One of many extra unique North Vietnamese Military tanks to crash by way of the gates of Saigon’s Presidential Palace on April 30, 1975, was much like the Soviet-built PT-76 amphibious gentle tank, however with a rounder turret and a bigger gun. This latecomer to the Vietnam Struggle didn’t arrive from the Soviet Union, nonetheless. It got here from the Individuals’s Republic of China.
China had acquired some PT-76s within the Nineteen Fifties, however its persevering with tensions with the exiled Republic of China on Taiwan led to the necessity for an amphibious gentle tank with higher efficiency and armament for touchdown operations. The primary design, designated the Sort 60, was unsatisfactory, significantly as a result of its engine overheated. A second prototype, whereas higher, nonetheless skilled issues throughout its first exams in 1959.
These issues had been addressed in the middle of additional improvement, and after testing in river, lake and sea environments, the tank was authorised for manufacturing because the Sort 63 in April 1963. It quickly entered service with China’s military.
That tank didn’t serve lengthy, nonetheless, earlier than it was outmoded on the manufacturing line by the Sort 63-1, changing the unique 240-horsepower, six-cylinder diesel engine with a 402-horsepower, 12-cylinder 12150-L-2 diesel. The Sort 63-1 proved its price in China in 1966, when a few of them crossed the Qiongzhou Strait between the mainland and Hainan Island.
Armed with an 85 mm cannon, the Sort 63 supplied extra firepower and larger mobility than the PT-76, though its armor supplied little safety towards greater than gentle machine gun hearth or shrapnel. It entered North Vietnamese service late within the conflict however in time for the ultimate offensive of 1975, when the NVA was lastly beginning to make efficient use of the teachings in armored techniques its crews had discovered at heavy value in the course of the stymied spring offensive of 1972. After the autumn of Saigon and unification of North and South Vietnam, the brand new Socialist Republic of Vietnam would have one other event to make use of its Sort 63s in fight—in 1979, towards Chinese language invaders, whose gear additionally included Sort 63 tanks.
In 1997 the Chinese language launched an upgraded mannequin with a 105 mm gun, the Sort 63A, which stays of their arsenal at the moment.
This text appeared in Vietnam journal’s December 2019 challenge.