The Type 59 is a rank V Chinese medium tank with a battle rating of 7.7 (AB/RB/SB). It was introduced in Update 1.91 "Night Vision".
The Type 59 holds the distinction of being the first tank to be domestically manufactured by the People's Republic of China. It is a famous part of the PLA's Cold War tank inventory, saw service with many countries, and set the stage for many later developments.
A somewhat simplified and licensed produced version of the Soviet T-54A, the Type 59 looks very much like the T-54 (1951). The most noticeable differences are the fume extractor on the tip of the gun barrel and the different roadwheels, similar to the T-55A. Internally, the Type 59 differs from the T-54 by having a single-plane stabilizer and a different ammunition selection. It helps to get accustomed to this grandfather of Chinese tanks, as the later Type 69, ZTZ59D1, and T-69 II G are its descendants and handle similarly.
Succeeding the Type 59 is the Type 69, which improves on the Type 59 in many areas and has a new smoothbore cannon.
Survivability and armour
The armour layout of the Type 59 is identical to the T-54 (1951), having a rounded, egg-shaped turret with a highly sloped upper glacis. The armour is not bad per se, but most of its opponents use powerful APDS, APFSDS, or HEAT-FS rounds that can go right through it. While it is mostly immune to APHE rounds from the front, few vehicles use them at its rank, and those that do are typically from the Soviet Union and unlikely to face the Type 59 in Realistic Battles. The full-caliber AP shells fired by the M103's 120 mm gun can penetrate the Type 59's hull armour quite easily.
Post-penetration survivability is questionable. Ammunition is scattered around the tank and none of the ammo racks are protected. The interior of the tank is cramped and penetrating hits are likely to take out multiple crew members. When the gun is pointed forward, the driver, gunner, and commander are all lined up for an easy one-shot kill.
- Rolled homogeneous armour (Hull, Turret roof)
- Cast homogeneous armour (Turret, Gun mantlet)
|Hull|| 100 mm (60°) Front glacis
100 mm (54°) Lower glacis
|80 mm|| 45 mm (16°) Upper
30 mm (72°) Lower
| 30 mm Front |
20 mm Back
|Turret|| 160 mm (14-39°) Turret front
200 mm (4-78°) Gun mantlet
| 115 mm (45-50°) Upper
155 mm (10-30°) Lower
|65 mm (9-35°)||30 mm|
- Suspensions wheels and tracks are 20 mm thick
|Game Mode||Max Speed (km/h)||Weight (tons)||Engine power (horsepower)||Power-to-weight ratio (hp/ton)|
The mobility of the Type 59 is the same as the T-54, decent to good but not the best. The top speed will only be reached on paved surfaces. The wide tracks make for fairly good off-road capability. The tank cannot turn in place and the reverse speed of -7 km/h leaves much to be desired. Speedy MBTs like the Leopard I will easily outrun the Type 59, though it can keep up with the M60 and is still faster than the Centurion Mk 10.
Modifications and economy
The Type 59 cannon is identical to the original Soviet D-10T used by the T-54 (1951) aside from its stabilizer and different choice of ammunition. The turret rotation speed is very poor, making it hard to respond to ambushes and proving to be a liability in urban combat. The vertical stabilizer allows the Type 59 to shoot accurately when driving under 40 km/h. The reload is quite slow and the average medium tank at the Type 59's battle rating will reload around 2 seconds quicker.
|100 mm Type 59||Turret rotation speed (°/s)||Reloading rate (seconds)|
|Ammunition|| Type of
|Penetration @ 0° Angle of Attack (mm)|
|10 m||100 m||500 m||1,000 m||1,500 m||2,000 m|
|Ammunition|| Type of
| Fuse delay
| Fuse sensitivity
| Explosive Mass
(TNT equivalent) (g)
The Type 59 has many ammunition types to choose from. The stock round is the BR-412 APHE. An uncapped shell, its performance is rather substandard for its rank and it might have difficulties against angled armour or at long distances. The BR-412B APHEBC round is slightly better at a distance and the BR-412D APCBC round is the best of the AP shells overall. These shells are best used against lightly armoured tanks like the Leopard I and AMX-30. Light tanks and SPAAs are also good targets, but some may have extremely thin armour that will not trigger the fuse.
The BR-412P APCR shell is currently modeled as having less penetration than the BR-412D round, so it is completely useless and should not be taken.
The Type 1959 APDS has identical penetration to the Soviet 3BM-8 APDS round with minor differences in the weight and muzzle velocity. The performance is generally comparable to the DM13 APDS. It has a high muzzle velocity and is thus the easiest to use at long distances, but the post-penetration damage is somewhat underwhelming.
The Type 1973 HEAT-FS has the same penetration as the T-55A's 3BK-5M HEAT-FS round. The muzzle velocity and weight are between the 3BK-5M and 3BK-5, but it has about 260 fewer grams of TNT equivalent due to the different filler. In practice, there is not a significant difference, and the HEAT-FS boasts the highest penetration out of all of the Type 59's rounds, going clean through almost any tank not equipped with composite armour or ERA. It is also capable of triggering overpressure on light tanks and SPAAs on occasion. Unfortunately, the fuse is very sensitive and will trigger on bushes and fences.
The OF-412 HE shell only has 26 mm of penetration and is of limited utility. It is not large enough to cause any notable damage to MBTs, and while it can cause overpressure damage, so can the HEAT-FS.
Note that the Type 59 does not have access to the 3D3 smoke shell from the T-54 (1951).
|34||33 (+1)||28 (+6)||24 (+10)||23 (+11)||21 (+13)||1 (+33)||No|
- Shells are modelled individually and disappear after having been shot or loaded.
- Rack 6 is a first stage ammo rack. It totals 20 shells and gets filled first when loading up the tank.
- This rack is also emptied early: the rack depletion order at full capacity is 6 - 1 - 2 - etc. until 5.
- Full reload speed will be realized as long as shells are available in the ready rack 6. If the ready rack is empty, a penalty to reload speed will occur.
- Simply not firing when the gun is loaded will move ammo from racks 1-5 into rack 6. Firing will interrupt the restocking of the ready rack.
- If you pack 28 (+6), it will keep the turret empty of ammo.
- If you pack 21 (+13) shells, it will keep most of the hull empty of ammo.
The ammunition storage of the Type 59 is not exactly safe, but to be fair, this applies to many contemporary tanks. Spare rounds are littered around the turret and fighting compartment, and there is a large rack next to the driver. It's best to take fewer rounds to at least clear out the turret. Carrying 21 rounds or fewer will completely empty the fighting compartment, which helps to prevent side-aspect shots from being instantly fatal.
|12.7 mm DShK|
|Mount||Capacity (Belt)||Fire rate||Vertical||Horizontal|
|7.62 mm SGMT|
|Mount||Capacity (Belt)||Fire rate||Vertical||Horizontal|
Usage in battles
The Type 59 is best used similarly to the original T-54. The mobility is decent, but the turret rotation speed and gun elevation speed are quite agonizing. For those not used to this vehicle, it is better not to rush straight into the combat zone. Instead, stay behind other teammates, keep an eye on the surroundings, and anticipate where enemies may appear. The vertical stabilizer, an oddity for a high-tier vehicle, is effective up to around 40 km/h, which is a major step up from the familiar vertical stabilizers used by the M4 Sherman family and practically equivalent to two-plane stabilizer under most circumstances; the Type 59 will typically only exceed 40 km/h when driving downhill or on roads. Still, the crippling gun handling makes high-speed shooting risky since the turret will struggle with the rapid aim adjustments required. The stabilizer is a significant advantage when fighting unstabilized tanks since the gun does not need to settle before an accurate shot. Keep the gun pointed towards possible enemy positions and remember to turn the hull as well as the turret when rapid adjustments in aim are needed.
Helicopters start to become common around the Type 59's battle rating and can be a major threat if equipped with rockets or ATGMs. The Type 59 has limited options for offence or defence against helicopters since it has poor gun handling and no smoke grenades. The APDS might be able to take out very inattentive helicopter pilots with good aim and a healthy dose of luck. If they get closer, the heavy machine gun may be able to destroy or scare off unarmoured helicopters. When all else fails, hide behind buildings or among trees
Stay close to teammates if possible. The slow reload and poor gun handling makes dealing with multiple enemies or flankers a difficult task without backup. A fast light tank, SPAA, or armoured car can circle around the Type 59 faster than it can react. It helps to bind the cupola mounted heavy machine gun to a separate key in case this happens; the DShK rotates fairly quickly and will rip through the sides of light targets like the AUBL/74 HVG with ease. If a healthy distance is maintained, the Type 59 has an easier time coping with its poor gun handling.
Pay attention to the battlefield and identify enemy tanks ahead of time. This allows the gun to be wrangled into position and the appropriate choice of ammunition to be selected. Thinly armoured enemies should typically be targeted with the APCBC round. Scoring one-shot kills is very helpful for the Type 59 since the slow reload makes follow-up shots risky. It is worth remembering that although the OF-40, STB-1, and Leopard A1A1 look very similar to the Leopard I, they are significantly more resistant to conventional rounds from the front. Shoot the OF-40 in the lower glacis, the STB-1 in the upper glacis (close to the turret ring) or gun mantlet, and the A1A1 in the hull.
Tanks with good protection as often seen in the US, British, and Soviet models should be dealt with using APDS or HEAT-FS if side shots are not possible. HEAT-FS is typically the better option since it has higher penetration (enough to comfortably deal with Chieftain turrets where the APDS would struggle), but APDS is easier to aim at long distances (especially important since the Type 59 has no dedicated rangefinder) and cannot be stopped by ERA. Take some of both, perhaps more APDS on large maps. Aim for crew members and ammo racks when using these ammunition types.
This basic version of the Type 59 omitted the night vision systems from the T-54A, so it must rely on illumination flares for vision in night battles. The Type 69 is much more self-sufficient in this regard, so consider using that tank first if it is present in the lineup.
Overall, the Type 59 faces many challenges at its current battle rating, often being up tiered and having to deal with tanks far more advanced than it. Still, it is satisfying to destroy a thermal-equipped, APFSDS-slinging MBT from the late 1980s with a tank first produced in 1958, using an APCBC round introduced in 1951.
Pros and cons
- Powerful 100 mm gun with the same wide selection of ammunition as the Soviet T-54 (1951), including strong HEAT-FS and high-velocity APDS
- Good frontal armour, strong against AP and APHE rounds
- Has a top-mounted heavy machine gun for use against soft targets and aircraft
- Decent vertical stabiliser, it only stops working at speeds over 40 km/h - speeds that are rarely reached
- Decent mobility
- APHE is reliably and devastatingly effective against lightly armoured vehicles like the Leopard I from the front and other tanks from the side
- Long reload
- Sluggish turret traverse
- Armour does not hold up very well at its rank - APDS, HEAT-FS and APFSDS cuts through your armour, even at a distance
- No sources of smoke available
- No night vision
- No neutral steering
- No laser or optical rangefinder, making long-range sniping more difficult
- Poor gun depression of -4°
- Not too impressive reverse of -7 km/h
During the early 1950s, the People's Republic of China purchased numerous tanks from the Soviet Union, such as the T-34-85 and the IS-2. Domestic industrial and engineering capabilities were quite limited at the time and the USSR agreed to assist in setting up a factory manufacturing the T-54A in China. The Chinese copies were designated Type 59 and featured several differences from the original T-54A, such as the deletion of the night vision and possibly stabilizer systems, at least initially.
The Type 59 was produced for a long period of time in several versions, finally appearing in large numbers to completely replace the highly obsolete T-34-85 after a few decades. Though it started out as a competitive design, it became apparent that the Type 59 was in need of some upgrades after a few years. An effort to create a replacement resulted in the Type 69, but this model was not very popular with the PLA, only seeing limited domestic service. As a result, the Type 59 remained the premier tank of the PLA for most of the Cold War, seeing usage in the Sino-Vietnamese War in 1979 and at Tiananmen Square in 1989 and receiving limited domestic upgrades to the fire-control, automotive, and fire suppression systems. The reason for the PLA's continued use of this first generation MBT was largely due to the political turmoils that were happening in China during the late 60s and early 70s. Efforts to produce domestic second-generation MBTs to replace the Type 59, such as the WZ-122, were usually blocked as political ideology took hold of these projects attempted by skilled Chinese engineers.
When relations with the Western world began to normalize during the early 1980s, foreign technologies were available for integration, resulting in numerous upgraded variants like the Type-59-II, Type 59D1, Type 59D, Jaguar, and VT-3. Soon afterwards domestic tank development accelerated and Type 59 was superseded by more modern tanks such as the Type 80/88 series. Currently, the Type 59 is still present in the PLA's inventory in sizable quantities but has been gradually relegated to reserve and training purposes, with more and more units being equipped with modern Type 96 and Type 99 main battle tanks.
Like the original T-54/55 series, the Type 59 was a popular export item. It was used by the North Vietnamese Army during the Vietnam War alongside its Soviet counterpart. It remains in use with countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Iran, often in a heavily upgraded form. Chinese companies still offer comprehensive upgrades and conversions of the Type 59 for export customers. An estimated 10,000 tanks were produced between 1959 to the 1980s.
The tank was also shown in the famous photo of "Tank Man" on Tiananmen square.
- Related development
- [Wikipedia] Type 59 tank
- [Tank Encyclopedia] Type 59 main battle tank
- [Federation of American Scientists - Military Analysis Network] Type 59
|China North Industries Corporation (中国兵器工业集团有限公司)|
|Light Tanks/IFV||▂Type 62* · Type 62* · Type 63-I* · ZBD86|
|Main Battle Tanks|
|WZ120||Type 59* · ZTZ59A* · ZTZ59D1|
|WZ121||Type 69* · Type 69-IIa* · T-69 II G**|
|WZ122||ZTZ88A · ZTZ96 · ZTZ96A · ZTZ96A (P)|
|WZ123||ZTZ99-II · ZTZ99-III|
|WZ1001||WZ1001(E) LCT · ZTZ99A|
|Tank Destroyers||AFT09 · PTL02 · WMA301** · PTZ89 · ZLT11|
|SPAA||ZSD63/PG87* · WZ305* · PGZ09 · PGZ04A|
|*Previously Fifth Ministry of Machine Building vehicles|
|China medium tanks|
|Type 59 · ZTZ59A · ZTZ59D1|
|Type 69 · Type 69-IIa · T-69 II G|
|ZTZ88A · ZTZ96 · ZTZ96A · ZTZ96A (P)|
|ZTZ99-II · ZTZ99-III|
|ZTZ99A · WZ1001(E) LCT|
|Other||Т-34-85 Gai · Object 122MT "MC"|
|Japan||␗Chi-Ha · ␗Chi-Ha Kai|
|USA||␗M4A4 · ␗M4A4 (1st PTG) · ␗M4A1 (75) W · ␗M48A1 · ␗M60A3 TTS|
|USSR||␗T-34 (1943) · ␗Т-34-85 (S-53) · T-34-85 No.215 · Т-62 №545|