The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been conducting intensive military exercises of multiple dimensions, including high altitude tank and anti-tank drills in Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. According to Global Times, Type 15 Light Tanks have recently practiced engagement of targets “several kilometers away” and worked with ATGM vehicles that were used to destroy armored vehicles. These tanks belong to the Xizang (Tibet) military distric. The Type 15 lightweight tanks attached to the PLA Tibet Military Command recently joined a comprehensive live-fire drill in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau at an elevation of more than 4,700 meters.
The Type 15 tank is designed to fulfill the requirement from the Chinese Army for a lighter, mobile modern tank that can effectively operate in highland/plateau, forest-rich and water-heavy regions where the heavier Type 99 tanks have difficulties traversing. 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 was confirmed to be in service by 2018 and was showcased in the 70th National Day parade on October 1, 2019. During the China-India border dispute along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in June 2020, Type 15 tanks were reportedly deployed in the Tibetan Plateau.
The Type 15 light tank also known as ZTQ-15, is a Chinese third generation light tank operated by the People’s Liberation Army Ground Force. The vehicle is a replacement for the antiquated Type 62 light tank introduced in 1963. The Type 15 tank is equipped with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) protection, an autoloader mechanism with ammunition stored in the turret bustle, air conditioning system, command and control equipment, commander’s panoramic sight, gunner’s thermal imaging sight, laser rangefinder, advanced ballistic computer, a tactical command system and a navigation system that includes inertial navigation system (INS) and satellite communications.
Type 15 uses a new 105mm rifled gun, which is superior to the Type 94 105mm guns fitted on Type 88 and Type 59 tanks. The Type 15 can hold 38 rounds of 105mm shells and is capable of effectively penetrating the armor of most main battle tanks in use by various South and Southwestern Asian countries when launching armor-piercing shells. It can also fire new advanced tungsten alloy armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabots (APFSDS) capable of penetrating 500 mm (20 in) of armored steel at 2,000 metres (1.2 mi). The second armament of the VT5 includes one remotely operated weapon station mounted on the roof of the turret which is armed with a 12.7mm machine gun and one 40mm automatic grenade launcher.