NORINCO Type 63 SPAAG
Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Defense System
The Type 63 was a limited Chinese self-propelled anti-aircraft system based on the Soviet Type 55 gun and T-34 tank hull.
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The Type 63 was a self-propelled, tracked anti-aircraft defense system produced by NORINCO of China. The system featured the Soviet-era Type 55/M1939 37mm twin-barreled towed anti-aircraft cannon arrangement fitted atop the hull of the famous T-34/85 Medium Tank. The Soviet Type 55 originated in 1939 and saw extensive service throughout World War 2 (as did the T-34 Medium Tank). The weapon went on to see wide scale use with many Soviet allies. Due to the nature of the 37mm shells and the repeat-firing capability of the cannons, the weapon proved equally effective in the anti-armor role to a certain extent. In the Chinese inventory, the Type 55 gun system was known as the "Type 63", hence the vehicles designation while the T-34 tank was locally produced as the "Type 58".
The design of the Type 63 was characterized by its boxy, multi-faceted open-topped turret. The turret featured full 360-degree rotation with limited traverse of the guns (this handled by a manual operation). The turret resided at the center of the hull roof, the hull itself is a direct copy of the T-34/85 Medium Tanks series, and retained its rear engine placement as well as its five road wheels to a track side arrangement. The hull sides and front were noticeably sloped for basic ballistics protection. A bow-mounted machine gun added limited anti-infantry defense. A standard crew is six personnel, including the driver and vehicle commander as well as gunners and loaders to manage the firing/reloading functions, were housed in the hull and turret. The cannons were fed via five-round clip containers which made reloading a regular process of the fast-firing guns. Overall weight of the vehicle was listed at 35 tons and, with its high superstructure and tall turret, it stood nearly 10 feet in height. Power was supplied by a single 12-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine of 580 horsepower while the hull was suspended atop a Christie-type suspension system. Operational range was 190 miles with a top road speed of 34 miles per hour.
The Type 63 is no longer in service with the Chinese Army, given up in favor or more modern and advanced anti-aircraft systems. The Type 63 had also been fielded by North Vietnam and South Vietnam (the latter through limited examples captured), seeing action during the Vietnam War where it remained in service after the conflict.
By modern standards, the Type 63 is a relic incapable of countering aircraft with its manual elevation functionality. Its 37mm shells are also relatively useless against modern Main Battle Tank types.