Tank Type 63

Type 63 entered production and service in 1963. The initial production variant was quickly replaced by the Type 63-I which had a more powerful engine, the Model 12150-L2 12-cylinder liquid-cooled diesel engine. In all more than 1,550 Type 63 and Type 63-I amphibious light tanks were made. The tank was designed to operate in the wetland regions and rice paddy fields of southern China (duties also performed by the earlier non-amphibious Type 62 light tank). The Type 63 was intended for inland river and lake crossing operations and amphibious landing in the coastal regions and can swim long distances in harsh sea conditions at high speeds. It can also support infantry in the attack and engage lightly armoured vehicles and fortifications. It can also be used in reconnaissance and patrol roles. Type 63's high amphibious ability was proved in 1966 the Type 63s crossed the 31 km long Qiongzhou Strait between mainland China and the Hainan island.

Later the tank was also adopted by the People's Liberation Army Marine Corps for the amphibious assault operations along with various other amphibious units stationed near the Taiwan straits. Some Type 63 and Type 63-I amphibious light tanks were upgraded to Type 63-II standard in the 1970s. The original Type 63 and Type 63-I amphibious light tanks has been gradually phased out since the late 1990s and replaced by the more capable Type 63A which entered service in 1997. The PRC currently has an estimated number of 800 of both types, though only around 300 of these are Type 63A, Type 63A-I and Type 63A-II, the remainder being Type 63-II and old Type 63 and Type 63-I amphibious light tanks. The original Type 63 and Type 63-I amphibious light tanks are kept in reserve and for training purposes. Because the Type 63A was mostly designed for amphibious operations against Taiwan, it is presumed that it would be the basic vehicle used in an amphibious invasion of Taiwan Island.

The Type 63 was exported to Albania, Pakistan, Myanmar, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, North Korea and Vietnam. It saw action during the final phases of the Vietnam war, the Sino-Vietnamese War and the Sri Lankan Civil War. By all accounts, the Type 63 showed great mobility in terrains that are difficult for the heavy tanks, but its thin armour has caused heavy losses and casualties.

Combat History

  • 1959 - 1975 Vietnam war
  • 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War
  • 1983–2009 Sri Lankan Civil War
Tank Type 63
Class Vehicle
Type Armoured Fighting Vehicle
Manufacturer Norinco
Origin China
Country Name Origin Year
China 1963
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
China 1963 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Norinco 1963 View

DesignationsType 63 (M1974)
Manufacturer(s)Factory No. 256
StatusIn service with China, North Korea, Myanmar, Vietnam
Production Periodcirca 1963 (1)Production Quantity1400+
Typeamphibious light tankCrew4 (C-G-L-D)
Length, overall8.4mLength, hull7.2m
Width, overall3.2mHeight, overall3.1m
Combat Weight18400kgUnloaded Weightn/a
Radio, externalType A-220ACommunication, crewintercom
Main Armament85mm rifled gunAmmunition Carried47x85mm
Gun Traverse360Elevation/Depression+18/-4
Traverse RateElevation Rate
Gun StabilizationnoneRangefindernone (2)
Night VisionnoneAuto-Loadern/a
Secondary Armament12.7mm MG (AA)
7.62mm MG (coaxial)
Ammunition Carried500x12.7mm

Engine12150L 12-cylinder water-cooled dieselTransmissionmanual (5 forward, 1reverse)
Horsepower400hp@2000rpmSuspensiontorsion bar
Power/Weight Ratio21.7hp/tTrack Width36.0cm
Speed, on road64km/hTrack Ground Contact444cm
Fuel Capacity403 lGround Pressure0.58kg/cm (2)
Range, on road370km (3)Gradient60%
Fuel Consumptionn/aVertical Obstacle0.9m
Turning Radiusn/aTrench Crossing2.9m
Ground Clearance0.4mFordingamphibious
Smoke Layingn/aNBC Protectionnone
Armor DetailsWelded rolled steel hull and welded cast steel sections turret. Armor thickness is between 10mm and 14mm.
(1) As far as is known, there has been no recent production of the Type 63. (2) A laser rangefinder has been fitted on some Type 63 tanks. (3) Range 120km on water.

End notes