The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Xinjiang Military Command recently received delivery of and commissioned its first batch of China's newly developed Type 15 light tanks, which excels at rapid reaction combat in plateau regions, a Chinese expert said on Monday.
With the commissioning, both Xinjiang and Tibet military commands safeguarding China's western borders are now operating these advanced tanks specializing in plateau combat, analysts said.
In January, a regiment attached to the PLA Xinjiang Military Command received the delivery of a batch of Type 15 light tanks while stationed in a plateau region, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Sunday.
Immediately after the commissioning, the regiment sent the tanks to a freezing region at 4,300 meters altitude for adaptation exercises, so they can rapidly form combat capability, CCTV reported.
The report did not mention the number of tanks delivered.
Compared with the PLA's Type 96 and Type 99 tanks, the Type 15 is of lighter weight, boasts better mobility in high altitude regions with low oxygen levels, and is more suitable for plateau combat, CCTV said.
"The Type 15 tank is easy and flexible to operate and has high mobility, as it is equipped with a new engine designed for plateau missions and an oxygen producer. It also uses new armor materials and stealth technologies, so it has reduced weight but better protection and stealth functions," said Zhang Hongjun, a master sergeant class one at the regiment, in the CCTV report.
It also has advanced fire control and weapons systems as well as extra battlefield situational awareness capabilities, particularly the ability to identify friends or foes, providing significant convenience to the troops, Zhang said.
Since the recent China-India border tensions, Type 15 tanks have been deployed by the PLA Tibet Military Command starting mid-2020, and now the Xinjiang Military Command has also received the advanced tanks, which means both of West China's border military regions now have the tanks, analysts noted.
Commissioning plateau-operable Type 15 tanks can significantly boost China's rapid reaction capabilities in high-altitude regions, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Monday.
The Type 15 strikes a balance between fire power, mobility and protection to best suit plateau regions, where harsh environments hinder weapon performances compared with operating in plains, Song said.
The latest commissioning also indicated that the Type 15 tanks, which made their debut at the National Day military parade in Beijing in 2019, are being mass produced and commissioned into the PLA at a fast pace, analysts said.
A type of wheeled armored ambulance also entered service with the regiment together with the Type 15, and more weapons and equipment suitable for plateau combat are expected to be commissioned in the near future, Lieutenant Colonel Liu Xudong, a deputy commander of the regiment, told CCTV.