China’s military strategic transport capability just got a shot in the arm.
State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Wednesday that a single domestically made Y-20 large cargo aircraft can carry two newly commissioned Type 15 tanks for long-range transport operations.
By using this combination, China can quickly send powerful armored reinforcements into difficult environments at high elevations, among mountains or in water-rich locations, Global Times reported.
Thanks to the Type 15 tank’s light weight of about 30 tons, a Y-20 can carry two of them at once and achieve long-range deployment of 7,800 kilometers, CCTV revealed for the first time.
The transcontinental flight-capable Y-20 transport aircraft can carry more than 60 tons, and the size of its large cargo bay can fit two Type 15 tanks, Fu Qianshao, a Chinese air defense expert, told the Global Times.
The Y-20 can also carry one Type 99A main battle tank, which weighs about 50 to 60 tons, but this new combination can enhance the Chinese military’s strategic transport capability by offering different tactical choices, Fu said in the report.
The lightweight Type 15 is designed to efficiently operate in difficult terrain at high elevations, in mountainous regions and water-dense areas, where a heavy tank like Type 99A may not perform at full potential, Fu said, noting that two lightweight tanks can also outperform one heavy tank in some combat scenarios.
The Type 15 made its public debut at the National Day military parade on October 1, 2019 in Beijing, and some Type 15s were deployed in exercises in the plateaus of Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region in January 2020, the report said.
The Type 15 is the world’s only modern lightweight tank in service, Chinese military magazine Weapon reported in 2019, noting it is equipped with a 105-millimeter gun and advanced sensors that can “devastate enemy light-armored vehicles in regions not suitable for heavy main battle tank deployment.”