Welcome to the suggestion post for the Type 63A, also known as the ZTS63A. Briefly, what is it? As mentioned, it’s an upgrade of the older Type 63 amphibious tank found in-game, which replaces the dome-like turret with a newer and slightly better armored one, housing a fully stabilized 105 mm rifled gun. It also features a new engine, giving out about 580 hp, and improved amphibious performance, allowing it to launch from about several kilometers offshore, going at about 14 km/h.
An aging design
In the early morning of February 17th, 1979, a massive People’s Liberation Army force crossed the border into Northern Vietnam. Included in this force was the tried and true Type 59, alongside other types of armored vehicles, such as the Type 62 and Type 63 APC. One vehicle seeing its first real taste of combat with the PLA outside of the Paracel Islands in 1974 was the Type 63 Amphibious Tank. Armed with an 85 mm gun, it had been developed over a decade earlier with the intention of providing an amphibious tank for crossing bodies of water, perhaps most notably the Taiwan Strait for a future invasion of Taiwan. Despite this, combat experience in Vietnam would show the weaknesses of the Type 63.
A number of Type 63s of the 1st Battalion of the Amphibious Tank Regiment of the Guangzhou Military Region, kicking off from Guangxi autonomous region, joined the ranks of other armored units. During a fierce three-day battle, the Type 63s destroyed a variety of Vietnamese artillery pieces, firing positions, and vehicles, and the Type 63’s mobility and firepower were praised by the troops, but the vehicle’s thin armor proved disastrous for the crews. The 1st Battalion had 26 tanks at the start of the conflict, and 18 tanks were damaged in combat. From these tanks, 29 crewmen were killed and 57 were injured. Included in these casualties was the commander of the Amphibious Tank Regiment, Zhu Fujun. Post-war statistics showed that the Type 63 had the most losses of any armored vehicle, including the Type 59 and Type 62. Partly, this was due to the terrain of Vietnam itself not being good territory for tanks, but perfect for small teams equipped with anti-tank rockets. Post-war, China would try to fix the issues with the Type 63’s armor.
The period following the war, the 1980s, was the start of a period of modernization for China. Not only economically, but also militarily, as a number of technological developments both at home and from abroad had been introduced. With this in mind, as well as the Type 63’s aging firepower, armor, and mobility, it was high time for an upgrade. This began in the early 1990s, and the idea of mounting a 105 mm gun floated around. This made sense, not only was it a more powerful gun, but it was also entering production and service with the PLA, and it would make producing the Type 63’s successor easier.
**When testing began, there were two competing designs. One was called the Type 63A, the other, the Type 63HG. The Type 63A added two new float tanks to the vehicle to increase stability in water, as well as a better engine, fire control system, and overall better performance in water. Perhaps most notably visually on the Type 63A was the new welded steel turret, outfitted with a 105 mm gun, but with a lower recoil force for firing while in water. The Type 63HG on the other hand had a more unique hull design, changing the vehicle’s hull to that one might see on a ship, with the hull being extended forming a bow shape. However, the turret remained in the classic Soviet and Chinese “pan shape” style, but the turret roof on both vehicles was raised to accommodate for the larger gun. In the end though, the Type 63A was chosen.
The Type 63A, after proving itself in trials, was accepted for service in 1997. After entering service, the Type 63A’s turret changed, taking on a less angled shape at the front, but also being slightly larger. During its service, some 300 Type 63As were built in total. One major improvement from the previous Type 63s was the fire control system, which not only stabilized the gun, but also included passive night vision.
The main gun was derived from Western 105 mm guns, themselves typically based off of the British L7, which meant the Type 63A could fire a wide variety of ammunition. This included APFSDS-T, HEATFS, as well as HE ammunition. One of the primary sabot rounds used on the Type 63A can penetrate around 400 mm of RHA at a flat angle, or destroy a reinforced concrete bunker from 2,000 m.
Under the current PLA designation system, the Type 63A was renamed to ZTS63A, but many still refer to it with the older Chinese vehicle naming system as the Type 63A. Currently, it is being phased out in favor of the ZTD05, a similar vehicle with an even more well armored chassis, a slightly better gun with new ammunition, thermal imaging, and much better speed in water, with many sources on it stating 28 km/h in water. The ZTD05 can be identified by its larger hull and turret set at the rear of the chassis.
While the Type 63A is still in service with the PLA as of 2022, it will likely be phased out of active service in the near future, after nearly 60 years of combat service.
- Crew: 4 (Commander, gunner, loader, driver)
- Weight: 22 tons
- Length (with gun facing forward): 9.6 m
- Hull length: 7.5 m
- Width: 3.2 m
- Height: 3 m
- Engine: 12150L-2 diesel 432kW (580 hp)
- Suspension: Torsion bar
- Maximum road speed: 64 km/h
- Maximum speed in water: 14 km/h
- Armament: ZPL-98 105 mm rifled gun, coaxial Type 86 7.62 mm machine gun, and occasionally a 12.7 mm W85 machine gun
- Rounds carried: 45
- ODIN - OE Data Integration Network
- Chinese Power, Page 26
- Chinese Tanks & AFVs 1950 - Present, Page 26, Martin J Dougherty