Tank Biathlon chal­lenge may in­ten­sify

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By ZHAO LEI zhaolei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army will need to send its best tank, the Type-99 main bat­tle tank, to the Rus­sian-hosted Tank Biathlon next year if Western na­tions dis­patch their top tanks to the com­pe­ti­tion, mil­i­tary observers said.

This sug­ges­tion fol­lowed a re­port in Ros­siyskaya Gazeta, a Rus­sian gov­ern­ment-run daily news­pa­per, that some NATO coun­tries were likely to take part in next year’s In­ter­na­tional Mil­i­tary Games. The event’s Tank Biathlon is the big­gest at­trac­tion to observers and mil­i­tary fans.

Sev­eral observers at this years’ In­ter­na­tional Mil­i­tary Games, in­clud­ing Ger­many, have ex­pressed an in­ter­est in at­tend­ing the con­test next year, while other na­tions, such as Brazil and the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic of Korea, have de­cided to take part, the Rus­sian news­pa­per re­ported onMon­day.

The PLA team was the run­ner-up at this year’s Tank Biathlon cham­pi­onship, which ended on Satur­day at the Alabino train­ing range in Moscow, beat­ing all but the Rus­sians. The games be­gan on Aug 1 with 17 par­tic­i­pat­ing na­tions, in­clud­ing China, Ser­bia and Kaza­khstan.

Xiao Ning, editor of Weapon, a pop­u­lar de­fense tech­nol­ogy mag­a­zine, said the PLA’s Type-96A main bat­tle tank taken to the con­test this year has many equip­ment im­prove­ments and per­formed well.

“How­ever, it is still less ca­pa­ble com­pared with the Western mil­i­tary’s third-gen­er­a­tion tanks such as Ger­many’s Leop­ard 2A6,” he said. “There­fore, our Type-96A, as well as the Rus­sian T-72B3, will stand no chance of de­feat­ing the Ger­man tank in the biathlon. ThePLAshould send its Type-99 to the Tank Biathlon ifWestern tanks ap­pear in the Rus­sian con­test next year.”

Sim­i­larly, the Rus­sian mil­i­tary will prob­a­bly de­ploy its T-80 or T-90AM tanks to con­front the Western tanks, Xiao said.

Gao Zhuo, a mil­i­tary ob­server in Shang­hai, said the lat­er­gen­er­a­tion Type-96A is weaker than the third-gen­er­a­tion Leop­ard 2A6 in al­most all tech­ni­cal fields, es­pe­cially the en­gine and trans­mis­sion gear.

“The Type-96A has lit­tle room for fur­ther im­prove­ment. By com­par­i­son, the Type-99 has a strong en­gine, an ad­vanced fire-con­trol sys­tem and a set of first-rate pro­tec­tive mea­sures. It is def­i­nitely able to com­pete with any of the top tanks in the world,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to a rank­ing by Ger­many’s Fo­cus mag­a­zine, the Type-99 is the third-best tank in the world, only sur­passed by the Leop­ard 2 and the United States’ M1A2 Abrams. The re­port said the Chi­nese tank fea­tures a 125mm smooth­bore gun, ca­pa­ble of fir­ing anti-tank guided mis­siles, and a pow­er­ful 1,500horse­power diesel en­gine.

In last year’s Tank Biathlon, which fea­tured 12 teams, the Chi­nese team won the bronze medal, even though the Type96As en­coun­tered some en­gine mal­func­tions. TheRus­sian and Ar­me­nian teams took the cham­pi­onship’s first and sec­ond places.

The PLA team was the only com­peti­tor that used its do­mes­ti­cally de­vel­oped tank dur­ing the Tank Biathlon last year and this year. All other teams used the Rus­sian T-72B3 tank, a com­pe­ti­tion edi­tion of the T-72, a Sovi­etera, sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion main bat­tle tank.

WU SULIN / XIN­HUA

A Peo­ple's Lib­er­a­tion Army tank takes part in the Tank Biathlon cham­pi­onship, which ended on Satur­day at the Alabino train­ing range in Moscow. The PLA team was run­ner-up to the Rus­sian team in the event.

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