Type 62 Light Tank
The Type 62 (also known as WZ132 in its manufacturer name) light tank was developed in the early 1960s for the PLA ground forces. The tank was intended to be deployed in the mountain terrains in Southern China. The Type 62 is virtually a scaled-down version of the Chinese Type 59 (T-54A copy) main battle tank, with a smaller-calibre gun and simplified equipments to reduce overall weight. The tank has been receiving modernisation upgrade since the early 1980s, and is still in service with the PLA today.
In the late 1950s, the PLA submitted requirements for a light tank more suitable for operations in China’s southern region, which is full of mountains and hills cut by a large number of rivers, lakes, and rice paddy fields. Development of the light tank by 674 Factory began in 1958, and the first prototype rolled out in 1962. The tank entered PLA service in 1963 as the Type 62, with around 800 examples built for the PLA as well as foreign customers including Albania, Mali, North Korea, Sudan, Tanzania and Zaire (DR Congo).
The Type 62 is similar to the Type 59 in appearance, but with a similar size hull and turret. The tank is armed with a Type 62-85TC 85mm rifled gun and a simplified gunner sight. The tank also uses smaller and lighter road wheels and thinner armour protections. The 21-tonne tank is powered by a 12150L liquid-cooled diesel which is also used by the Type 59, but with reduced output (430hp in contrast to 520hp output of Type 59). The tank has a poor firing accuracy due to its unstabilised main gun and lack of fire-control and night vision equipment.
The Type 62 light tank was deployed to Vietnam during the China-Vietnam border conflict of 1979 and suffered severe losses in combat due to its poor protection. The tank’s thin armour could be easily penetrated by hand-held rocket propelled grenades (RPG). An upgrade package was developed for the Type 62 soon after the war. The improved Type 62-I had 33 improvements including a laser range finger for better firing accuracy and a machine gunner protection shield on the turret. Some later variants were also fitted with turret storage racks and hull skirts for additional protection against HEAT projectiles.
Various upgrade packages have been developed for the Type 62 tanks since 2000 to extend their service life. One upgrade package saw the Type 62 tank has its original cast turret replaced by a welded turret fitted with explosive reactive armoured (ERA) plates. Another modernisation package incorporates the tank with a more powerful 105mm rifled main gun with one-way (vertical) stabilisation, primitive fire-control, and night vision.
The Type 62 features the Soviet-style “half-egg” shape cast turret with conventional four crew arrangement. The tank is protected by steel armour. The front armour on the turret is 45mm and the hull armour is 15~35mm. The Type 62 has a crew of four, with the driver seated left in the hull and forward of the turret, while the loader, gunner and tank commander occupying the turret. The loader is situated to the right of the main gun and the gunner and tank commander sit in tandem on the left side. The loader is also responsible for operating the 12.7mm anti-aircraft machine gun mounted on turret roof.
The tank crew use primitive optical gun sights, with no fire-control system (FCS) provided. The driver's hatch has three periscope vision blocks which provide for forward vision. The centre vision block may be removed and replaced with an low-light periscope (50m range).
The Type 62 is fitted with an unstabilised 85mm Type 62-85TC rifled gun capable of firing high explosive (HE) and high explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rounds. The maximum firing range is 1,200m. No fire-control or night vision equipment is available. The tank carries 47 rounds inside the vehicle. Auxiliary weapons include one 7.62mm coaxial machine gun, a 7.62mm driver machine gun, and a 12.7mm anti-aircraft machine gun mounted on the turret roof in front of the loader's hatch. Later variants were added with a laser range-finder for improved accuracy.
Last update: 20 February 2009