Tank Biathlon challenge may intensify

Updated: 2015-08-20 07:42

By Zhao Lei(China Daily)

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The People's Liberation Army will need to send its best tank, the Type-99 main battle tank, to the Russian-hosted Tank Biathlon next year if Western nations dispatch their top tanks to the competition, military observers said.

This suggestion followed a report in Rossiyskaya Gazeta, a Russian government-run daily newspaper, that some NATO countries were likely to take part in next year's International Military Games. The event's Tank Biathlon is the biggest attraction to observers and military fans.

Several observers at this years' International Military Games, including Germany, have expressed an interest in attending the contest next year, while other nations, such as Brazil and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, have decided to take part, the Russian newspaper reported on Monday.

The PLA team was the runner-up at this year's Tank Biathlon championship, which ended on Saturday at the Alabino training range in Moscow, beating all but the Russians. The games began on Aug 1 with 17 participating nations, including China, Serbia and Kazakhstan.

Xiao Ning, editor of Weapon, a popular defense technology magazine, said the PLA's Type-96A main battle tank taken to the contest this year has many equipment improvements and performed well.

"However, it is still less capable compared with the Western military's third-generation tanks such as Germany's Leopard 2A6," he said. "Therefore, our Type-96A, as well as the Russian T-72B3, will stand no chance of defeating the German tank in the biathlon. The PLA should send its Type-99 to the Tank Biathlon if Western tanks appear in the Russian contest next year."

Similarly, the Russian military will probably deploy its T-80 or T-90AM tanks to confront the Western tanks, Xiao said.

Gao Zhuo, a military observer in Shanghai, said the later-generation Type-96A is weaker than the third-generation Leopard 2A6 in almost all technical fields, especially the engine and transmission gear.

"The Type-96A has little room for further improvement. By comparison, the Type-99 has a strong engine, an advanced fire-control system and a set of first-rate protective measures. It is definitely able to compete with any of the top tanks in the world," he said.

According to a ranking by Germany's Focus magazine, the Type-99 is the third-best tank in the world, only surpassed by the Leopard 2 and the United States' M1A2 Abrams. The report said the Chinese tank features a 125-mm smoothbore gun, capable of firing anti-tank guided missiles, and a powerful 1,500-horsepower diesel engine.

In last year's Tank Biathlon, which featured 12 teams, the Chinese team won the bronze medal, even though the Type-96As encountered some engine malfunctions. The Russian and Armenian teams took the championship's first and second places.

The PLA team was the only competitor that used its domestically developed tank during the Tank Biathlon last year and this year. All other teams used the Russian T-72B3 tank, a competition edition of the T-72, a Soviet-era, second-generation main battle tank.


 Tank Biathlon challenge may intensify

A People's Liberation Army tank takes part in the Tank Biathlon championship, which ended on Saturday at the Alabino training range in Moscow. The PLA team was runner-up to the Russian team in the event. Wu Sulin / Xinhua

(China Daily 08/20/2015 page4)