Type 88 Main Battle Tank
The Type 88 (also known as Type 80) is the second-generation Chinese indigenous main battle tank (MBT) introduced in the early 1980s. The Type 88 was generally based on the first-generation Type 59 and Type 69 designs, but incorporated with Western technologies, including a NATO standard 105mm rifled gun, British fire-control system, and German diesel engine. The tank only saw limited service with the PLA, but its technology was used in the development of the later Type 85 and Type 96 series MBTs.
China started its second-generation MBT programme in the late 1970s in response to the threat of the Soviet armoured forces. While an ambitious project to develop a brand new MBT that would match the German Leopard 2 was underway, a less radical design was also being developed as a contingency plan by NORINCO, which later led to the introduction of the Type 80 MBT. The main contractor of the Type 80 is 617 Factory (now FIRMACO) based at Baotou, Inner Mongolia, with 201 Institute (now China North Vehicle Research Institute), 447 Factory, and 616 Factory also involved in the development.
The Type 80 tank project entered full scale development in 1981. The development benefited directly from many Western technologies which were offered to China during its temporary ally with the West against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. The first Type 80 prototype was introduced in 1985. Following extensive field tests and evaluations by the PLA, the tank received its design certificate in 1987. Later the tank entered service with the PLA under the new designation Type 88.
The Type 88 is a hybrid of the Chinese tank design with heavy Soviet influenced and Western technologies. The tank hull is based on the Type 79 MBT developed from the Type 59 (Chinese copy of the Soviet T-54). The original five large road wheels were replaced by an arrangement of six smaller road wheels with three track rollers. The tank retained the Soviet-style half-egg-shape cast turret design, but was fitted with a German-designed 730hp diesel engine, a British-designed dual-axis stabilised fire-control with laser rangefinder, and a NATO-standard 105mm rifled gun based on the Austrian technology.
The Type 88 and its improved variants entered service with the PLA in very limited numbers. A total of 400~500 examples were delivered before the production fully stopped in 1995. The tank was seen being deployed by the 6th Armoured Division of the 38th Group Army in Beijing Military Region.
The Type 88 has a cast turret and a conventional hull layout with four crewmembers. The driver compartment is located in the left front. The turret is mounted in the middle and the engine compartment in the rear. The tank has six smaller road wheels in contrast to the arrangement of five large road wheel on the previous Chinese-made tanks. Suspension is of the conventional torsion bar type. The track and road wheels are protected by rubber skirts.
- Tyep 80 - Prototype variant based on the Type 79 with an arrangement of six small road wheels and three track rollers. Also fitted with rubber track skirt, new FCS light spot fire control, external laser rangefinder, and storage racks on the rear of the turret. No production
- Type 80-II - Laser rangefinder and sights integrated into one unit and placed on top of the turret allowing for armour mods to front of turret. Incorporates Built-In-Test (BIT) system for rapid identification of malfunctions. New automotive enhancements, a lens protective system for the sights, and NBC overpressure system. The turret is completely surrounded by storage racks for extra protection against high explosive anti-tank (HEAT) projectile. Prototype only with no production
- Type 88 - Domestic variant in use with the PLA. The basic design is similar to the Type 80-II, but the front storage racks on the turret were removed to fit the explosive reactive armour plates
- Type 88B - Improved variant with the gun-loading system redesigned so that it can fire the new 105mm ammunitions. The original light spot fire-control was replaced by an image-stabilised FCS
- Type 88A - Another improved variant introduced later than Type 88B. The tank has a modified Type 83-I 105mm rifled gun with longer tube and better performance, and is fitted with the FY series double explosive reactive armour plates, which can resist both APFSDS and HEAT-FRAG rounds
The Type 88 is fitted with a Type 83 105mm rifled tank-gun, which can fire all NATO standard ammo. The tank can carry 48 rounds, and the gun can fire at 7 rounds per minute. The Type 88A is fitted with an improved Type 83-I 105mm gun, capable firing APFSDS, HEAT, and HEAT-FRAG. Auxiliary weapons include one 7.62mm coaxial machine gun and a 12.7mm/50-calibre anti-aircraft machine gun mounted on the command cupola.
The Type 37A fire control system on the Type 80/88 includes dual-axis stabilised optical sight, light spot FCS, onboard computer, and laser rangefinder. While on the Type 88A/B this was replaced by a more advanced JSFCS-212 integrated fire-control system.
Wheels and tracks are protected by rubber hull skirts. The turret of early versions is surrounded by storage racks to provide additional protections against HEAT projectiles, but they are removed on later variants to fit reactive armour plates. There are four smoke grenade launchers on each side of the turret. Additional smoke can be generated by injecting diesel fuel in to the engine's exhaust.
The tank is powered by a liquid cooled, turbocharged 730hp 12150L-7BW diesel derived from the German technology. At its standard battle weight of 39.5t, this gives a power-to-weight ratio of about 18.48. The maximum speed by road is 57km/h.
Engine: 730hp 12150L-7BW diesel
Transmission: Mechanical, planetary
Track: Metallic, later variants have RMSh, with rubber-tyred
Suspension: Torsion bar
Radio: Receive/transmit, telephone
Dimension: Length: 10.65m; Height: 2.3m; Width: 3.3m
Cruising range: 430km , or 600km with external tanks
Speed: Max road 57km/h
Fording depths: N/A
Main gun: 105mm Type 83 or 83-I rifled gun
Rate of fire: 7 rounds/min
Elevation/depression: +18/-4.3 degree
Auxiliary weapon: One coaxial 7.62mm machine gun; one 12.7mm air-defence machine gun
Fire control: (Type 80/88) Type 37A light spot fire control
system; or (Type 88A/B) JSFCS-212 ISFCS
Last update: 20 February 2009