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China puts into service its new lightweight battle tank

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BEIJING (PTI): China has put into service its much-touted lightweight battle tank which the military seeks to deploy in the mountainous regions, like Tibet, to boost its combat capabilities in the high-altitude areas.

The new-generation tank, identified as Type-15 by the People's Liberation Army (PLA), was displayed for the first time at an exhibition, organised last month to mark the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening up, at China's National Museum as part of new weapons developed by the country.

Chinese defence ministry spokesperson Senior Colonel Wu Qian confirmed that the tank has been handed over to troops for deployment.

"As for the Type 15 light tank, according to my information, it has been handed over to our troops," Wu told the media last week.

The indigenously-developed tank had undergone combat ready exercises on the plateaus of Tibet in June last year when the armies of China and India were engaged in an eye-ball to eye-ball 73-day-long standoff at Doklam in the Sikkim sector.

Indian troops had opposed the construction of a road by Chinese soldiers near a trijunction border, as it was too close to the main highway, the Chicken Neck corridor, connecting the North East with rest of India. The area was also claimed by Bhutan.

The relations between India and China as well as the militaries normalised this year with concerted efforts by both sides after the People's Liberation Army (PLA) halted the road construction.

According to Chinese official media, the lightweight battle tank is equipped with a hydro-pneumatic suspension system that ensures good manoeuvrability and survivability in mountainous regions.

Its main weapon is the 105 mm gun that can fire armour-piercing shells and launch guided missiles, it said.

The Type 15 tank has a 1,000 horsepower engine which is significantly lighter than the PLA's other main battle tanks in service, and weighs about 32 to 35 tonnes, compared to the Type 99 tank, which weighs 54 to 58 tonnes, and the Type 96 one weighing about 42.8 tonnes, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

Military analysts said the tank could be quickly deployed to sensitive regions such as Tibet and the plateau border area if a dispute broke out, the SCMP report said.

Beijing-based military affairs commentator Song Zhongping said the PLA Marine Corps needed to upgrade some of its key equipment.

He said they were using the Type 62 tank, which only has about 500 horsepower and an 85mm main gun.

"The Type 62 tank is lagging behind. The Type 15 tank has much better protection capability and manoeuvrability," he was qouted as saying in the SCMP.


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