|This page is about the Chinese medium tank ZTZ96A. For other versions, see ZTZ96 (Family).|
The ZTZ96A (ZTZ96A式主战坦克; industry code WZ122R) is a major upgrade to the ZTZ96 with new FCS, upgraded protection and powerplant, presenting a more economical MBT to support the superior but more expensive fleet of ZTZ99s and ZTZ99As in PLAGF service. By the time the ZTZ96 joined the PLAGF in 1999, the overall performance of the tank lagged behind the mainstream of overseas countries. Thanks to the finalization of the ZTZ99 around the same time, plans for upgrading the ZTZ96 with new powerplant, FCS, and protection were proposed by 2001 for later production runs of the ZTZ96. An earlier prototype included a domestic (or imported) JD-3 IR jammer on the side of turret and an arrow-shaped applique armour on the front, while another prototype was mostly identical to the former except the turret applique armour design was changed to a pike. The former design eventually won the competition and entered service in 2005 as the ZTZ96A; this design was also retained to the future ZTZ96B with overhaul upgrades to the design. Although being named as "ZTZ96", the earlier ZTZ96 (WZ122H) cannot be upgraded to ZTZ96A or ZTZ96B standards.
Introduced in Update 1.97 "Viking Fury", the ZTZ96A is an upgraded variant of the ZTZ96 that improves on several of its predecessor's deficiencies. FY-4 ERA blocks have been installed on the turret and hull, changing the appearance of the tank and offering drastically improved protection against both kinetic and chemical munitions. The engine has been slightly improved and the gunner now has access to thermal sights. While it still isn't the most mobile or well-protected tank around, the ZTZ96A has enough tricks up its sleeve to be a flexible and capable fighter on the battlefield.
Survivability and armour
The most noticeable change on the ZTZ96A is the new armour profile. The design of the ZTZ96A's turret is a further drastic departure from the traditional Chinese and Soviet dome turret design. The turret front is equipped with a wedge or arrowhead shaped block of applique armour, which is modeled as being made of FY-4 ERA tiles. It looks somewhat like the Leopard 2A5; however, the armour stops short at the coaxial gun port, providing a weak spot for the enemy to exploit. Shooting this area does not usually result in an instant knock-out as it will only disable the gun breech and take out the commander or gunner (depending on which side is shot). The protected areas of the turret cheeks are quite strong for the ZTZ96A's rank; total kinetic protection is around 500 mm of RHA equivalent, which is sufficient to resist any APFSDS fired by Rank VI tanks. Chemical protection is around 900 mm, enough to stop many ATGMs. ERA has also been added to the exterior of the storage racks on the turret sides, but there is not enough total protection to stop anything more than light autocannon fire or small HEAT rounds.
As for the hull, the added FY-4 ERA on the upper glacis increases the survivability of the tank. Total kinetic protection is around 480 mm and chemical protection is upwards of 900 mm. Even a direct shot from most APFSDS can be resisted.
It is worth remembering that ERA tiles are destroyed upon absorbing fire and can also be stripped off by autocannons. Without the FY-4 ERA, the base armour of the ZTZ96A is exactly the same as the ZTZ96 and can be easily penetrated by 105 mm DM33 rounds for example. The general weak spots of the ZTZ96 still exist; as mentioned before, the gun breech area does not enjoy the benefits of the new turret armour, and the lower glacis is still completely unprotected. Shots to the lower glacis will often detonate the ammunition in the autoloader and total the tank.
- Rolled homogeneous armour (hull, turret)
- Cast homogeneous armour (gun mantlet, commander cupola)
- Rubber-fabric screens (side skirts)
|Armour||Front (Slope angle)||Sides||Rear||Roof|
|Hull|| 20 mm (69°) Outer UFP
100 mm (67°) Inner UFP
60 mm (51°) LFP
|50 mm|| 45 mm (52°) Top
45 mm (15°) Bottom
|Turret|| 220 mm Turret front
310 mm Gun mantlet
|50-80 mm||20 mm||30 mm|
|Cupola||30 mm (cylindrical)||30 mm (spherical)|
|Composite armour||Front (Slope angle)||Sides|
350 mm Kinetic
480 mm Chemical
140 mm Kinetic
450 mm Chemical
|Turret|| Turret front:
400 mm Kinetic
520 mm Chemical
140 mm Kinetic
450 mm Chemical
| Rear: |
50 mm Kinetic
50 mm Chemical
- Suspension wheels, tracks, and torsion bars are 20 mm thick.
- Belly armour is 20 mm thick.
- Side skirts are 8 mm thick.
- Mudguards and storage boxes are 4 mm thick.
|Game Mode||Max Speed (km/h)||Weight (tons)||Engine power (horsepower)||Power-to-weight ratio (hp/ton)|
The ZTZ96A's 12V150ZLD engine outputs an additional 70 horsepower compared to the ZTZ96's, which is a small but welcome improvement. It still will not win any speed races against most Western MBTs like the Leopard 2K or MBT-70, and even the Challenger Mk.2 can match the ZTZ96A's mobility; but its power-weight ratio is still on par with his Soviet/Russian counterparts. Oddly enough, due to the increased weight from applique ERAs, the reverse speed of -6 km/h is actually worse than the original ZTZ96, so be careful not to overextend.
Modifications and economy
The ZTZ96A makes up for its drawbacks in mobility with a superb gun. The 125 mm Type 88C smoothbore gun is capable of firing APFSDS, HE and HEAT-FS ammunition. For its battle rating, the 125-I shell performs very well, offering 466 mm of flat penetration at point-blank and dropping only to 434 mm at 2 km. Its angled performance is exceptionally good at 269 mm at 60 degrees, outperforming even the best Soviet APFSDS round, 3BM42 whose angled penetration is only 248 mm. For reference, the 125-I performs comparably to Western long-rod sabot rounds such as DM33. The HEAT-FS round is nothing special with a standard 480 mm of penetration that is only really effective at destroying lightly armoured vehicles such as SPAA. The HE round is of the Soviet-style, packing a whopping 5.4 kg of TNT equivalent that can deal devastating damage against Western tanks' weak spots of the hull and turret roof and turret ring. It's recommended to entirely ditch the HEAT-FS for HE as it arguably performs better in the anti-tank role, ironically.
Both T-72s and ZTZ96A now shares the same reload rate at 7.1 second per shot.
It should be noted that the ZTZ96A's gun depression and gun elevation have declined by 1 and 2 degrees, respectively, compared to the ZTZ96. The latter doesn't make much of a difference, but the former is concerning on hilly maps.
|125 mm Type 88C||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) (kg)
| 40 (+0)
| 38 (+2)
| 37 (+3)
| 35 (+5)
| 32 (+8)
| 29 (+11)
| 24 (+16)
| 23 (+17)
| 39 (+1)
- The 9th projectile rack and the 7th propellant rack are a mechanized first stage ammo rack. As such the tank has a fixed reload as it uses an autoloader to reload the main gun, and the main gun cannot be reloaded when these ammo racks are empty.
- It takes around 25s per shell to reload the first stage ammo rack. Additionally, there is a 10s interval between when the gun is fully loaded and the crew starts to reload the first stage ammo rack.
- It is advised to take at most 37 rounds in order to empty the turret's ammo racks.
|12.7 mm QJC88A|
|Mount||Capacity (Belt)||Fire rate||Vertical||Horizontal|
|Commander's cupola||600 (150)||600||-6°/+85°||±180°|
|7.62 mm Type 86|
|Mount||Capacity (Belt)||Fire rate||Vertical||Horizontal|
Usage in battles
The ZTZ96A has a different playstyle than most MBTs do. Instead of being a king of mobility, this tank trades speed for improved armour protection. The tank's mobility is improved from that of the ZTZ96, but it is still below average for this battle rating. It can keep up with some IFVs, but against MBTs, this tank can't match their speed and acceleration. It also has a poor reverse speed, which can make getting out of sticky situations difficult. This lack of mobility means that the ZTZ96A can't rush objectives or favourable locations at the beginning of battle like faster vehicles can. Additionally, it takes longer to relocate around the map to deal with enemies or to attack and defend capture zones. Flanking manoeuvres are also difficult. However, the ZTZ96A's below-average speed doesn't hinder its abilities to brawl in close quarters situations or to snipe from afar.
Both of these playstyles benefit from the tank's strong armour protection, which features ERA on the front of the hull and turret. The turret cheeks and upper glacis are especially well-defended--even a direct APFSDS shell can't always penetrate. In general, the tank is hard to damage from the front. This does not mean that it has no weakpoints, though: the gun breech is exposed and unprotected, and a shot there can do great damage inside the turret compartment. In addition, the vehicle sports an ammunition carousel in the bottom of the hull; a side shot here will very often detonate the ammo storage, causing immediate destruction of the tank. And finally, the ZTZ96A only has three crew members, so long-term endurance is lacking. Even one crew member being knocked out makes taking any more damage much riskier. As a whole, the ZTZ96A's protection is potentially strong but inconsistent, so it's best to stick to cover and not trust the armour as a first line of defense. Even gentle ridgelines can help mask the vulnerable lower glacis.
The ZTZ96A also makes up for its mobility drawbacks with its powerful cannon. Its APFSDS shell has high penetration against both flat and angled armour, and can perform even at long ranges. The gun also makes use of a very powerful HE shell which can deal devastating damage if fired at the roofs of enemy tanks. This gun is reloaded by an autoloading system, which can get a new shell in the breech every 7.1 seconds. The reload speed is worse than that of many MBTs, and skilled players will be able to take advantage of this to destroy the ZTZ96A. It is important to try to destroy the enemy in one shot, or else there may not be enough time to try again. And, the slow reload means that dealing with multiple enemies in quick succession is more difficult than normal. Be careful about the gun's poor turret elevation speed. It can take longer than expected to get sights on a target. The ZTZ96A is equipped with thermal sights which help visibility in night battles or for spotting targets during daytime. Make good use of the thermal sights as they are one of the ZTZ96A's selling points; most contemporary Soviet tanks lack them.
This vehicle is armed with a roof machine gun for use against aircraft and lightly-armoured ground targets.
This tank is a good sniper thanks to its strong frontal armour and powerful gun. When sniping, poor mobility is not an issue and the long reload rate doesn't overly hurt the ZTZ96A's performance. It is also more difficult for enemies to target the ZTZ96A's weak spots. If firing from behind ridgelines, remember that the gun depression is below average, at only -5 degrees.
The ZTZ96A is also effective in close-quarters brawls, where its armour provides a great advantage against the enemy. An opponent like the Leopard 2K or M1 Abrams will have to aim for the ZTZ96A's weak spots while the 125-I APFSDS can penetrate these tanks anywhere. Although the gun handling isn't outstanding, it's enough to get the job done with some situational awareness.
For players grinding the APFSDS in assault mode, it is recommended to bring full ammo, with around half HEAT and half HE. As the countdown goes at the start of the match, quickly find a spot where you will not get shot from every direction and stay there until you run out of ammo or get destroyed. The HEAT is great at knocking out weakly armoured Cold War tanks with a single shot, while the HE is capable of destroying those heavily protected top tier MBT. Given that you do not have APFSDS therefore lacking the ability to knock out some AI frontally, you will have to rely on assists to get scores. Firing HEAT/HE at tracks, roof mounted MG, turret ring, cannon barrel, etc can at least immobilise/disarm the AI, granting you an assist. The 7.1 second reload will be quite slow when facing a huge wave of AI so you must aim each shot carefully, but other times it is generally fast enough. The ZTZ96's armour can take quite some beating but is also prone to ammo rack explosion, or penetrating shots from the lower front plate and gun mantlet.
Enemies worth noting:
- Leopard 2A5: this is the most protected Leopard you will see in assault, usually in Mozdok and Fulda. When facing it frontally or with slight angles, load HE and aim for its turret ring where the crosshair is green. It is very likely to destroy it instantly. When facing its side, load HEAT and aim for its central hull. Don't expect to block any of its shells as its APFSDS can easily go through the ZTZ96's frontal armour, or the AI can just target your weak spots.
- M1A2: you will see it mostly in Fulda and Ardennes. When facing it frontally or with slight angles, load HEAT and aim for its turret ring where the crosshair is green. It is very likely to destroy it instantly. HE might not work here since it cannot effectively hurt the turret crew. But HE works great when aiming at the M1's turret roof. Items like the MG and the optics will all detonate the HE, causing the downward shrapnel to knock out all the crew. When facing its side, load HEAT and aim for its central hull.
- Challenger 2F: you will see it mostly in Sands of Sinai. It is one of the toughest AI to destroy, especially when there are waves of them. When facing it frontally or with slight angles, load HE and aim for the hull side above the tracks where the crosshair is green. It is very likely to detonate random ammo inside. When facing its side, still load HE and aim for its central hull for an ammo detonation. The Challenger 2F's sides are covered with ERA blocks thus HEAT will get absorbed.
Pros and cons
- Powerful gun with access to high-penetrating APFSDS (same as ZTZ96)
- Autoloader reloads the cannon even when putting out fires or replacing crew members
- HE shell is extremely powerful (more than 5 kg TNT) for a MBT, can cripple or outright destroy enemies with overpressure
- Low profile comparing to Western counterparts
- FY-4 ERA cover turret cheeks and upper glacis, significantly improving protection against common foes (e.g. XM-1, Leopard 2A4)
- Roof-mounted heavy machine gun is useful against aircraft and light targets
- Relatively fast turret rotation speed, compared to contemporary Soviet tanks
- 2nd generation TVD for gunner allows it to fight better in all conditions
- Slightly improved mobility over the preceding ZTZ96
- Only 3 crew members, can get knocked out easily by a single round
- Large weak spots
- Large and weak mantlet
- Lower plate is very weak, with penetrating shells killing crew or exploding ammo
- Higher BR tanks can still penetrate even through the ERA (e.g. Ariete)
- Mobility is below average at its rank
- Poor reverse speed
- Heavier than the preceding ZTZ96 due to added FY-4 ERA - slightly lower reactive mobility
- Poor gun handling characteristics
- Below average gun depression (-5°)
- Slow vertical gun aiming
- Autoloader carousel is a giant ammo rack
- No ATGM capability, unlike the T-64B and T-72B
The ZTZ96 main battle tank entered service with the People's Liberation Army starting in the late 1990s. The Gulf War had shown that older tanks like the T-55 or Type 69 were no match whatsoever for modern MBTs like the M1 Abrams, and the ZTZ96 was derived from the export Type 85-IIAP as a stopgap. It was a significant improvement over the old stocks of Type 59 variants that formed the bulk of the PLA's tank forces, featuring modular composite armour and a powerful 125 mm smoothbore gun. However, the basic ZTZ96 was still below par in terms of engine power, electronics, and overall protection compared to many Western main battle tanks. The next-generation ZTZ99, which had been under separate development for years, was a significantly more competitive design with heavier armour, superior mobility, and a sophisticated suite of electronics. However, the ZTZ99 was heavier and more expensive than the ZTZ96, limiting how quickly it could be adopted and where in China it could be deployed. The ZTZ96 could still occupy a niche as a lighter and cheaper MBT for the rapid modernization of the PLA, but it needed upgrades to bring it closer to parity with its rivals.
The ZTZ96A variant was developed through the early 2000s and first unveiled in 2006. The upgrades consisted of applique armour on the turret front in an "arrowhead" shape, a new gunner's sight with thermal imaging, an improved fire control system, and a slightly more powerful 800 horsepower engine. At least one prototype vehicle was tested with an unusual "needle-nose" applique armour format while both prototypes installed JD-3 infrared dazzlers akin to the Soviet Shtora system. The aforementioned prototype failed the bid while the JD-3 dazzler didn't make into production runs of ZTZ96A, likely due to cost reduction.
The ZTZ96A was used by the Chinese team from 2014-2016 at the Tank Biathlon competition hosted by Russia. The Chinese team placed third in 2014 and second in 2015 and 2016 in the final results. From 2017 onward, it was replaced for competition use by the upgraded ZTZ96B variant with a more powerful engine developing between 1,000 and 1,130 horsepower and general improvements to the systems and chassis.
The ZTZ96A has been offered for export by Norinco under the name of "VT-2", first demonstrated in 2012.
At present, more than 1,100 examples of the ZTZ96A are currently in service with the PLA. It is more numerous than the elite ZTZ99 and will continue to serve for the forseeable future.
Development of the ZTZ96A began in the early 2000s, once it became clear that the introduction of the ZTZ99 MBT would be delayed due to issues surrounding its development. As a result, Chinese engineers developed an improved version of the existing ZTZ96, in order to counter the threat of the most advanced fighting vehicles of other nations, such as the USA, Russia, Japan, Korea or India.
Two different prototypes were built as part of the development work, of which one was chosen for further development and eventually entered production as the ZTZ96A. With the ZTZ96A, Chinese engineers addressed two of the biggest shortcomings of the original ZTZ96 - mobility and protection - by installing additional ERA packages to the turret and hull front as well as fitting a more powerful engine.
The ZTZ96A was first revealed in 2006 and served as the basis for the development of more advanced versions of the vehicle. The ZTZ96A is still in service and makes for the most widely used main battle tank in service with the PLA today.
- Vehicles equipped with the same chassis
|China North Industries Corporation (中国兵器工业集团有限公司)|
|Type 62||▂Type 62 · Type 62|
|Type 63||Type 63 · ZTS63|
|Main Battle Tanks|
|WZ120||Type 59 · ZTZ59A · ZTZ59D1|
|WZ121||Type 69 · Type 69-IIa** · T-69 II G**|
|WZ122||ZTZ88B · 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|
|China medium tanks|
|Type 59 · ZTZ59A · ZTZ59D1|
|Type 69 · Type 69-IIa · T-69 II G|
|ZTZ88A · ZTZ88B|
|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|