangefinder and main gun were both introduced in the design as was a local shield for the roof-mounted 12.7mm machine gun position. A further revision added external stowage racks at the turret and side skirt armor to better protect the upper reaches of the hull and track run.
The Type 62G was a later improved variant that brought about better armor protection on the whole. A new, welded flat-plate turret succeeded the original's cast design and smoke grenade dischargers were added for improved screening measures. Night vision support enhanced low-light-level operations and situational awareness. The 85mm main gun was dropped in favor of a more potent 105mm form to better contend with modern threats. A vertical stabilization system added accuracy-at-range and when firing on-the-move.
The follow-up Type 70 tank were Type 62 rebuilds complete with laser rangefinder, and 85mm Type 62-85TC rifled main guns. These lacked the shields fitted at the 12.7mm machine gun position but included better gun stabilization and sighting devices for increased accuracy.
Other forms of the series became the experimental Type 79 Armored Recovery Vehicle (ARV) form, the GJT 211 armored bulldozer, and the GSL 131 (Type 82) mine-clearing vehicle.
Bangldesh operates both an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) and Self-Propelled Gun (SPG) vehicle types based in the Type 62 Light Tank.
The Type 62 Light Tank was featured prominently in many conflicts of the 20th Century including the Vietnam War (1955-1975), the Sino-Vietnamese War (1979), and both Congo Wars (1997,1998).