For years, the Type 59 was the backbone of the Chinese Army. Not only was it the biggest PLA tank production so far, spanning until 1985 with nearly ten thousand models and many variants, but also the very basis of several other MBTs, like the light Type 62, the Type 69 and Type 79.

The Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance, and Mutual Assistance helped to setup a first production facility in 1956 in the North of China, altered to produce the T-54A tank. The Inner Mongolia Factory was known later as the modern Inner-Mongolia First Machine Group Company Limited. The latter is credited to have built most of Chinese PLA MBTs as of today, now integrated as the giant Norinco group, starting with the type 59 main battle tank. This was the last Chinese tank built with some Soviet assistance, before the diplomatic relationships were severed.


The Type 59 Main Battle tank was simplified in design, without the characteristic searchlight and main gun stabilisation system. The turret floor was non-rotating. The driver, loader, commander and gunner positions were also unchanged. The hull was welded with some 99mm of amour thickness on front slope, and 100mm for the front turret armour, which had the characteristic decrease in thickness from the base of the top, according to the ballistic penetration calculations.

Main armament was the 100mm Type 59 tank gun, a copy of the original D-10TG with its characteristics  muzzle fume extractor, with 34 rounds in store, mainly into the hull. Secondary armament comprised a coaxial Type 59T 7.62mm machine gun, a bow MG manned by the driver from inside the central glacis, and the anti-aircraft heavy machine gun Type 54 12.7 mm over the loader’s hatch, apparently also a copy of the DShKM, with 200 rounds in store.

The engine was the Model 12150L V-12 liquid cooled diesel, giving 520 hp @ 2000rpm.