The Type-85 is a medium role main battle tank based on the Type-80 chassis which itself was China’s attempt in creating a new MBT from scratch instead of copying Russian designs. It is a second generation MBT developed in 1980s by 617 factory with 201 institute of China. Out of the original Type-80, four new variants were developed named the Type-85 H, Type-85M and later Type 85-IIAP and Type 85-III which were for Pakistan (Type 85-III had a 1000hp engine but failed Pakistan army evaluations so was rejected). Soon after in around 1991 Pakistan got technology transfer and started producing the Type 85-IIAP which was first revealed in 1993 on the parade ground. A total of around 300 units of Type-85IIAP variant tanks were produced and put into service due to immediate need. By early 2020 a new variant the Type-85UG was introduced which are upgraded Type 85-IIAP tanks, these have been taking part in many recent Pakistan army field exercises.
Type-85 is a 41.5-ton tank powered by its 730HP liquid cooled diesel engine with a 17.8HP/ton power to weight ratio. It has a cruising range of 350Km with maximum speed of 57Km/HR. It is manned by a crew of three, the Driver, Gunner and Commander.
Armor Protection wise the Type-85UG features composite armor and hardened steel. Armor thickness against KE of the turret without ERA:
a: Turret front with composite armor: 372mm
b: Turret front of attached at the horizontal angle at 30°:430mm.
c: Turret side front: 80mm
d: Turret rear: 60mm
e: Turret top: 30mm
f: Turret rear Bussell: 20mm
ERA can be installed for further protection. Also, HHS (high hardened steel) plates can be put on for reinforced armor protection. NBC protection is also present along with the fire extinguisher and explosion suppression system. Thermal smoke screen is also installed, these obscurant smokes are effectively opaque in the Infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum, hiding movement to prevent detection by infrared sensor, block laser beams and rangefinders.
As for the tank’s armament, it has a 125mm smoothbore main gun with an autoloader. Being a smoothbore, it can fire a large variety of rounds, APFSD, HEAT, etc. Important notes of its ammunition inventory:
a: Type-85UG can fire and indigenous depleted uranium round. (NAIZA-DU)
b: Sabot FSDS-T rounds are compatible with Type-85UG gun giving it a heavier punch.
c: Type-85UG can fire Kombat ATGM which has penetration power up to 950mm RHA at 5000m.
That aside the tank has one Co-axial 7.62mm MG and an upper turret mounted 12.7mm AA MG.
The auto loader is interesting as the original Type-85 did not use them; within the UG standard upgrade it features the procured solid-state autoloader from CARE. This solid-state autoloader eliminates the need of relay and utilizes latest electronic devices to have complete command and control. The memory device unit of autoloader system has push buttons which feed the ammo (APFSD, HE, HEAT) into memory and along with Auto panel board controls unloading, change over and semi-auto mode thus providing a more reliable system.
General features of autoloader
a: Operating voltage: 22-27 volts.
b: Carousel magazine capacity: 22×22(projectile × case).
c: Total ammo:40 rounds.
d: Loading speed:6-8 rounds per minute.
As for the Fire control system the Type-85UG features an FCS-212 image stabilized fire control system with LRF ballistic computer and auto sensor allowing day and night operations. Additionally, the Type-85UG features a Nd YAG laser range finder with range of 200m-5000m.
Sights and optics
a: The commander is provided with a TI sight or second generation IIT sight. There are total 5 commander vision blocks i.e. 2 in the cupola, 2 in cupola flappers and 1 spare.
b: Commander periscope through which day and night observations can be done.
c: Gunner vision blocks, total 1 fitted in gunner cupola.
d: Driver vision blocks: Two are fitted.
The UG standard gradation features a more latest TI sight; Catherine TI, developed by Thales and integration was done by GIDS a Pakistani firm. It is fitted in front of the gunner’s seat with turret roof enabling the gunner to fire in every environment.
Role within Pakistan Army
Currently, the Type-85UG holds an important role in Pakistan army’s armored warfare strategy. Originally the Type-85IIAP variant was quickly inducted by Pakistan army to counter T-72s of the Indian army during the crisis of Operation Brasstacks conducted in desert of Rajasthan. By now many of India’s T-72s have undergone upgrades hence it was important that Pakistan also upgrades the Type-85s of which the UG variant is the end product. The Type-85UGs are deployed in plain and dessert terrain on the eastern front strengthening the independent armored divisions and pivot corps of PA (they are meant to be used against India’s upgraded T-72 alongside Al-Zarrar MBT). While not strong in armor protection department it does carry a massive punch with its 125mm smoothbore gun and targeting systems giving it more than enough firepower to knockout enemy tanks. In the end its effectiveness will depend upon how well they are used in combined arms warfare.