Type 59 Main Battle Tank
Gary's Combat Vehicle Reference Guide

IN0534: Type 59-II
 Type 59-II
Alternative DesignationsWZ 120B
Country of OriginChina
RoleMain battle tank
Date Of Introduction1951, original Type 59
Combat Weight40.2-40.8 tons (36.5-37.0 mt)
Ground Pressure11.37 psi (0.8 kg/cm²)
Length, Overall 29.53 ft (9 m)
Length, Hull 19.81 ft (6.04 m)
Width, Overall 10.83 ft (3.3 m)
Height, Overall 8.5 ft (2.59 m)
Ground Clearance16.7 in (425 mm)
 Type 59-II
Engine520 hp (388 kw) diesel
Range273 miles (440 km). 373 miles (600 km) with external tanks.
Fuel Capacity215 gal (815 l)
Road Speed25-31 mph (40-50 km/h)
Cross Country Speed16 mph (25 km/h)
Swim SpeedN/A
Fording Depth4.6 ft (1.4 m) unprepared, 18 ft (5.5 m) with snorkel
Trench Crossing8.9 ft (2.7 m)
Vertical Wall Climb2.6 ft (0.79 m)
 Type 59-II
Hull front, upper: 3.82 in (97 mm)     Turret front: 8 in (203 mm)
Hull front, lower: 3.9 in (99 mm)     Turret sides: 5.9 in (150 mm)
Hull sides, upper: 3.11 in (79 mm)Turret rear: 2.52 in (64 mm)
Hull sides, lower: 0.79 in (20 mm)Turret top: 1.54 in (39 mm)
Hull rear: 1.81 in (46 mm)
Hull floor: 0.79 in (20 mm)
Hull top: 1.3 in (33 mm)
Applique ArmorTrack skirts are fitted to some tanks.
Explosive Reactive ArmorN/A
Active Protective SystemN/A
NBC Protection SystemN/A
Smoke Equipment8 x 81-mm smoke grenade launchers.
Vehicle engine exhaust smoke system.
Type 59-II
Type Mount Typical Ammo Load
105mm rifled gun, similar to British L7 Turret; manual loading 34.
7.62mm Type 59T machine gun Coaxial to main gun 2,000
7.62mm Type 59T machine gun Bow ball mount 1,000
12.7mm Type 54 AA machine gun Turret roof 500
 Type 59-II
Fire Control SystemUI light spot fire control system
Main Gun Stabilization2-plane
Infrared SearchlightYes


The Type 59 MBT was developed from earlier Soviet supplied T-54s and later model T-54As. In many aspects, the Chinese Type 59 and Soviet T54s are similar.

The overall layout of the Type 59 is similar to the T-54 series with the driver's compartment at the front, fighting compartment in the center and engine and transmission at the rear. The Type 59 has a four-man crew.

The Type 54 machine gun is a Chinese copy of the Russian 12.7mm M1938/46 DShKM.


Mine plows and roller-plows are available. GEC-Marconi Centaur fire control system is available. British Barr and Stroud thermal based FCS can be fitted.
Type 59
Original model is a copy of the Former Soviet T-54 MBT. Has no gun stabilization or infrared equipment. Main armament for the Type 59 consists of a 100mm Type 59 rifled gun that fires both Chinese and NORINCO developed rounds. Normal ammunition load for the main armament is 34 rounds.
Type 59-I
In addition to internal engineering and equipment changes, a new 100mm gun stabilized in both elevation and traverse has been installed on this version.
Type 59-II
See data above. This version's gun is believed to be a western 105mm rifled tank gun fitted with the normal fume extractor and thermal sleeve.
Type 59 with 105-mm L7 gun (UK)
The United Kingdom has fitted this type 59 with the 105-mm L7A3 rifled tank gun.
Type 59 MBT with IR18 Thermal Imager (UK)
This United Kingdom owned Type 59 was fitted with a IR18 based thermal fire control system. The thermal sensor for the system was mounted on a bracket on the left side of the mantlet and moves with the 105mm gun.
Type 59 Chassis with Marksman Turret
This type 59 version was fitted with a twin 35mm air defense turret.
Type 59 Basic ARV
This ARV is essentially a Type 59 with its turret removed. The vehicle is armed with a single 12.7mm machine gun. This ARV is not believed to have a winch and is limited to towing operations.
T-72Z/ Safir 74
Iranian variant which constitutes state of the art for upgraded 50s-generation former Warsaw Pact tanks. This tank has a 780hp diesel engine, track skirts, and smoke grenade launchers. An Iranian ERA package will fit T-72Z.

Armament includes an M68 105mm rifled gun, 7.62mm Type 59T (PKT) MG, and a 12.7mm Type 59 (DShKM) MG. The cannon can launch AT-10/Bastion ATGMs (to 4,000 meters) and fire a broad range of NATO 105mm ammunition.

Fire control includes the robust Slovenian EFCS-3-55 fire control system with stabilization, a laser rangefinder, and a ballistic computer. The FCS includes a commander's independent viewer and target designation system, and II gunner night sights.

Type 59 Photos - Click on image sample to see full size image.

Defenselink website: Type 59
Captured Iraqi Type 59
Operation Desert Storm
U.S. DoD Photo by Lance Cpl. Lanham
1024x680, 217K, JPEG
Defenselink website: Type 59
Captured Iraqi Type 59
Operation Desert Storm
U.S. DoD Photo by Lance Cpl. Lanham
1024x693, 201K, JPEG