ZTZ96B Chinese MBT – MENG – 1/35

Model by Clayton Ockerby

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A brief history...

PLA Main Battle Tank ZTZ96B


The ZTZ96 main battle tanks in service with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are a very typical weapon developed by China. The original ZTZ96 MBT was a second-generation tank based on the ZTZ80 MBT. It was born in the difficult time for the Chinese defence industry when China’s reform and opening up process started. The tank was equipped with a 125mm high pressure tank gun developed with Western technology. It owned the standard firepower of the third generation MBTs, however its’ chassis didn’t have enough improvements when compared to the chassis of the ZTZ80 or even earlier ZTZ69 tank. The small engine bay hindered the installation of a high-power engine. The weak manoeuvrability troubled the Type 96 tanks for a long time.

Just like other not-so-advanced PLA weapons, the ZTZ96 was reborn in the new ear. As its economy became much stronger, China started to modernize its existing equipment. The ZTZ96B is the latest variant of the ZTZ96 tanks. It has received a new engine and a hydraulic transmission developed by the China North Engine Research Institute, which has greatly enhanced its manoeuvrability. The Chinese defence industry designers and engineers managed to increase the power of the new engine and limit its size so as to make sure it could be installed in the small engine bay. The hydraulic transmission makes the driving process smooth and steady. Hydraulic transmissions have been widely used in the Western tanks for decades. In the Tank Biathlon held in Russia, the ZTZ96B equipped with the hydraulic transmission performed better than the Russian T-72B3 in aspects like driving quality and marching fire.

In terms of firepower, thanks to the 125mm high pressure gun, the autoloader and the advanced Amour-piercing, fin stabilized discarding-sabot and multipurpose rounds, the ZTZ96B is as fatal as third generation MBTs. As for the protection, additional arrow shaped modular armour similar to the ZTZ99A is installed on the front turret. The ZTZ96B’s turret sides and chassis are covered by the FY4 Explosive Reactive Armour. The ZTZ96B’s protection is much better than common second generation MBTs and is as good as the third-generation ones. With such upgrades, the ZTZ96 which was once a second-generation tank, can now compete with most third generation MBTs.

The type test of the ZTZ96B started in the second half of 2016 with the view to enter military service in the second half of 2017. Before that actually happened, the tank took park in the Tank Biathlon in 2016 and 2017. In the rigorous competition environment, the ZTZ96B did well and was ranked second and third respectively. It’s amazing straight-line acceleration in competition with the T-72, its running at full speed after losing one road wheel and marching fire with great precision all leave people a deep impression. It is believed the reasonably priced but qualified tank will enter military service with the PLA to fill the gap between the ZTZ99A and the new light main battle tanks