Under the Radar

Here's Who Would Win a Russian vs. Chinese Tank Battle

Russia and Communist China have worked together a lot since the fall of the Soviet Union. Back in the 1990s, Russians sold the Chinese a lot of military technology, including the Su-27/30/33 Flanker family of multi-role fighters and Sovremennyy-class guided missile destroyers.

This wasn’t the first instance of Eurasian collaboration — the Soviet Union and Communist China were close in the 1950s, when Russia shared a number of jet, tank, missile, and ship designs. The two countries had a falling out in the 1960s, which culminated in the 1969 Sino-Soviet border conflict. As a result, Communist China turned to the West for some military technology, including designs for the 105mm main gun used on the M60 Patton and on early versions of the M1 Abrams.  However, the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre quickly severed any Western connections, leading, eventually, to this latest round of acquisitions from Russia.

Tank fight Russia versus China

The T-14 Armata, Russia’s latest tank. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

But what if Russia and China had another falling out? Nearly 50 years ago, the two nations came close to all-out war — it could happen again. Today, while Russia’s military power has faded due, primarily, to the fall of the Soviet Union and ongoing economic struggles, Communist China’s armed forces have risen to a qualitative near-parity.

If the two were to face off, much of the ground fighting would involve tanks like China’s Type 99 and the Russian T-14 Armata. The Type 99 is a version of the Russian T-72. It carries a 125mm main gun that not only fires conventional tank rounds, but also the AT-11 Sniper anti-tank missile. It has a crew of three, a top speed of 50 miles per hour, and can go 280 miles on a single tank of gas. The tank also has a 12.7mm heavy machine gun and a 7.62mm machine gun.

Tank fight Russia versus China

This is probably China’s biggest advantage: A Russian T-14 Armata will face several Type 99s. (VOA photo)

The T-14 Armata packs a 125mm gun as well, but unlike in Chinese designs, it is in an unmanned turret. The Armata also has a crew of three, a 12.7mm machine gun, and a 7.62mm machine gun. It can reach speeds of up to 50 miles per hour and has an active protection system to defend against missiles and rockets.

Which country’s tanks would win this fight? It depends. Recently, Russia has been unable to field a force of its latest designs due to budget constraints. Communist China, on the other hand, has been thriving. In a one-on-one fight, the Russian Armata would have a technological edge, but tank warfare is rarely a one-on-one affair.

The Chinese Communists would simply overwhelm an Armata with sheer numbers.

 


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