Type 59 History and Variants – Part 1

Author: Chickentikka

Hello everyone. Type 59 is a legendary tank in WoT, but what do you know of its real life variants? Let’s have a look at a few of those in an article by Chickentikka – right from the “source” so to say, as he is a Chinese player. Enjoy!

The Type-59 is basically the clone of the T-54. But we have to get one thing straight here; the Type-59 is a licensed Soviet tank built for the People’s Liberation Army during the 1950’s, when Sino-Soviet relationships were very good. So the Soviet Union, as China’s big brother, brought engineers and equipment to build the first tank factory in China in Baotou (where they still produce tanks to this day). Amazingly, it is still in service but with enhancements, this is what I am going to show you.


This is a modernised type 59 sold to the Tanzanian Army. Look at how modern it looks!

At first, T-54 was virtually identical in every way to the Type 59, but gradually overtime, Sino-Soviet relationships took a turn for the worse, so China was left alone without foreign assistance to develop future tanks. This was of course a major problem since a country that had fought over 100 years of wars couldn’t keep up with the new advancing technology and without a good industrial infrastructure, it forced the Chinese designers to replicate existing tanks. During the late 1950’s and years after, China had to design a new tank or perhaps give the Type 59 better upgrades.


This picture shows the very original Soviet built T-54 sent to China. I have a video filmed by me inside this exact tank as shown in the photo. You can just go inside and do whatever you like (it’s situated in Beijing tank museum).



It was agreed in 1954 that the Soviet Union would give the blueprints and the new technology needed for the production of such avehicle. With the assistance of Soviet engineers, factory 617 was built.


By 1959, China was capable of independently manufacturing this tank, but the rare metals needed for the armour had to be imported from foreign countries (as well as other resources). During the 1959 Chinese national parade, 32 Type 59s were on show, and this was the year in which China was considered to have one of the best equipment parades in the world (of course, most of which were Soviet license-built products). Nevertheless, after 1959, China was never going to have the world’s most advanced military equipment (just to clarify here, by most advanced military equipment, I meant the tanks, planes etc. were really advanced, but that does not represent all the troops in China – just the PARADING troops).


In 1960, China’s relationship with USSR became so bad that they became enemies (although being communists). Production of the Type 59 ceased due to the incapability of producing the materials needed for the armour and other equipment (to be more precise, its cast steel armour). Similar things happened to other military equipment, such as the Jian-6, which is a clone of the Russian Mig-19. However, a solution was found in 1963, when the Chinese engineers managed to produce an adequate Chinese, locally produced, high quality cast steel armour. And so the production continued.


China built Type 59s from the 1950’s all the way to the 1980’s. This was because there was no replacement for the Type 59, which was approved by the military. So with the rapidly expanding armoured units, further Type 59s were made even after the M1 Abrams were produced. The production finally stopped during the 1980’s.

Picture above is the 122 project which was supposed to replace Type 59 and failed, so China just had to stick with Type 59 for 30 years. Object or Project 122 is a medium tank, with the design spec of using hydraulics and various high tech advancements to catch up with Leopard, T-64 and AMX-30 series of tanks.



Type 59′s main gun is a 100mm rifled gun, which was a copy of D-10TG. Note that the fume extractor (bulky bit in on the barrel) is a good way of identifying this gun. By late 1960’s, the power of this weapon was already considered to be weak. With no real advanced fire controls, it was out of date, future variants would be needed to improve the firing controls. It has one 12.7mm anti air machine gun on the turret and a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun.


There is a barely noticeable machine gun port labelled (picture in the bottom right). It was for the driver to shoot while driving the tank (for spray and pray), but the design was abandoned because having this machine gun port would make it a weak spot, and required water proof protection while driving through rivers.



Type 59′s have the 12150L engine. It is a copy of the T-54A’s V2-54A engine 12 means 12 cylinders, 150 is 150mm cylinder diameter or bore. The engine is also used on the Type 63 armoured infantry carrier.



The Type 59 went on to fight against the Vietnamese. Most of you are probably like WTF, communist vs communist, let me quickly explain. China gave Vietnam lots of weapons in the Vietnam war to fight against the US. After the war, Vietnam had to decide if they wanted to go to the Soviet side or Chinese side because China and USSR weren’t friends, and in fact it got so bad that USSR was going to nuke China (USSR called it a surgical operation). So Vietnam obviously went with the stronger USSR and China, after supplying so much equipment to Vietnam, just lost an ally and were obviously not happy. So a border conflict began and it became a full scale war, note that Vietnam was attacking Cambodia so China wanted Vietnam to stop the aggression so war was kind of inevitable. Funnily enough, China this time had political backup from the USA (politics changed fast right?). China’s leader took a visit to the USA, so relationship with USA improved dramatically.

After all of that, the Type 59 and its brother the Type 62, were brought to the wet and hilly terrain around the Vietnamese border. The Type 62, which is a lighter version of Type 59 designed to fight in China’s southern terrain, showed to be quite weak against RPGs. The Type 59 showed to be a much better tank, however the lack of good fire control showed it had weaknesses and the poor radio was very prone to being intercepted and listened to by the enemy.


War was a catalyst for the Type 59 to be upgraded to a new level this time. 59-1 had the range finders, night vision, infra-red light and some kind of radio antenna camouflage (basically, fitting three antennas of which one or two of them is fake so the enemies wouldn’t know which the commander’s tank is). 59-2/2A had a copy of the L7, the Type 83 105mm rifled gun with an auto loading mechanism, better fire control system, a fire extinguishing system of some kind, and a new frequency jumping radio, it might be called an alternating radio in English, it changes frequency so it is harder to be tracked by the enemy. 59-1 in the picture has side-skirts.


Top left picture – Bangladesh’s Type 69.

During the 1969 Sino-Soviet border conflict, the PLA was able to capture a Soviet T-62 MBT. The captured tank was examined, and some of its components, such as the Soviet Luna IR searchlight system, were copied and integrated into the Type 69 design. The Type 69 and Type 79 tanks became the first independently Chinese-developed main battle tank. However, the early version of the Type 69 was only produced in limited quantities. The PLA was unsatisfied with the Type 69′s performance, but ironically it became one of China’s most successful armored vehicle exports. Over 2,000 were sold worldwide in the 1980s.

This Type 69 although called 69 instead of 59, is really just another improved variant and really a brand new tank. Bottom right image shows the Type 80 which ended the 5 road wheels design from the Type 59 and became 6 road wheels.

To be continued…

96 thoughts on “Type 59 History and Variants – Part 1

      • apparently, the military got a few old type 59s with only the drivers inside to let people burn them. Its like here you go burn it and we take a photo to show how they are rebels

        • Explain Type 63 APCs that were burnt, then.

          And my mother was working in a Military Hospital as part of requirement to graduate back then; they were all ordered to not go onto the streets.
          And people trashed the Ambulances…

          • They drove Type 63 APCs on bike parking slots, crushing the bikes. I heard they fired shot at the leg of an old women

      • The types came in 4 directions i think. West side being the ones that killed most civilians. Out side my house, (the biggest round where it goes through the city from west to east) people parked the buses side ways but the type 59s rammed over the first bus and crushed the second one as well. So ya, they were dangerous even without the main gun put into work

        • no infact they were told that they are not civilians and they are rebels. So the soldiers just shot them as ordered

          • That was after soldiers had acid poured onto them and BURNED TO DEATH.

            For the most part, soldiers were ordered to not hurt civilians(that’s how some of them got hurt/killed by civilians at first). Then military unit moved into Beijing from another region had to restore order without being properly equipped for anti-riot.

            If they were ordered to shoot civilians, why did the tank column stop for an idiot standing in middle of road?

  1. i was taught that vietnam was busy fighting with pol pot in cambodia, the pol pot was like mass murder there, so brother communist came in and helped cambodia out. but i’ve never been taught why china fight vietnam. the elder just say “it’s the border war” or something. and they just like “oh suddenly after helped us to build the dam, they drawed their specialists back and started a war…”.

    • During the visit to American (Deng Xiaoping), China and US improved relationships and before he went back to China. He told the media that a kid that don’t listen will get slapped.(he said that not me) If you do think about it, China spend 10 times its annual military spends to help out with the Viennese war so NVA could win but suddenly, they started claiming after they defeated the US that they are the 3rd strongest nation on the planet and chose the abandon China for the USSR. And trust me the leadership of China at the time weren’t scared of war because they fought wars throughout their lives. In the end, Viennese troops moved the border into China and China retaliated with the full scale war.

        • IDK but if you are Viennese its unluckily your government or my government will say WE ATTACKED THEM FIRST

          • infact, my neighbour told me that his Flak units were wearing North Vietnnese cloth to shoot down B-52s so they were sacrificing for Vietnam

            • Do you really believe AA guns can reach the altitude of B-52s ? Soviet SA-2/3 was only thing can take down those planes during that time.

              • btw do you know China was the first country in the whole world to shoot down a plane with a missile in actual combat. Sa-2 took out U-2 spy plane and this other spy plane

        • And think about it why did China leave Vietnam as soon as you withdraw forces from Cambodia. And same thing happened with India, China left India when PLA managed to defeat the mountainous areas and only a bit of flat lands left for the capital. It was just a threat to say DONT MESS so I think you have to look at things in a 3rd person perspective. Because (think of this) why don’t Viennese talk about all the help China gave to the NVA

          • “And think about it why did China leave Vietnam as soon as you withdraw forces from Cambodia”

            Why ? vietnamese troops had been staying in Cambodia from 1978 until 1989.

            • Was there any point of a long time war in the end. Dont you remember how Vietnam said they were 3rd in the World

              • i’m a bit confused with your wording, honestly i really don’t know what you’re trying to say.

          • I was told by my father, who was a soldier who served in the Cambo – Vietnam war, that the war that China wage on Vietnam couldn’t be avoided, because Vietnam had betrayed China by ally with the Soviet after China had invested in Vietnam so much: => China had to declare war on Vietnam, else they would lose their face.
            As I understand, the events are as follow:
            - Vietnam, Cambodia were China’s ally. Vietnam was also Russia’s ally.
            - Relationships between China and Russia went bad, Vietnam picked Russia.
            - China got angry, Cambodia invaded Vietnam.
            - Vietnam fought back, and Cambodia requested China for helps.
            - As Cambodia is their ally, and Vietnam betrayed them, China waged war on Vietnam to save face, and to force Vietnam’s army to withdraw (if I were China’s leader, I would do the same, lol).
            - As China knew that the war with Vietnam should only be a warning, since a throughout war would not bring China any profits. And that would bring them to a full-scale war with Russia, they stop after dealing enough damage and withdraw.

            • exactly what i tried to say. For you guys from Vietnam think of you in a situation like that, wouldn’t you fight for your face

  2. It would be better if WG introduced a Type 59 variant with western 105mm L7 as a tier 10 candidate.

  3. SS a correction:
    “and a new frequency jumping radio, it might be called an alternating radio in English, it changes frequency so it is harder to be tracked by the enemy”

    that’s not what it’s called, it’s called a FHSS radio(Frequency-hopping spread spectrum)

  4. Is Sino-Soviet the right word for a conflict between China and the USSR? I would have thought it would be Chino-Soviet. Or Russo-Chinese like the Russo-Japanese war of 1904 and 1905.

  5. The Type 59-2/2a could make a fun tier 10 chinese autoloader.

    It could be made unique and balanced by giving bad gun depression (-3), thus making it hard to just dump a clip. It could also be given a 3 round autoloader with moderately fast clip reload (18-22 sec.) to make it different from Bat-chat.

    This would make it a chinese T10 med similar to the american t8 med T69 in terms of gameplay, as in: low damage clip. The tank would be difficult to play because the low gundepression could make it hard to dump your clip. Also the low clip capacity of 3 would make it impossible to clip people. It would be a hard to play, high reward tank as you could zip around dumping 1200 in tanks every 20 seconds if you position yourself right.

    I would really love to see that in game, because it would be an autoloader with unique playstyle, complementing the chinese line well as all the chinese tanks have rather unconventional playstyles.

    • auto loader as in no loader needed but does not come in clips though like amx 50 100

      • Awwww. Brainwave broken at the shore of knowledge :’(

        I still think it’s a good idea…..

        GG on that interesting article though. I’m looking forward to the next part. The chinese meds are my fav so far (only 4k games).

  6. The Cadillac-Gage Jaguar is probably the best looking “modernization” of a Type 59 out there.