BW120K

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Welcome to the suggestion post for the BW120K! This is a rather mysterious and yet fascinating Type 59 variant that uses a 120 mm smoothbore gun, in a similar fashion to the Leopard A1A1 with the Rheinmetall L/44 gun. Let’s find out more about the BW120K!

History

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Many Chinese tanks, even the ones of today, have roots going back to the Type 59, despite being a copy of the T-54A originally, it has its place in tank history.

Originally created as a licensed T-54A copy, the Type 59 saw a long life within the People’s Liberation Army. During its service life, the Type 59 saw massive success both in China and abroad. In the 1970s, the Type 59 began to have a lot of upgrades to improve its capabilities and extend its service life. Technology from the West began to come in due to a warming in relations, and the first major upgrade using this technology was the Type 59-II. The Type 59-II was first adopted in 1984, and used a lot of new technology that had never seen service in the PLA, including the 105 mm L7 derived gun, a British Marconi Fire Control System, modern APFSDS-T ammunition, and much more. But even with the Type 59-II and subsequent variants, NORINCO wanted to take the Type 59 design further.


An example of a few Type 59-IIs, noted by the lack of a thermal sleeve and famous 5 road wheels.

Beginning in the 1990s, NORINCO created a modified Type 59-II using a 120 mm smoothbore gun primarily as a test bed. The reasoning for this test bed seems to be debated, with most sources claiming it was for export, but some claiming it was to test the feasibility of a larger gun on the Type 59 chassis. Beforehand, the idea of using a 125 mm gun had been proposed, but on 1st and 2nd Generation tanks, like the Type 59, the autoloader would not fit in the tank, and the breech itself would make the turret too cramped. As such, NORINCO settled for a 120 mm gun, a caliber already in service with the PTZ89, however there is some debate still over the gun’s origin. When revealed at a NORINCO Weapons Exhibition in 1997, the gun used a thermal sleeve and had a chrome lined barrel to extend barrel life, but since the vehicle was likely intended for export, inside not much was changed. In spite of this, auxiliary systems such as the radio set, generator for the engine, and the interior layout were changed.

The Fire Control System became more sophisticated, however. Including a day/night sight, the vehicle also introduced two-plane stabilization, a periscope for the commander, and possibly a laser rangefinder. The APFSDS round developed by NORINCO uses a semi-combustible cartridge case, with the weight of the shell including the sabot being 7.33 kg, and the weight of the core being 4.1 kg. The muzzle velocity is reported to be about 1,660 m/s, the penetration at 1,500 m against an RHA equivalent target being 550 mm. The turret can rotate 360 degrees, and the barrel has elevation angles of -5 to 18 degrees.


The BW120K prototype just after firing.

However, as with many tank projects, this ambitious Type 59 variant was not adopted by the People’s Liberation Army, or any other nation. The fate of the vehicle, or vehicles, is unknown, but it would not be the end for the Type 59, as a number of countries and China itself managed to later outfit the Type 59 with 125 mm guns, such as the Type 59G and Type 59 Durjoy.


The Durjoy and similar upgrades can be considered spiritual successors to the BW120K.

Specifications

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  • Width - 3.2m
  • Height - 2.5m
  • Main armament - BW-120K 120 mm L/48 smoothbore gun
  • Rounds carried - 28 rounds
  • Secondary Armament - 7.62 mm Type 59T (3,500 rounds) & 12.7 mm QJC-88 (200 rounds)
  • Gun elevation - -5 / +18
  • Engine - 12150L7 12 cylinder diesel, 520 hp
  • Maximum speed - 50 km/h

Sources

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Pictures

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2 Likes

Looks like a (literal) blast!

Funny! The gun looks out of poportion. +1

A very interesting variant that can stay at 8.3

+1 for activity tank