Friday, March 14, 2008

China opens 99A2 MBT to answer Japan new MBT

Just a week after Japan's New TK-X MBT unveiled, China official Internet news portal Xinhuanet (run by Xinhua News Agency) response Japan's behavior to release several images of PLA's latest Type 99A2 MBT.

In 2007, A Chinese magazine published a picture of so-called "Chinese Enhanced Third Generation MBT", which was actually only a technological testing platform based on Type 99 MBT hull. Now these new images clearly showed that the real face of "Enhanced MBT", or Type 99A2, which has been existed for 1-2 years and suffered the rough testing with PLA’s fresh 8*8 wheeled armor vehicle family around China’s inner land.

Unlike Type 99A1's space arrow shaped armor on turret front side, Type 99A2 turret has mounted with exteriorly changed arrow-shaped ERA armor and front hull is covered by flat ERA armor. Despite of the size of ERA armor, Type 99A2 seems to have a larger turret with an expanded tail chamber.

In addition of changed armor, the most distinguished feature is the never seen before Active Protection System (APS) mounted on Type 99A2 turret. Obviously, this device replaces original well-known Type 99 MBT's laser-countermeasure device and is not a simple Chinese copy of Russian "Arena" APS but is a whole new mushroomy system with some unknown antennas on it. Chinese resources indicated that millimeter-wave radar is possibly included in. But the actual working mode and hard-kill methods of Type 99A2 is still unclear.

The commander's periscope scope of Type 99A2 is greatly changed from the previous and looked very close to the appearance and size of the commander observation system of French AMX-56 Leclerc. Chinese resources said that the Type 99A2 in the image is still removed some systems for land testing.

The unseen changes also should be motioned. Type 99A2 almost kicks off previous power and driving system of Type 99 Chassis. Type 99A2 has "Integrated Propulsion System", which is a power module includes 1500HP transverse mounted engine, transmission, cooling system and fuel tank.

In the opened news, the testing staff introduced that the "Enhanced MBT" project has been finalized the design for 5 years and has entered testing for final approval. And it can be presumed that Type 99A2 MBT will enter service in 2009 for welcoming the 60th National Day of PRC birth. From all aspects, the improvement of Type 99A2 MBT is so great that it can be almost determinate as a new type of Main Battle Tank.

Comparing with ROK XK-2 and Japan KT-X, PLA Type 99A2 has its owned features and comparative performance. But the multiple testing conditions and terrains, like high plateau (Tibet), desert, frigid area, cannot be provided in ROK and Japan. And China's MBT exportation to other countries, such as Pakistan and Sudan, also brings rich experience on PLA's MBT development and manufacturing.