First off, judging any AFV by it's artistic rendering (not even a photo!) is like buying a house on curb appeal. No inspection, no awareness of the
environment (schools, crime rates) makes you terribly vulnerable to fools-rush-in disease.
That said, it appears the Type-99G (aka Type-90G) is an export variation of the Type-98 which itself is an attempt to solve armor and powerplant
shortcomings in the Type-96 as a T-72 clone with T-80U elements lumped in. If they can make the next 1,500 (with foreign imagers and probably
munitions) for the same 500 grande apiece as they did the first, CATIC or whoever handles their ground sales may have a good, basic, tank for world
market. But this is more an indication of mastery in the heavy-automotive mass production field than true armor capabilities.
The very first thing you want to do when designing a tank is determine where you want to use it or where you assume your export base will.
In China's case you are basically looking at four principle theaters:
Who has improved their nuclear force options for a reason.
Another nuke-state. Which you can't hardly project to, let alone sustain, armor warfare in, over the Himalayas.
3. Siam Peninsula.
The sum total of force present in the entire region (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand as well as Malaysia further south) could not beat the Chinese
on sheer numbers, even if the terrain model could reasonably be called 'tank country', which it is not.
Likely to be completley interdicted by air with less than 450nm from Pyongyang to Beijing. If one does not want to eat brilliant top attack AND risk
the loss of face inherent to having 'ministry buildings mistaken for embassies' in one's Capital, one will not supply advanced weapons nor attempt
to intervene with them when the rabid little client state finally 'foams over', completely.
The CM-11I/12 (M48 clones) and M60A3 are already on the short end of the stick relative to the upgrade M88 (T-54 mod) classes, no need to upgrade.
OTOH, the kinds of heavy sea and airlift as well as amphibious beaching systems (LCVP or ACV) are not really in evidence for what remains a fairly
hostile environment in the Formosa straits.
Given the buyer-psychology effects of DS T-72s being 'flip the frying pan' blown to pieces as even a residual cultural memory, the use of a similar
design style-as-a-shape motif is questionable from a marketing standpoint, no matter how improved it's innards. This psyop propoganda effect is
taken a step further by making comments about addon composite horseshoes and 'flipup coverplate' ballistic void technology. The implication being
that you are aware of existing shortcomings and feel the need to explain yourself.
The maintube is typical Russian 125mm which is to say a overly long to compensate for lower temp metallurgy effects on high working pressures. Long
tubes flex in normal travel motion, spoiling boresight collimation and stabs. Long tubes that get /hot/ tend to droop. All of which effect
ballistics reliability. The aft position of the turret also indicates little advantage to reversal in both transport or urban conditions and may
effect defilade fire conditions from a fighting position.
If you add the above to problems inherent to the penetrator design and material fabrication, it becomes questionable as to whether you can generate
the required 5,500-6,000fps (18-20+MJ) at the muzzle needed to hole a 1A2 Abrahms or Leo-KWS/2A6 type 'world leader' from the front. CLGP, while
touted as leveling the field are usually too expensive and/or complex to be seen as truly inventory wide options, especially for the third world, and
their guidance complexes add further to the difficulty of firecontrol. Something not helped by the nature of having three different sight packages
available (be proud of the ONE you make).
The shape and depth of the bow slope as a function of glacis thicknesses is also not shown which means that not only do you not know how far you can
penetrate the enemies hide, but it is difficult to judge how well you can take hits while closing to ranges where you can. Which brings you back to
another intangible-from-artwork question: Can your (fullbore, HEAT or EFP based) CLGP see through IR smoke? Can the laser? If not, then you are
down to maneuver and ambush tactics which are not 'good tactical choices' to attempt when the threat is predominantly air-centric (i.e. now you must
neutralize both within a system-of-systems approach to make the unit inferior in it's own element more able to use select tactics) and you are
largely conscript force.
Large bustle overhangs tend to make venting and access to some critical engine bay areas more difficult. If you are worried about smart top attack,
the armor-over-heat can somewhat ameliorate thermal signatures but only until you realize most of the operational variations of TGSM use both MMW and
IIR which means you have gone from point contrast to mass centroid and with today's processing, the weapon can likely /still/ choose an aimpoint
which penetrates the ammunition stowage or crew compartment through the thinnest roof area for equivalent combat kill (vs. mobility incapacitation)
Though I believe the LOMD emphasis on a 'bigger weapon' is overstated in the NLOS missile age, I'm not really fond of hybrid gun platforms because
they cannot reliably (CIWS ATGW auto-engage) take care of threats to the vehicle outside the front quarter and horizon level and they require the
commander and gunner to each be responsible for servicing targets to truly improve the survivability-through-rate-of-kill for the vehicle overall.
Though there can be some advantages to this in dealing with mixed enemy mech teams where your ballistic option overlaps their ATGW (IFV) vehicles, the
reality remains that armor targeting systems still do not autotrack or autosort targets, so adding another weapon bore compromises the TC's ability
to act as a 'stacker' to the gunners terminal engagement sequence as well as C2 coordinator for the rest of his troop engagement plan.
Obviously, you are also limiting the vehicle's total ammunition storage, though given the new bustle-mag layout and presumed autoloader holdover from
the 2A46, it's hard to say much about reliability vs. target servicing factors (muzzle index and reload/round switch rates).
The sponsons do not appear to be drawn to scale or feature equivalency from the side elevation to topside plan views so I must question the overall
geometry of the hull. That said, the overall weight class remains low at 52 tons (max load) with no apparent modification to side skirts and only
limited changes in frontal slope to indicate material/thickness modifications. 'Heavy means more survivable' in the generalist sense of armor
comparisons and when you have fully loaded Western tanks pushing 60-65 tons with all the mod gear, you have to question where the lighter vehicles
skimped (propulsion, reliability, RHAe) that their national leadership deemed acceptable. Something that is all the more 'interesting' when you
realize that small tanks are easier to bring to bear in offensive wars but China has of yet, not declared itself anything but neutral vs. anybody but
Taiwan. And that only conditionally.
'It's pretty' in a way. But if I wanted to take on the West, even as a function of commercial sales and technologic nationalism on a 'pride of
place' basis, I would either go lightweight with a high energy 30-50mm on a robotic platform that can MOVE (60-70mph cruise, 90mph dash) to get to
the flanks without care for losses before embarrasing the wester /tactical/ model for frontal arc emphasis at massive cost.
Or I would make a Konigs Tiger if not Maus (dare I say Bolo?) for the 21st century with hybrid electric double band track drive and a real monster of
a 152mm or better unmanned turret so that all the armor+engine+magwell (3,000+mm RHAe) could sit in front of a paired TC/driver combination with the
maximum amount of onboard sensorization to detect fires and prioritize counterengagements at distances from 500m to more than 6km. In this, the
ability to go with a remote pedestal turret would itself achieve most of what the old FSU design methodology intended in reducing silouhette and cost
while allowing you to still emphasize survivability 'by overt stylistic change' in a 60-70 ton baseline vehicle that actually outclassed the Western
full-turret equivalents for protection.
If you aren't going anywhere with wicked intent, you might as well OWN what you sit on. Though I might break it into propulsion/weapon/command
segments to allow for easier transport.
To continue the marketing overkill theme, I would also want a STACK of customizable aftermarket addons ranging from Barracuda MCS to RFLO composite
cube equivalents (multispectral EO and mobile vs. static radar protective compartmentalization) options. To go along with a 10:1 signature emulators
'fill' on decoys for maximum C3D protection of a limited inventory.
An urban uparmor system like the TUSK+ with the British heavy skirt appliques would also be important for those times when I felt the need to take a
field tank into a city.
Masted sensor/command tank options on a company or platoon level (IFDL equivalent) LINK would let me tailor the onboard capabilities without
necessarily losing NLOS or depending on air for wide-battlefield conditions.
At least two different NLOS/LOS CGLPs would be requried (one autonomous) though I might take a CKEM or PAM type (Flip Up Forward Fire vs. VLS)
alternative if I could not support barrel launch (30,000G/sec) electronics specializations.
Active hard kill whether intercept or explosive based. Which means you need high speed bus driving MAWS type sensors and preferrably some kind of EWS
managerto select and functionally deconflict active decoys, smoke and RBC from your terminal defense systems on a 'see it first to kill it second to
blind the terminals' basis of threat classification and response zones.
An EBC equivalent digital battlefield linkup. At which point, you are probably looking at mixed artillery and special mission capabilities in support
of traditional armor movements and may need to consider changes to the turret mount to support high SE angles if you don't switch outright to a
As with high end automotive engineering 'it's all in the gadgets' and so addon packages must be present, /fromt the start/ to differentiate buyers
in regional competition with each other as well as a 'perceived threat' (U.S. technology baseline). Gotta have the gadgets.
The fact that the Chinese have chosen to stick with a dated an poor-rep design (one which is not even rightfully their's to call 'original') with a
lot of '2nd best looooozer!' baggage attached. While not adding /any/ modern features to physically differentiate the still-low armor weights
(think Black Eagle), indicates that they are still interested in becoming one of the top producers rather than BEING the chief paradigm innovator in
the world in advanced armor design.
And in tanks as in sledding, if you ain't the front dawg, the view never changes.
At least in the eyes of the world which sees not the environment or operational approach, but evaluates each vehicle only relative to it's opposite,
in a vacuum of conditional modifiers.
Type 96 Basics
China Set to Field Worlds Most Advanced Tank
Perceptions of a Chinese Armor Threat
T-72 Variant Reference Point (note Shtora has been around quite awhile...)