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NORINCO ZTZ-96 (Type 96)

Main Battle Tank (MBT)

China | 1997

"The Chinese Type 96 Main Battle Tank is based on the previous Type 85-III series design, itself evolved from the Type 80 MBT."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 04/24/2023 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.

With decades of experience in owning and operating Soviet/Russian combat tanks, it was only natural for the Chinese military complex to begin design, development and manufacture of their own indigenous tans. NORINCO (NORth INdustries COrporation) unveiled their Type 85 second general battle tank in 1988. Much experience was garnered in its development cycle and the evolution of the series further emboldened Chinese engineers to further their capabilities. Ultimately, the Type 85 was revised to become the Type 90 prototype series which, though not selected for serial production by the People's Liberation Army (PLA), it was the basis for the joint venture and locally-produced Pakistani MBT-2000, perhaps better known as the "Al-Khalid" Main Battle Tank. China continued development of the Type 85 to produce the improve Type 88 family line, these entering service in number in 1988. Production of the type lasted until 1995 to which some 450 examples were built.

The Chinese then took their Type 85 and produced the "Type 85-III" pilot vehicle and added much to expand her battlefield qualities. This included the installation of a more reliable and powerful 1,000 diesel engine. For improved protection, Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) blocks were added to critical facings. In this revised form, the Type 85 was evaluated successfully and formally accepted into the inventory of the Chinese Army as the "Type 96". Despite the designation, the Type 96 did not begin frontline service until 1997. The arrival of the newer, more modern and capable Type 96 also canceled any further production of the aforementioned Type 88 series - the Type 96 essentially replacing the Type 88 in battlefield function for the PLA. Production of the Type 96 itself went on to total an estimated 2,500 and is thought to be ongoing as of this writing. The Type 96 is expected to form a major portion of PLA mechanized forces, spearheading major advances while being supported by the much more expensive, complex and capable 125m-armed Type 99 Main Battle Tank systems. Production of Type 96 MBTs is handled out of the First Inner Mongolia Machinery Factory.

The Type 96 is a 47-ton behemoth intended to counter other current 2nd Generation Main Battle Tanks in the world. She is armed with a 125mm smoothbore main gun and defensed by a 12.7mm anti-aircraft heavy machine gun on her turret as well as a coaxially-mounted 7.62mm general purpose machine gun for anti-infantry defense. Armor protection remains classified to date though it is known to be modular in design and make use of ERA blocks for improved point defense. Like other Chinese indigenous tank designs, the Type 96 follows in both form and function along the lines of Soviet/Russian tank offerings which is expected considering the once-close defense relationship held between the two countries. The Type 96 is powered by a 1,000 horsepower diesel engine which supplies a road speed of 70 kilometers per hour and an operational range of 450 kilometers on internal fuel. External fuel stores can be mounted to help increased ranges out to 600 kilometers as needed. The vehicle is suspended by a torsion bar system for strong cross country performance.

All told, the Type 96 is of conventional design. The vehicle sports six double-tired road wheels to a track side. The track upper portions are protected over in saw-toothed armor skirts for basic point defense. The glacis plate is well-sloped to the point of being near-horizontal. The driver sits at the left-front of the hull, the engine being fitted to a compartment in the rear of the design. The turret sits in a bustle fitted to the front center of the hull and is low profile in nature, making for a tougher target to visually acquire and engage, particularly in low-lying foliage. The main gun protrudes a distance away from the turret and a fume extractor is identified at its midway point. Concerning the turret design, it features well-sloped facings for excellent ballistics defense. The heavy machine is added on a heavy duty mount on the turret roof, offset to the right hand side at the commander's cupola. Two banks of six smoke grenade dischargers are fitted to either turret side and can be used to shield the tanks progress as needed. Crew accommodations amount to only three personnel as an mechanical autoloader is used to manage the ammunition stores. The crew consists of the driver, tank commander and gunner - in Western tank types, the loading function is almost always handled by a human loader while the Soviets/Russians have utilized autoloaders for quite some time now.

Bangladesh has shown some interest in acquiring the Type 96 though current operations have centered on China as the sole Type 96 operator in the world (since updated to include Sudan).

An upgraded variant, the Type 96B, was debuted in 2016 and entered into the regional International Army Games hosted by Russia. The variant sports all-modern digital communications, situational awareness and sensors. A new ventilation system has also been developed. On the whole, the vehicle had retained its basic form and function. Possible upgrades to the drivetrain, wheels and suspension system as well.

To Type 96 MBT series forms the primary spearhead of PLA armored formations - despite the arrival of the more advanced and powerful (yet wholly expensive) Type 99 MBT series (detailed elsewhere on this site).

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one land system design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Type 96 (MBT) Main Battle Tank (MBT).
1 x Diesel-fueled engine developing 780 to 1,200 horsepower driving conventional track-and-wheel arrangement.
Installed Power
40 mph
65 kph
Road Speed
249 miles
400 km
The physical qualities of the Type 96 (MBT) Main Battle Tank (MBT).
33.7 ft
10.28 meters
O/A Length
11.3 ft
3.45 meters
O/A Width
7.5 ft
2.3 meters
O/A Height
94,358 lb
42,800 kg | 47.2 tons
Armament & Ammunition
Available supported armament, ammunition, and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the NORINCO ZTZ-96 (Type 96) Main Battle Tank (MBT).
1 x 125mm smoothbore main gun with autoloader in turret.
1 x 7.62mm co-axial machine gun in turret.
1 x 12.7mm Anti-Aircraft (AA) heavy machine gun on turret roof.
2 x 6 Smoke Grenade Dischargers on turret.
40 x 125mm projectiles.
2,000 x 7.62mm ammunition.
500 x 12.7mm ammunition.
12 x Smoke grenades.
Notable series variants as part of the NORINCO ZTZ-96 (Type 96) family line.
Type 96 (Type 85-IIM) - Base Series Designation; original production model; 780 horsepower engine.
Type 96C - Alternative designation for original production model.
Type 96A - Second production model; uprated 800 horsepower diesel-fueled engine; modular armor fit; upgraded electronics; laser defense system.
Type 96B - Upgraded model of 2016; new ventilation system and updated communications suite among other internal changes; possible uprated engine to 1,200 horsepower.
VT-2 - Export model designation
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the NORINCO ZTZ-96 (Type 96). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national land systems listing.

Total Production: 2,200 Units

Contractor(s): First Inner Mongolia Machinery Factory - China
National flag of China National flag of Sudan

[ China; Sudan ]
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Image of the NORINCO ZTZ-96 (Type 96)
Image from the Chinese Ministry of Defense.
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Image of the NORINCO ZTZ-96 (Type 96)
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Image of the NORINCO ZTZ-96 (Type 96)
Image from the Chinese Ministry of Defense.
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Image of the NORINCO ZTZ-96 (Type 96)
Image from the Chinese Ministry of Defense.
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Image of the NORINCO ZTZ-96 (Type 96)
Image from the Russian Ministry of Defense.
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Image of the NORINCO ZTZ-96 (Type 96)
Image from the Russian Ministry of Defense.
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Image of the NORINCO ZTZ-96 (Type 96)
Image courtesy of user via email.

Going Further...
The NORINCO ZTZ-96 (Type 96) Main Battle Tank (MBT) appears in the following collections:
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