China tests new tank in Tibet near Indian border

       China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has tested a new lightweight tank in Tibet, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced during a press brief. The tank is specifically designed for high-altitude conditions near the Indian border.

      “Recently, a new-type of tank has undertaken trials on the Tibet Plateau. The trials were aimed to test the tank’s performance and are not targeted at any country,” PLA spokesman Colonel Wu Qian said on June 29.

      He was replying to a question about U.S. media reports of the presence of public video clips featuring a new-type of 35-ton light main battle tank (MBT) operating during a recent military exercise conducted by a mechanized infantry brigade of PLA Tibet Military Command on the Tibet Plateau.

The tank guns have already been adjusted to a high angle for mountain operations, and the frontal protective ability of the gun turrets is better than that of the Type-96A tanks, and is far better than India’s Type-90s MBT. Could you please tell us more about the light tank? And is the deployment of the tanks in Tibet targeted at India?

       He did not reveal exact model or additional details of the tank, but it is likely the ZTQ “Xinqingtan” light tank. It is also unclear whether the tank has already been inducted into the PLA.

      The reports in state media claimed that the new tank’s technology, firepower and survivability is “far more advanced” than the Russia-made T-90S tanks deployed by India along the border.

      The tank is developed by China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO). It weighs 35-38 tonnes and is powered by 1,000 hp 8V150-type engine. The tank’s light weight and a powerful diesel engine make it suitable for fighting in oxygen-deficit, high-altitude environments such as those in the LAC.

      The tank has an advanced fire-control system and its 105 mm gun is capable of firing shells and guided missiles. It also has a secondary armament consisting of a 35 mm grenade launcher and a 12.7 mm heavy machine gun on the turret. The main gun and secondary weapons are adjusted so they can fire at a high angle, making them suitable for mountain warfare.

      Advanced composite armor and explosive reactive armor can be fitted on the tank. According to some reports, the PLA plans to induct up to 300 Xinqingtan MBTs. The tank will likely be used for reconnaissance and infantry support operations in mountainous terrain.

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