The Chinese Type 69 Tank

The Chinese Type 69 Tank Background

In the early 1950’s, the former USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) had supplied China with a number of T-54’s as well as technical staff who worked with the PRC (People’s Republic of China) arms industry, as part of the treaty of friendship between both countries. Rather than develop their own tanks from scratch, the PRC copied the T-54 design (with out night vision equipment or stabilization for the main gun) and started manufacturing it under the designation Type 59.

Following Stalin’s death in 1953, the relationship between both countries leaders deter rated and eventually broke down in 1966. This period of time was called the Sino-Soviet split and saw both countries deploying forces along their board. On a number of occasions, small clashes between each countries occurred and on one such clash in 1969 along the Ussuri River on Damansky Island, the PRC managed to capture a Russian T-62 MBT.

The Chinese Type 69 Tank Development

The Chinese Type 69 Tank (Type 69-II)
The Chinese Type 69 Tank (Type 69-II)

It was examined in great depth and a number of its features were copied such as the IR lamp and incorporated in to the replacement of the Type 59, the Type 69. Both vehicles are physically almost identical, the most easiest way to tell the difference between the two is the position of the headlight’s. The Type 59 has only one headlight located on the right side of the hull front (this is the same on the T54/55), while the Type 69 has two headlights mounted on the track wings.

The Type 69 entered production in limited numbers some time after 1974, sporting a stabilized 100mm smoothbore cannon which could fire APFSDS whilst on the move. It also was equipped with a laser range finder, IR lamp and was powered with a 580hp diesel engine. It’s design was considered to be obsolete in comparison to Western/NATO tanks and by the late 70’s, after limited service with the PLA (Peoples Liberation Army), it was withdrawn from service.

The Chinese Type 69-I Tank

The Chinese Type 69-I Tank
The Chinese Type 69-I Tank

The Type 69-I was introduced as an improved version. The original smoothbore cannon which had been found inadequate, was replaced with a 100mm rifled cannon and was complimented with a primitive fire-control system The Type 69-I never entered production and was only a prototype.

The Chinese Type 69-II Tank

The Chinese Type 69-I Tank
The Chinese Type 69-I Tank

The Type 69-II was a further improved model for the export market and entered production in 1982. It was based on the Type 69-II except for a new Type 889 radio and rubber track skirt. It had a new fire control system which incorporated a TSFC 2 axis gun stabilization system for the main cannon, Type 70 gunner sight, TLRLA Laser rangefinder and BCLA Ballistic computer. It was also equipped with smoke grenade dischargers.

The Chinese Type 69-II Tank
The Chinese Type 69-II Tank (late Production)

Later production models were equipped with a storage rack that went around the turret and doubled up as a form of bar armour, giving additional protection against shape-charged weapons.

The Type 69-IIB – was the command version and like other command vehicles it was equipped with radio systems and an auxiliary power unit and a number of aerials. The Type 69-IIC had improved communications, with two radio’s sharing one. Both models were for the export market. All these models were powered by a liquid cooled, turbocharged 12150L-7BW 580hp diesel engine.

The Chinese Type 69-III aka Type 79 Tank

The Chinese Type 69-III aka Type 79 Tank
The Chinese Type 69-III aka Type 79 Tank

See seperate page: The Type 69-III aka Type 79

The Chinese Type 69 Tank Description

Type 69-II Turret Top
Type 69-II Turret Top

For close encounters a 12.7mm AA MG, with 500 rounds stored, was mounted on the turret roof in front of the loader’s cupola and a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun with 3000 rounds stored.

The standard vehicle armour is steel on the turret and hull. The front armour on the turret is 202mm and 100mm on the front armour of the hull. Wheels and tracks are protected by rubber hull skirts. It also has a standard NBC system.

The vehicle has a standard four man crew. The driver sits on the left in the hull, while the rest are in the turret. The loader is positioned on the right of the turret & cannon, the gunner and tank commander sit on the left with the gunner sitting in front of the commander. The driver’s hatch has three periscope vision blocks and the centre vision block can be removed and replaced with a low-light periscope with a 50m range. both the gunner and commander sights both have low-light night vision sights with up to 800m range.

The Type 69 Photo Gallery

The Chinese Type 69 Tank Specifications

Firepower: 100mm rifled Main Gun, 7.62mm Coaxial MG and 12.7mm MG
Length Gun Forward: 8.85m
Length Hull: 6.24m
Height: 2.80m
Width: 3.27m
Weight: 36.7 tonne (Combat)
Engine: 580hp V-12 Type 12150L-7BW Diesel
Top Road Speed: 50 km/h
Operational Range: 420+km
Fording: 1.4m
Vertical Obstacle: 0.8m
Trench: 2.7m
Gradient: 60%
Side Slope: 40%
Armour: Steel

The Chinese Type 69 Iraqi Service

Iraqi Type 69-II Tank
Iraqi Type 69-II Tank

The Type 69-II was a highly successful export vehicle due to its low cost and ease of use. It’s biggest user was Iraq, with an estimated purchase of 1500 Type 59’s and Type 69-II. They were deployed (by both sides) in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war and then by Iraq in the Gulf War where it appeared inferior to the more modern British Challenger 1 and American M1-A1 Abrams. Though there were some T-54/55’s serving in Iraq, they are commonly miss identified and are actually Type 69-QM’s. The T-55 has only one headlight located on the right side of the hull front, while the Type 69 has two headlights mounted on the track wings.

Iraqi Type 69-II Tank at Bovington
Iraqi Type 69-II Tank at Bovington

Type 69-QM – standard (also known inside the Iraqi Army as T-55B) – Type 69-II configuration but with reinforced frontal steel on the glacis, also featured with an observation mast. Some of them mounted a 160 mm mortar 1986-1988.
Type 69-QM1 – upgraded with standard 105 mm rifled gun and laser range-finder 1984-1988.
Type 69-QM2 – upgraded with Warsaw Pact standard 125 mm/L80 smoothbore gun and laser rangefinder 1986-199
Coalition forces who came up against the T-69’s alleged that the Type 69-QM units fought harder than the elite Republican Guard units, who were equipped with their superior Lion of Babylon tanks (Iraqi built T-72M). In the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a number of Type 69-QM’s scored a small victory over American forces when they were part of the ambush made against and decimating the U.S. Army 507th Maintenance Company at Nasiriyah, until American AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters stepped in and destroyed the Type 69-QM’s. For the most part Type 69-QM’s were generally found to be used as pillar boxes in dug in positions. Following the invasion, all Type 69-QM’s have now been destroyed or scrapped.

The Chinese Type 69 Tank Operators

Type 69-II Upgraded with ERA
Type 69-II Upgraded with ERA

Currently Albania operates 150+ / Bangladesh 310+ / Iran 200 / Myanmar 60 / Pakistan 250 (licence built) / Thailand 98 / Sri Lanka 20 and Zimbabwe 10 Type 69-II’s.