Military Review

How many tanks does China have?

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How many tanks does China have?
Tanks "Type 59" on parade. Photo of Wikimedia Commons


The Chinese army is one of the largest and most powerful in the world. Numerous armored forces make a significant contribution to combat effectiveness and overall potential. According to various sources, the PLA has long been a world leader in the number of tanks in combat units. However, the structure of such a fleet has some characteristic features, due to which the quantity does not always turn into quality.

World leadership


The exact number of tanks in the PLA is not officially announced. However, there are various estimates, intelligence data, etc., allowing us to present an approximate picture. There is a certain range of numbers, but in all cases we are talking about colossal amounts of equipment.

In a recent publication on this subject, The National Interest magazine wrote about the presence of 6900 tanks in combat units (for the red phrase, their number was rounded up to 7 thousand). The authoritative reference book The Military Balance 2020 from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) gives a more modest number - 5850 units. all types in operation, not including storage equipment.


Tanks Type 88A at the opening of the Army International Games-2018. Photo by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation

However, even according to the most conservative estimates, China is superior to other developed countries in tanks. So, according to IISS, Russia now has 2800 combatant tanks and more than 10 thousand are in storage. There are almost 2400 tanks in parts of the US Army and 3300 are in reserve. Thus, the total active tank fleet of the United States and Russia is inferior in number to the Chinese.

Unified variety


According to The Military Balance 2020, the PLA now operates tanks of six models and ten modifications. At the same time, long-obsolete cars from the fifties and the latest models, which recently went into series, are in service. In this case, the basis of the armored forces, in quantity and quality, is armored vehicles of "middle" age.

In combat units there are still medium tanks “Type 59” of several modifications. "Type 59" entered service in the late fifties and was produced until the mid-eighties. Various upgrades were regularly carried out, however, such tanks were long and hopelessly outdated. According to IISS, to date, their number has decreased to 1500-1600 units. NI cites outdated figures - about 2900 tanks.

Up to 200 "Type 79" tanks remain in operation - modifications of the "Type 59" with various innovations. Due to moral and physical obsolescence, such machines are mainly used for educational purposes. A similar fate awaits the aging 88A / B main tanks, of which approx. 300 pieces


"Type 96A" at the Tank Biathlon, 2014. Photo by Vitalykuzmin.net

The main armored forces are 2500 MBT "Type 96" and "Type 96A." Tank "96" was developed in the nineties and began service in 1997. According to well-known data, the production of such equipment continues to this day and has not been discontinued due to the appearance of newer tanks.

The third generation of tanks is represented by Type 99 and Type 99A vehicles with a total number of approx. 1100 units Deliveries of serial tanks of this family began in 2001 and are still ongoing. In terms of the combination of technical and combat characteristics, Type 99A is the best Chinese MBT at the moment and can compete with modern foreign models.

A few years ago, the production of the “light” Type 15 tank started. It is intended for operations in remote mountainous and desert areas where full-fledged MBTs cannot work. The Military Balance indicates the presence of 200 such armored vehicles.

Numbers and Fractions


It is not difficult to calculate the share of a particular vehicle in the total fleet. So, about 25-27 percent. tank fleet are obsolete "Types 59" in the amount of up to 1600 units. If we take bolder estimates of the number, then their share rises to 42%. The share of later tanks "79" and "88" is several times smaller - together they occupy only 8,5%.


Later "Type 96B". Photo by Vitalykuzmin.net

The reason for optimism is the presence of 2500 modern MBT "Type 96" of two modifications. They make up almost 43% of the park. The newer Type 99s account for nearly 19%. The latest “Type 15” can not yet boast of large quantities and shares. However, they occupy the most important niche that has been vacant for several years and solve special problems.

It should be noted that the total number of tanks in the PLA and the proportion of vehicles of specific types are constantly changing. Outdated and out-of-life equipment is written off, and new machines are replacing it. Due to the high complexity and cost of modern tanks, one-on-one replacement is not possible, and the total number of vehicles is reduced. At the same time, the share of old ones decreases and the number of new cars grows.

Quantity and quality of


Old tanks “Type 59”, “Type 79” and “Type 88” make up a little more than a third of the total armored fleet. The remaining two-thirds are modern designs developed and put into series no earlier than the second half of the nineties. All this gives the PLA tank troops a very specific look - but it gives ample opportunities.

Obviously, in the event of a real war, obsolete tanks of the last century will not be used on the battlefield. Both in full-scale battles and in conflicts of low intensity, the modern Type 96 or Type 99 will be more useful. The development of events in which the “Type 59” will be able to emerge from a deep reserve is unlikely.


Chinese tankers in the exercises "East-2018". Behind the ranks are Type 99 tanks. Photo by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation

It is noteworthy that the decommissioning of old equipment will hit the quantitative parameters of the troops, but it will sharply raise the average combat efficiency and effectiveness. The PLA has 3600 main tanks of modern types, not counting specialized mining equipment. Even after such a reduction, China remains the leader in the number of combatant tanks. Moreover, such leadership positions can be maintained at the expense of MBTs “Type 96” and “96A” alone - while maintaining a very high combat efficiency.

At least 3600 modern tanks have powerful combined armor, 125-mm guns, advanced fire control equipment, communications and control equipment, etc. On the whole, the fighting qualities of the “96” and “99” tanks are at a fairly high level, and in this regard they can be compared with modern foreign models - perhaps not of the latest modifications and generations.

Accumulation of experience


The PLA has modern armored vehicles, but its effective use can be associated with serious problems. The Chinese military does not have experience operating modern MBT in a real conflict. Tanker training programs are available and in use; strategies have been developed. However, it is not known how much they correspond to real challenges and threats.


The newest "light" tank "Type 15". Photo Bmpd.livejournal.com

In recent years, the PLA often conducts large exercises involving tank formations equipped with modern technology. Such events allow you to gain experience in the absence of wars, incl. due to interaction with third countries. How effective this approach is is unclear.

However, one cannot do without such events. What the lack of experience and the gaps in the training of tankers lead to was shown in the exercises of July 2018, which were widely written by the media last year. During these maneuvers, the connection on the Type 99A could not take full advantage of its materiel and defeat the conditional opponent.

Ambiguous position


Thus, a very interesting situation is observed in the PLA armored forces. By the total number of tanks, including those that are hopelessly outdated, China is a world leader. If we consider only modern samples, the size of the park is reduced - but leadership remains.

Apparently, Chinese-made tanks can compete with some foreign models, but at the same time lag behind advanced types and modifications. In addition, the PLA has problems with experience and training, which does not allow full use of the strengths of the available equipment.

All this means that the PLA tank forces really represent a serious force that can withstand the most developed enemy. However, the characteristic flaws of various kinds do not allow to obtain all the desired qualities - and therefore the quantity remains the most important factor. As practice shows, this combination of quantity and quality is a good deterrent and protects the country from attack.
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  1. Mavrikiy
    Mavrikiy 16 July 2020 05: 25
    +7
    now the PLA operates tanks of six models and ten modifications
    Do we have less? repeat
    Obviously, in the event of a real war, obsolete tanks of the last century will not be used on the battlefield.
    Where will those fields be? That is the question. But the Himalayas are not with Tibet. Fields can be there, but what can tanks do there. request
    1. carstorm 11
      carstorm 11 16 July 2020 06: 04
      +2
      smaller. we have three models 72 80 and 90. what is not used in storage so they can not be considered. t 14 has not yet been adopted.
      1. The leader of the Redskins
        The leader of the Redskins 16 July 2020 06: 50
        +2
        Modern China in structure resembles the army of the USSR of the 80s. Well, powerful, numerous and diverse. Remember, then in the army how many types were in service?
        And T55, and T62, and T-72, and T64, and T80, even T10 ... Even with a bunch of options, everyone, while a comrade who served in the Far East, used to say that there were T-34s in their units, but they stood on the shore buried IS3! But I really doubt it myself)))
        1. carstorm 11
          carstorm 11 16 July 2020 06: 51
          +7
          stood. only in fortified areas. then we used them as targets.
        2. Graz
          Graz 16 July 2020 08: 48
          +1
          after all, and 200 billion, China has a military budget, so it’s impossible to take nm seriously
        3. Vadim237
          Vadim237 16 July 2020 13: 35
          -4
          Given the prevalence of ATGMs and now also Kamikaze drones, all these thousands of tanks are just targets, one hit and no tank.
        4. Alf
          Alf 16 July 2020 19: 46
          +4
          Quote: Leader of the Redskins
          and on the shore were buried IS3! But I really doubt it myself)))

        5. volodimer
          volodimer 17 July 2020 18: 04
          +1
          Rather, it resembles the pre-war USSR with a huge number of T-26s of various modifications, BT from 2nd to 7th, T-28, T-35, you can add light ones here, and then with about the same percentage of new T-34 and HF we get the composition of the Chinese armored vehicles.
          The buried IS2 and IS3 were, like the T-54, the towers of which were still with the zamans until recently ... for me ... time. Then the metal pickers pulled a lot of things.
        6. phair
          phair 11 October 2020 11: 27
          +1
          Do not hesitate, stood. Now everything has been dug up. About 10 years ago, there was a case, when driving to the Ussuriysk tank one was hijacked in Khorol;) land mines from special warheads were also dug along the border.
      2. strelokmira
        strelokmira 16 July 2020 20: 19
        0
        smaller. we have three models 72 80 and 90

        On paper, three, in fact in 2008, fought with the T-62 Georgians. So what else variety
        1. carstorm 11
          carstorm 11 16 July 2020 21: 55
          +3
          they were withdrawn from service in the year 11. they are no longer in the troops
          1. Cyril G ...
            Cyril G ... 17 July 2020 09: 43
            +1
            I look into Syria, we are transporting T-62
        2. Boris Chernikov
          Boris Chernikov 17 July 2020 17: 54
          +1
          maybe because the T-62 was transferred to the mobilization in the 2011th?
      3. Maki Avellevich
        Maki Avellevich 18 July 2020 09: 12
        0
        Quote: carstorm 11
        smaller. we have three models 72 80 and 90. what is not used in storage so they can not be considered. t 14 has not yet been adopted.

        Quote: carstorm 11
        smaller. we have three models 72 80 and 90. what is not used in storage so they can not be considered. t 14 has not yet been adopted.

        the more models the better?
      4. Zementbomber
        Zementbomber 16 September 2020 11: 51
        0
        And if the modifications of these models are counted? wink
    2. Finches
      Finches 16 July 2020 06: 23
      15
      Somehow, after we convinced the Chinese comrades that no one would ever find out about anything (and they have it strictly in the PLA - for drunkenness, and even with Russian officers ...), they sat down well on our a song about three tankmen, three funny friends (they especially liked the verse where "samurai flew to the ground" laughing ) sang their song about a cheerful tanker:

      Have a fun tankman
      Have a tractor friend
      Nineteen years old girl
      And how gloriously the tractor drives ...
      Together we protect our native China.
      Soul tankers are all with you
      You lead the best in the fields
      Mighty Tractor
      Your friend on the tank rushes into battle ...


      At the end of the feast, we agreed to beat the Anglo-Saxons and their hangers-on, in an adult way! That’s how it turned out popular diplomacy laughing
      1. volodimer
        volodimer 17 July 2020 18: 20
        +1
        It is difficult to communicate with them at the level of science. They have been counting us for the capitalists for a long time ... And I was standing on the guard of honor at the portrait of Leonid Ilyich ... They are very strained by the authorities, so they only drink in their company, but it was impossible to get away from the general banquet. Here it became clear that we were not a rival for them, they had long aimed at the hegemon. Yes, they remembered the samurai and how the ameronagles were beaten in Korea, but we have gone far from the time of the NSC. And when they stole and patented the instrument circuitry from us, well, then the paths diverged. And not because we are kapitalyugi (there without firmware proca, the whole scheme is a set of elements), but because theft is bad in any social system.
  2. Hydrography Bay Golden Horn
    Hydrography Bay Golden Horn 16 July 2020 07: 26
    -6
    Opponents of the PLA just need a lot of Israel SPIK to buy and the problem is solved
    1. Boris Chernikov
      Boris Chernikov 17 July 2020 17: 55
      0
      enough artillery, but on the whole a combat-ready army is needed
  3. mvg
    mvg 16 July 2020 08: 03
    20
    Another literary article in which the same phrases are repeated 55 times. Like a song with a refrain. It is not possible to read. Rubbish.
  4. Graz
    Graz 16 July 2020 08: 45
    +3
    it doesn’t matter if the tank is outdated or not, it still remains a mobile gun mount with no protection whatsoever, even if only from the gunner (for LT)
    And where China can move its armada of places there are not so many considering the geography of its neighbors, and the possibility of their supply and transportation along the roads (including railway) or just a convenient terrain
  5. Grazdanin
    Grazdanin 16 July 2020 09: 23
    0

    These tanks can only be against the three countries of South Korea, Vietnam, Russia. True, only one of them has a comparable number of tanks.
    1. The comment was deleted.
    2. Lara Croft
      Lara Croft 17 July 2020 20: 43
      +1
      Quote: Grazdanin
      These tanks can only be against the three countries of South Korea, Vietnam, Russia. True, only one of them has a comparable number of tanks.

      And one of them does not have a common border with the PRC at all ...
  6. Doccor18
    Doccor18 16 July 2020 09: 49
    +3
    Obviously, in the event of a real war, obsolete tanks of the last century will not be used on the battlefield. As in full-scale battles ...

    When someone starts talking about the "Chinese threat", they speak in response about alarmism. But where is the Chinese army going to use thousands of tanks. On its borders, they can be used only in two directions: to the north - in the Russian Federation, to the north-west - in Kazakhstan. There is nowhere else to move the "tank armada".
    And if such a movement begins, it will be the old 59, 79 and 88 that will be the first to go into battle. Considering the small number of the tank fleet of China's conditional opponents, after a week of fighting, losses will exceed all reasonable limits. And then the PRC will set in motion the elite units of the ground forces for 99, which will crush what is left ...
    1. 5-9
      5-9 16 July 2020 17: 10
      -2
      Tanks cannot be used against Russia, geography and terrain are against. The more they are driven through the Dzungar gate (and the more there is really nowhere), the faster they will surrender :)
    2. Cyril G ...
      Cyril G ... 17 July 2020 09: 45
      0
      THE FLEET IS THE SAME AGAINST RUSSIA?
      And the fleet already built costs an order of magnitude more expensive than those armor that already exist ...
  7. Private-K
    Private-K 16 July 2020 10: 08
    +2
    And now let us carry out elementary military-analytical actions and reflect.
    1) Tanks built in the 60s and 70s are UNWAYS scrap metal. Even if they can formally drive and shoot. That is, almost all Type59s are either already melted down, or are waiting for their fate to finally rot in warehouses.
    2) We look at how many tank battalions the PLA has - approx. 120 multiplied by 120 = 30. Well, there are still a few training courses in a relatively ready reserve. We go to the number 3600 maximum.
    Shit, this figure closely matches the estimates for relatively new tanks made in the 90-00-10s - Type96 and Type99 of all modifications.
    That is, the PLA has no more. 4000 MBT. And most likely less.

    PS PLA and does not need a large number of MBT. The surrounding landscape does not contribute to this. Therefore, even 3800-4000 is a bit too much and rather the inertia of thinking. Probably, the number of real combatant and reserve MBTs in the PLA will be reduced as unnecessary.
  8. Free wind
    Free wind 16 July 2020 10: 12
    0
    The photographs of the exercises clearly show the T-62, or whatever type they have. The Type-96 was created with an eye on the T-72, but they still improved the engines. The Type -99 has a German diesel engine of 1500 horses. True, the Chinese were begging for a 12-cylinder engine, but the Hans were adamant, either eight or nichrome, I don't remember the markings of MTVish engines. But even so, Type -99 is a very formidable and nimble tank.
    1. 5-9
      5-9 16 July 2020 17: 12
      0
      In Type96, the engines were so "improved" that the 7th roller had to be screwed in, the weight increased, so the mobility even dropped ...
  9. iouris
    iouris 16 July 2020 10: 46
    0
    How many bows and arrows does China have?
  10. Pavel57
    Pavel57 16 July 2020 11: 53
    -2
    An interesting variety of tanks. What's next?
    1. iouris
      iouris 16 July 2020 15: 21
      -2
      If at first 10 million Chinese people surrender at first, then any economy will collapse.
  11. Old26
    Old26 16 July 2020 15: 52
    +5
    Quote: Leader of the Redskins
    Modern China in structure resembles the army of the USSR of the 80s. Well, powerful, numerous and diverse. Remember, then in the army how many types were in service?
    And T55, and T62, and T-72, and T64, and T80, even T10 ... Even with a bunch of options, everyone, while a comrade who served in the Far East, used to say that there were T-34s in their units, but they stood on the shore buried IS3! But I really doubt it myself)))

    My work colleague served in the Far East in the early 70's. Army photos - he is on the T-10 frontal armor (not buried). So there were. I heard from many that back in the late 70s and early 80s, the ISy-3 and T-34 were used as firing points ...

    Quote: Doccor18
    And if such a movement begins, it will be the old 59, 79 and 88 that will be the first to go into battle. Considering the small number of the tank fleet of China's conditional opponents, after a week of fighting, losses will exceed all reasonable limits. And then the PRC will set in motion the elite units of the ground forces for 99, which will crush what is left ...

    I read your phrase and remember the description of the tank attack in The Inhabited Island. In the first echelon there are old angular boxes, and the last one - tanks with flattened turrets ...
    1. Zementbomber
      Zementbomber 16 September 2020 11: 58
      0
      My work colleague served in the Far East in the early 70's. Army photos - he is on the T-10 frontal armor (not buried). So there were. I heard from many that back in the late 70s and early 80s, the ISy-3 and T-34 were used as firing points ...

      Well, the ISU-152 in combat tsp (not URovskikh) served until the end of the 1970s.
      And the IS-3M in the 18th Bullet Division and still serve as BOTs in the "tank" battalions.
  12. xomaNN
    xomaNN 16 July 2020 16: 55
    0
    Assessing the path that the development tanks of the PRC have traveled, we can only applaud! We started by copying Soviet models, but they also created their own design school and launched tank production facilities in China.
  13. 5-9
    5-9 16 July 2020 17: 07
    +2
    The United States in the ranks is not 2400, but 1400 tanks.
    Type96 is unsuccessful, along with the minuses of tanks and the Soviet and Western schools ...
    1. Vadim237
      Vadim237 16 July 2020 18: 58
      +3
      And given the latest tank biathlon - with a good share of marriage, however, like everything that the Chinese produce in the field of their developments.
      1. 5-9
        5-9 17 July 2020 08: 57
        +2
        And they also went towards them, allowing them to shoot OBPS, when everyone else fired with practical shells ...
  14. Clueless
    Clueless 16 July 2020 20: 00
    +2
    It is strange to read comments where they say that China's old tanks have scrap metal. It all depends on where to apply them, and against whom;) China, as you can see, is now trying (and in some places successfully) to expand into Latin America, Africa, etc. There, these tanks for war with the local Papuans and demonstrations of force are very suitable. Fortunately, there are many tanks, but local tankers are not particularly sorry.
    1. Vadim237
      Vadim237 17 July 2020 14: 53
      0
      Everyone has anti-tank systems - at least against whom you use tanks.
  15. certero
    certero 17 July 2020 01: 49
    0
    I remember the Soviet Union during its heyday there were 60 tanks
  16. Kostadinov
    Kostadinov 17 July 2020 17: 04
    +1
    Quote: Private-K
    Tanks built in the 60-70s are unambiguously scrap. Even if they formally can ride and shoot.

    It’s good to have more such scrap metal in service.
  17. stankow
    stankow 17 July 2020 18: 25
    0
    "Obviously, in the event of a real war, obsolete tanks of the last century will not be used on the battlefield."

    How will they be! And the infantry will say "thank you"!
  18. Pamir
    Pamir 17 July 2020 23: 39
    +1
    The fact is that you can earn money on old MBT technology, there are many conflicts in the world, and old tanks do not have to be used in your own troops, but quietly selling them to the troubled waters of regional conflicts to third countries not burdened by financial prosperity is always welcome. The countries of the former Warsaw Pact sold the equipment they inherited from the USSR to the countries of Africa, the Middle East, Asia. Let's say the same Ukraine sold it to Georgia. In the post-Soviet space, in conflicts, such equipment was exposed. Not everyone can always afford to buy know-how. So that old equipment still pays dividends. For example, let's say some Uzbekistan wants to solve a territorial issue, for example, with Turkmenistan, or Kyrgyzstan by force. The army of these countries does not have so-so new equipment, but Uzbekistan also does not have much money for new equipment, but here time, China at the cost of one T90 will offer three of its Type59, and please, instead of seventy T90, already a full-blooded division of more than 200 tan kov Type 59. For a war with Turkmenistan or Kyrgyzstan it is quite, even. And if China is permissible, it can be an interested person in the conflict, if Kyrgyzstan or Turkmenistan is a bone in the throat and yuan in his pocket, and his interests can be decided by third hands. Old technology can, for example, here There are a dime a dozen small countries that do not have their own military-industrial complex, and money, for the new one, too, they directly depend on supplies from countries with a powerful military-industrial complex base. And such supplies are carried out through fourth countries that can no longer be tracked, and it is useless for China present, he has everything in order, here are the documents for a contract with some Sri Lanka, and then it’s not our business to say. War in our time is not tank battles of militarily powerful countries, this is a lot of money for the supply of second-rate weapons to weak countries, and their covert support, against their strong competitors. An excellent example of China's supply of small arms, grenade launchers, mines, communications equipment to the Mujahideen to counter the contingent of the USSR OKSVA. The same with tanks yesterday Today, no one is in a hurry to send them for melting, the strong do not fight the strong against them, but to warm up the hotbed of conflicts with third hands, to ensure their own interests, and even for financial profit, it is always welcome. China is not going to fight an outdated tank fleet of vehicles against the Russian Federation, but to stir up some kind of conflict in Central Asia, it's easy. Take the same Georgian-Ossetian conflict, there equipment from Ukraine and Turkey lit up, it is enough to read "Tanks of August", there Georgia's cartridges from the west miscalculated, did not see that the Russian Federation so that outdated technology brings its dividends through sales at a bargain value to weak countries, promoting its economies and political interests, and providing a competitor, albeit not fatal losses, but a certain headache.
  19. lubesky
    lubesky 25 July 2020 03: 34
    -1
    Actually, you need to look at a potential theater of operations for a tank armada. There is not much to turn around, given the specific terrain of potential rollout of connections. So in this sense, one can readily believe in the orientation of the Chinese army on defense. In the event of a large-scale aggression, tank forces have where to deploy only on their own territory. What am I doing? And, well, yes, China's ambitions do not correspond to their capabilities in reality, I have been talking about this for a long time. There is no threat, on the other hand, will the dragon take advantage of the weakening of the bear - of course, yes, do not harbor illusions and do not suffer from underestimation of the neighbor
  20. Magmax
    Magmax 18 August 2020 21: 32
    0
    Truely large numbers but in the event of a war balistic and cruise missiles and drones wouldf do the job nott tanks
  21. vindigo
    vindigo 6 September 2020 20: 12
    0
    The game was reminiscent of Force 21. There, with the combined forces of the United States, Russia and Kazakhstan, you fight the tank hordes of the Chinese. The theater of military operations is mainly Kazakhstan.
  22. Kostadinov
    Kostadinov 23 September 2020 16: 16
    0
    In terms of the total number of tanks, including those hopelessly outdated, China is the world leader.

    There are no hopelessly outdated tanks in the Chinese army. A serviceable T-59, T-55, T-54 and even T-34/85 are quite a useful vehicle. Good rifled gun 85 and 100 mm., Armor is not worse than BMP and armored personnel carriers. If they are provided with reconnaissance and target designation, they will be slightly inferior to the new tanks. If there is no good reconnaissance and target designation, there will be no benefit from new tanks.