The Type 99 is the primary main battle tank operated by the People's Liberation Army in China. In the early 1990's, China developed one of its second generation designs, the Type 90-II prototype series. The Type 90-II was developed by studying the Soviet T-72 main battle tank. The Type 90-II's features included a 125 mm smoothbore cannon with an autoloader, modular composite armor, and a centered driver position. While the Type 90-II series ultimately did not enter the People's Liberation Army (PLA) service, it saw success as an export tank and was also built under license in Pakistan as the Al-Khalid.
The Type 98 or WZ-123 was China's domestic Type 90-II derivative. It was first seen in rehearsals for the 1999 National Day parade and was officially revealed on 1 October 1999. It sported a distinctive appearance with the hull and crew layout similar to the Soviet T-72, but with a welded angular turret more similar to Western designs. When the tank went into service it was renamed to the Type 99. According to military information website Global Security, the Type 99 has a lengthened T-72 hull. An updated Type 99 model was officially introduced at the 2015 Victory Day Parade as the Type 99A. This variant had previously been used by PLA troops during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) military exercises in 2014. Although the PLA has not distinguished between this variant and older models, some sources have named this latest variant the Type 99A2.
The Type 99 has a great speed and powerful gun, with some pretty tough frontal armor. Even firing standard AP ammo, the Type 99 can do considerable damage to high-level enemy tanks. But unlike its Soviet/Russian counterparts, the Type 99 cannot be fitted with spaced armor. Upgrades are prohibitively expensive as well. For example, Level I engine/transmission upgrade costs 1400 Silver, which is nearly 25% of the tank's original cost. That said, the upgrades are as expensive as they are for good reason; many tanks aren't particularly effective until after they've been substantially upgraded, but the Type 99 pretty much only needs upgrades of HEAT ammunition and active protection system to turn it into a monster on the battlefield. Those two upgrades are both fairly inexpensive compared with the vehicle's other upgrades, and though they don't affect the tank's soft statistics very much they make a vast improvement in the tank's performance.
Speed, acceleration, and armor are all well up to par, and firepower is just a shade lighter than the M1 Abrams. The Type 99 fires all types of ammo including ATMs (but obviously not including rockets), and has all upgrade features available except for spaced armor and night vision. Spaced armor is one of the more important upgrades, but the Type 99 has a great combination of speed, armor, and health that the lack of spaced armor is at least partially compensated for. The Type 99 also loses that excellent turret rotation speed that most of its predecessors possessed (Type 59, Type 69-II, Type 79), so its turret rotation speed is only average. When used properly, the Type 99 can be very difficult to defeat. It's plenty fast enough to run flags and can maneuver well enough to dogfight at close quarters combat encounters, and is also powerful enough to serve as part of the main battle line. The Type 99 is an extremely versatile and powerful tank that can rule over matches when used effectively.
Pros and Cons
- Awesome combination of both health points and armor, great survivability
- Excellent angling of upper frontal glacis armor that can reliably repel shots, turret front also has very effective angling as well and can also bounce shots most of the time
- Powerful gun with nice penetration values
- Fast speed
- ATM deals some of the highest damage of any tank around its level, and also has amazing ATM protection itself
- Agility is lacking, can get circled or flanked relatively easily
- Doesn't have any spaced armor upgrades
- Loses the nimble turret rotation speed that its predecessors had, though not too much of an issue