According to Armyrecognition, the Chinese-made Type 15 light main battle tank is now in service with the People’s Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF) 54th Heavy Armor Combined-Arms Brigade, Tibet Military Area Command. Sightings of Type 15 were reported by Chinese citizens, but its existence was formally confirmed by the Chinese Ministry of Defense in December 2018. The tank is confirmed in service as of 2018 and was showcased in the 70th National Day parade on Oct 1st 2019. The Type 15 light tank, also known as ZTQ-15, is a Chinese third generation light tank and replacement for the antiquated Type 62 light tank introduced in 1963.
The Type 15 tank is designed to fulfill the requirement from Chinese army for a lighter, mobile modern tank that can effectively operate in China’s plateaus, forests, and water-heavy regions in which heavier Type 99 tanks have difficulties traversing. Type 15 has a weight from 33 to 36 tons depending on the armor fitted to the tank. With this weight, the tank offers more mobility than a standard main battle tank offering the same level of firepower. The Type 15 can be equipped with advanced composite armor and/or explosive reactive armor (ERA) and slat armor (wire cage armor) on the turret sides and either side of the hull to increase protection against rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) and anti-tank guided missiles.
The main armament of the Type 15 consists of one 105 mm rifled gun with a thermal sleeve and fume extractor which is superior to the 105mm tank gun (Type 94) fitted on Type 88 tank and Type 59 tank. The tank can hold 38 rounds of 105mm ammunition. When launching 105 mm armor-piercing projectiles, Type 15 is capable to effectively penetrate main battle tanks equipped by various countries and regions in southern and southwestern Asia. It can fire new advanced tungsten-alloy APFSDS capable of penetrating 500mm of armored steel at 2km. The second armament includes one remotely operated weapon station mounted on the roof of the turret which is armed with a 12.7 mm machine gun and one 40mm automatic grenade launcher.
The new light tank also named VT5 for the export version was unveiled to the public during the Zhuhai AirShow China in November 2016. There are noticeable design differences. The driver’s hatch on the VT-5 is positioned at the center front hull whereas the ZTQ-15 driver’s hatch is located on the left. The upper front hull of the VT-5 is noticeably curved whereas the ZTQ-15 is straight. The modular add-on armor kits are also noticeably different. Recently, the Bangladesh Ministry of Defense officially announced that its army has ordered VT5 light tanks for a whole regiment from China, and these tanks will soon enter the Bangladesh Defense Forces for service.