February 18, 2008:
Chinese Type 96 (also
called Type 88C) tanks were spotted in Sudan since last year, indicating that
China has exported one of its most modern tanks to Africa. The 50 ton Type 96
has three man crews and modern sensors and electronics. The 90 series tanks are
Chinese designs, and there appear to be as many as 2500 Type 90 series tanks in
service, with as many as two thirds of them Type 96s. There are another 700
Type 79s and 80s, both of which were stepping stones to the 90 series. Most
Chinese tanks, about 5,000, are Type 59s. Most of these have been upgraded from
being a clone of the Russian T-54 to T-54 clones equipped with Western guns
(copy of the British L7 105mm gun, firing depleted uranium shells) and modern
electronics. China also has a copy of the German 120mm gun, which it may try to
install in some Type 59 upgrades. Those Type 59s that don't get upgraded are
being scrapped. This apparently means that the Type 59 force will shrink by at
least several hundred tanks a year until all are gone.
Sudan has, until recently, had a tank
force consisting mostly of about 200 Chinese Type 59s, but some of these appear
to have been upgraded by the Chinese. Also spotted in Sudan have been Chinese
Type 92 wheeled infantry fighting vehicle (similar to the U.S. Stryker).
China is very strict about keeping
information on its tank force secret. The most modern tanks they have are the
Type 98 and 99, which come close to matching early models of the U.S. M-1.