Recent photos of the new Chinese ZTQ light tank showed many of them on rail cars, painted in army colors and headed for delivery to units in southern China. This indicated that the military had placed an order after five years of testing and tinkering with the design. Although pictures of the ZTQ have been showing up since 2011 it was not until recently that details of the turret were visible. In addition there recently appeared photos of dozens of these new tanks being moved around via rail car. The ZTQ was designed for rough, mountainous terrain as found in Tibet and the mountainous jungles on Vietnamese border. Apparently the ZTQ is in mass production and it has already been seen in the highlands of western China.
The ZTQ replaces the 21 ton Type 62 (WZ131) that entered service in the 1960s and some are still used as a light reconnaissance tank. The Type 62 looked like a scaled down Russian T-55 (or Chinese clone the Type 59) with much thinner armor (35mm/1.4 inches in the front). This provided protection from most artillery fragments as well as most machine-guns. The Type 62 had a four man crew and an 85mm gun. Over 1,500 were built before production ceased in 1989. There were stories in Chinese media during 2013 indicating that the Type 62 was being retired and some officers were not happy with that because at the time there was no replacement.
First mentioned in 2010, it is believed that the ZTQ began to undergo intensive testing and evaluation in 2014. The tank has a 105mm gun, improved armor protection and running gear that is more efficient and easier to maintain. A tank this size could carry about 36 105mm rounds as well as ammo for the 7.62mm and 12.7mm machine-guns carried. The ZTQ is probably heavier, as in about 35 tons. There are probably many other improvements as armor design has advanced greatly since the 1960s. Then again the armor piercing capabilities of artillery shells and heavy machine-guns have become deadlier. It appears that the ZTQ has modern armor and other protection. So far China has released very little official data on the new light tank. The vehicle is widely known because cell phone photos have been taken more of them were transported to distant places (like Tibet) on railroad flat cars or moved around on tank transporters for tests in different parts of the country.
The turrets were often covered with netting to conceal details, although a few other photos have appeared with a clear (but not as detailed) view of the turret. This turret detail revealed the TZQ was using a smaller version of the modern turret used in China’s most modern tank, the Type 99A2. This tank first appeared in 2007 and quite a lot of detail was visible. These turrets (ZTQ and T-99A2) are of modern design and the latest photos show more detail, confirming the presence of numerous of sensors. There appears to be modular armor (reactive or other lightweight types) for parts of the vehicle. Overall the vehicle is most definitely a modern design and the Chinese will probably eventually offer it for export. At that point the details will be revealed.
In 2006 it was believed that the recently introduced ZBD 97 amphibious tank would replace the Type 62. The ZBD 97 is armed with a 30mm autocannon and a 100mm gun/missile launcher in a small turret, plus several 7.62mm machine-guns. The fire control system includes a night sight. The crew of three is accompanied by seven infantrymen (or additional fuel and ammo) in the rear. While the ZBD 97 could replace the Type 62 in some respects, it was basically a scaled up IFV (Infantry Fighting Vehicle.) The ZBD 97 used license built components of the Russian BMP 3 in a Chinese designed amphibious infantry fighting vehicle chassis. ZBD 97 was popular with the Chinese marines, but the army wanted a new light tanks. Now they have one.