Key point: The Type 15 is specifically adapted for navigating sea-based obstacles.
China’s collection of over 7,000 tanks, while numerically impressive, is inflated by increasingly outdated iterations of 1950’s Soviet T-series tanks like the T-54. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has taken active measures over the past several decades to renew their aging lineup, culminating with the Type 99 that can give competing U.S. and Russian flagship tanks a run for their money.
But as the Type 99 evolved in the direction of greater firepower and expanded armaments suite with the recent Type 99A, the need became apparent for a lighter, mobile modern tank that can effectively operate in China’s plateaus, forests, and water-heavy regions.
Enter the Type 15. Sporadic sightings of the light tank were previously reported by Chinese citizens, but its existence is now formally confirmed by the Chinese Defense Ministry.
“We’re following the overall plan and focusing on key equipment – we have made major achievements in our equipment build-up. As for the Type 15 light tank, according to my information, it has been handed over to our troops,” The South China Morning Post (SCMP) quoted defense ministry spokesman Wu Qian as saying.
The Type 15 has a 1,000 horsepower engine, about twice that of the Type 62 tank it is replacing. It boasts a 105 mm gun capable of firing armor-piercing shells and guided missiles, as opposed to the 85 mm gun of its Type 62 predecessor. Military expert Song Zhongping put the difference bluntly to the SCMP: "The Type 62 tank is lagging behind. The Type 15 tank has much better protection capability and manoeuvrability.”