Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • The main battle tank is one of the most potent symbols of a nation's military power - a

  • terrifying armored behemoth capable of challenging any enemy it encounters on the battlefield.

  • They are some of the most advanced and dangerous machines modern nations produce, but they

  • aren't all created equal.

  • Competition to create the deadliest, most sophisticated tank in the world is intense,

  • and the stakes are high.

  • Battlefield dominance is the proving ground of geopolitical power, and a question of life

  • and death for the crews inside these weapons.

  • With the US and China ratcheting up tensions, it's no wonder there is a lot of discussion

  • about how the military hardware of the two powers stacks up against each other.

  • The United States has been the world's sole superpower for decades, and has been accustomed

  • to overmatching anything its adversaries can put into the field.

  • But China has undertaken an incredible modernization of its armed forces, and its capabilities

  • are constantly growing.

  • The two nations boast some of the most formidable tank designs on the planet, the M1 Abrams,

  • and the Type 99 - but how do those designs compare to each other?

  • The Abrams has by far the older design lineage.

  • Development of the original model began in the mid 1970s, seeking to upgrade the American

  • tank force to compete with advances in Soviet weapon designs.

  • The original M1 tanks first entered service in 1980 - though their capabilities then were

  • a shadow of what they are now.

  • The M1 has seen a long series of upgrades over the decades, each one adding new technology

  • and making the tank far more lethal - as well as adding considerable weight.

  • Chinese tank production has for many years drawn very heavily from Russian designs, and

  • the Type 99's predecessors were clearly modeled on the Soviet T-72.

  • In recent decades though they have developed more and more of their own original technology,

  • the quality of which has been improving rapidly.

  • The Type 99 first entered service in 2001, and the upgraded 99A was officially introduced

  • in 2015.

  • All information here pertains to the latest versions of the tanks, the M1A2 for the Abrams,

  • and the Type 99A.

  • First off, let's consider the size of these monsters.

  • The Abrams is the larger of the two tanks, at 26 feet long (not including the main gun

  • barrel) by 12 feet wide by 8 feet high.

  • The body of the Type 99 is three feet shorter, and its profile is about 5 inches lower.

  • The Abrams is also significantly heavier.

  • Each major upgrade has added weight, and while the original M1 back in 1980 weighed in at

  • 60 tons, the most modern version of the tank weighs nearly 74 tons.

  • The latest Type 99A tanks weigh just under 64 tons.

  • Both tanks carry engines that supply 1500 horse power, but the lighter overall weight

  • of the Type 99A means that it achieves a greater power to weight ratio.

  • This is borne out in the top speeds of the two tanks.

  • The M1A2 can travel at a maximum speed of 42mph on roads, and just 25mph off road.

  • The Type 99A can travel at nearly 50 mph on road, and over 37 mph off road.

  • It also has greater fuel efficiency, and a longer operational range.

  • The Type 99A can travel about 311 miles before needing to refuel, whereas the M1A2 can only

  • travel up to about 265 miles by road, or about 124 miles off road.

  • The greater operational range and the faster tactical maneuvering are clear advantages

  • for the lighter Chinese tank.

  • It shouldn't be assumed that these would necessarily lead to a greater survival rate

  • in a battle between rival tank formations, given how sophisticated the weaponry and targeting

  • computers of both machines are.

  • But it's clearly a mark in the Type 99's favor.

  • Next we'll consider the armor of the two tanks.

  • The ability to withstand enemy fire is one of the original and most fundamental requirements

  • of any tank, and armor protection is one of the fiercest areas of competition in tank

  • design - as well as one of the most secretive.

  • The original M1 Abrams models were protected by Chobham armor, a British-designed composite

  • originally developed in the 1960s, which combined ceramic blocks, metal plates and empty space.

  • The complicated physics of how these diverse materials and their careful arrangement interacted

  • with an incoming projectile meant that the armor could withstand shots that would have

  • easily penetrated simple steel plates.

  • Over the years the M1's armor has seen repeated upgrades, and the more recent generation of

  • M1A2 models incorporate depleted uranium, in addition to other, unknown materials.

  • The exact composition is highly classified.

  • Depleted uranium is extremely dense, and the improved armor makes the M1A2 significantly

  • heavier than previous models, but the protection is greatly increased.

  • Estimates are that the depleted uranium armor may be nearly twice as effective as that of

  • the original M1s.

  • After the US military's experiences of urban combat during the Iraq war, the Tank Urban

  • Combat Survival Kit, or TUSK, was released.

  • This allows the Abrams to be outfitted with explosive reactive armor, in addition to other

  • upgrades designed to give the tank more of an edge in the constricted fighting environment

  • of towns and cities, where it's much easier for an enemy to sneak up with man-portable

  • rocket launchers.

  • The Type 99 is also protected by composite armor panels, but again the composition and

  • configuration are closely guarded secrets.

  • It has been claimed that the tank's frontal armor protection is roughly equivalent to

  • that of the Abrams, but this is impossible to verify.

  • It also benefits from an advanced explosive reactive armor system, said to be similar

  • to theReliktsystem designed for latest generation Russian tanks.

  • Small explosive panels are installed on the surface of the tank, and detonate when struck

  • by an enemy round, theoretically disrupting or even destroying it before it can penetrate

  • the tank.

  • The explosive panels can defeat a wide range of anti tank missiles, and also diminish the

  • penetrating power of armor-piercing tank shells.

  • But the full extent of its capabilities are unknown.

  • So which side actually enjoys the advantage?

  • It's impossible to say at this stage.

  • Of the two tanks, only the M1 has seen combat against enemy armor, in the two invasions

  • of Iraq.

  • But there it fought against older, Soviet era models, which were clearly outclassed

  • by the Abrams.

  • Neither the M1 nor the Type 99 has had to withstand the fire of the most cutting edge

  • enemy weapons, and both sides are determined to keep the full extent of their armor's

  • capabilities secret.

  • Next up, the big guns - the teeth and fangs of these beasts of war.

  • The M1A2's main weapon is the M256A1 120mm gun, a smoothbore weapon designed by Germany's

  • Rheinmetall AG, and manufactured in the US.

  • This is the same gun that was carried on all but the most modern incarnations of the German

  • Leopard 2 tank.

  • Its maximum effective range is nominally 3500 meters, though it demonstrated in Operation

  • Desert Storm that it could engage targets at nearly 4000 meters.

  • The Type 99A carries the ZPT98 125 mm gun, a copy of the Russian 2A46M, which has a maximum

  • effective range of 3000 meters.

  • For both tanks, the primary anti-tank munitions are what are known asarmor piercing fin

  • stabilized discarding sabot rounds.”

  • This is a technologically very sophisticated round that consists of a long thin penetrator

  • with fins on the rear, surrounded by a thick sleeve that falls away from the penetrator

  • as it flies toward the target.

  • This makes it possible to fire a very thin projectile, which otherwise would be unstable

  • in flight, from a smoothbore barrel, which allows greater forward force to be imparted

  • to the projectile.

  • The Abrams makes use of a depleted uranium round, taking advantage of the extreme density

  • of that material and giving the round more penetrating power.

  • However the Chinese are said to have developed their own depleted uranium round as well,

  • and they claim that it can penetrate an M1 at up to 1.4 km.

  • This is of course unverifiable.

  • Current estimates are that the M1's main weapon can probably penetrate about 15 to

  • 25% more armor - an advantage for the Abrams, though clearly the Type 99 has a dangerous

  • bite of its own.

  • Both tanks can make use of a variety of other ammunition as well, including sophisticated

  • high explosive anti tank rounds, anti personnel rounds that scatter huge numbers of metal

  • balls across a wide swathe, like a giant shotgun, and more.

  • The Type 99 is capable of firing Chinese, Russian, and ex-Warsaw Pact ammunition, giving

  • it some versatility in supply.

  • It can also fire anti tank guided missiles down the gun tube, which the M1 cannot.

  • These missiles are effective over longer range than a tank's normal armor piercing rounds,

  • and can even take on low flying helicopters.

  • However the technology has been around for decades without being extensively used, and

  • probably doesn't represent a major advantage over the Abrams.

  • The M1 employs a fourth crewman as a manual loader, whereas the Type 99 uses a carousel

  • autoloader, which can achieve a rate of fire of around 8 rounds per minute.

  • A well trained human loader is faster, at least under ideal circumstances, though the

  • autoloader could potentially perform better in rough terrain, where the human could be

  • jostled and his loading cycle potentially disrupted.

  • But the autoloader is a complicated piece of equipment in itself, and is one more piece

  • that can fail if not properly maintained.

  • The consequence of the Abrams carrying a fourth crewman as a dedicated loader is that the

  • turret is larger and heavier than that of the Type 99.

  • This adds to the overall weight of the vehicle and decreases speed, but also comes with some

  • major advantages.

  • The US military feels the human loader is faster and more reliable than an autoloader.

  • Also, the larger turret means there is room for the ammunition to be stored in separate

  • compartments fitted with blow out panels, so that if the tank is hit and the ammunition

  • is ignited, the rounds will explode out of the tank and not into the crew compartment.

  • This is a significant advantage in survivability for the crew.

  • If the Type 99's armor is penetrated, there is a greater danger of the ammunition cooking

  • off right there in the crew compartment.

  • The M1's fourth crewman is also available for other tasks on board the tank, or to fill

  • in when another crewman is injured.

  • Both tanks carry several secondary weapons for use against enemy infantry and light vehicles.

  • The M1A2 carries three machine guns, two on top of the turret in front of the commander's

  • and loader's hatches, and one coaxial with the main gun.

  • The TUSK upgrade kit adds another coaxial fifty caliber gun.

  • The Type 99A carries one coaxial machine gun, and one on the commander's cupola.

  • So the Abrams, which has been used extensively on battlefields where the main threat was

  • enemy infantry, like the insurgents of Iraq and Afghanistan, carries more secondary firepower.

  • This is an advantage against infantry, but doesn't tip the scale against enemy tanks.

  • Both tanks carry an extremely sophisticated suite of sensors and targeting computers,

  • capable of taking the readings and crunching the math to put rounds on target at long range

  • while moving over rough terrain, so that the gunner just has to keep the weapon aimed at

  • the enemy vehicle.

  • They both also carry active protection technology, designed to disrupt the guidance systems of

  • enemy anti tank missiles.

  • Both the US and China have been experimenting with so-called 'hard-killsystems, which

  • fire small projectiles at incoming warheads.

  • But too little is known about the capabilities, especially of the Chinese technology, to compare

  • effectiveness.

  • Finally, it's worth bearing in mind that the cost of a latest generation M1A2 tank

  • is around $9 million a piece, whereas each Type 99A costs only around a third of that

  • price.

  • This isn't a mark in favor of the Type 99's survivability, but it is an important strategic

  • level consideration.

  • If one had to bet on the tank that would come out on top in a 1 on 1 match, the best money

  • right now is probably on the Abrams, given the American tank's advantages in firing

  • range, armor penetration and loading time, and its proven combat effectiveness over decades

  • of operation.

  • Too much about the Chinese tank's capabilities remains unconfirmed rumor at this point.

  • But the M1's edge, if indeed it has one, is clearly too small for comfort.

  • The US military itself considers the Type 99 to be a world class design, and a clear

  • potential threat to its own tanks.

  • Many of the capabilities of these cutting edge machines remain shrouded in secrecy,

  • and the question of which tank would dominate the other will likely remain unanswered unless

  • they wind up facing each other across the battlefield.

  • But one thing that is clear is that both will undoubtedly continue to become more lethal

  • over time.

The main battle tank is one of the most potent symbols of a nation's military power - a

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

B2 tank abrams m1 armor enemy depleted

US M1 Abrams vs Chinese Type 99 - Tank Battle (Military Comparison)

  • 4 0
    Summer posted on 2021/04/10
Video vocabulary