Army Tanks
China

Type 63 Light AmphibiousTank

Active: 1963
Crew: 4
Weight: 18 tons (18,400kg)
Length: 25ft 4in (7.7m)
Height: 8ft 3in (2.5m)
Width: 10ft 5in (3.2m)
Weapons: Main - 3.35in (85mm) gun, Secondary - 1 x 0.3 inch (7.62mm) coaxial machinegun, 1 x 0.5 inch (12.7mm) anti-aircraft gun
Armor Maximum - 0.55in (14mm)
Engine: Model 12150-L 12-cylinder water-cooled diesel, 400 hp
Speed: Land: 40mph (64kph), Water: 7mph (12kph)
Range: 230 miles (370km) on land; auxiliary fuel tanks available for increasing operational range

The Type 63 light amphibious tank was China's first fully amphibious tank. It was based on the Soviet Union's PT-76 light amphibious tank.

Type 63 Light Amphibious Tank Source: Army GuideIn the mid 1950s, the Soviet Union gave China some PT-76s.

China decided to develop its own amphibious tank based on the PT-76.

It was to be used in the rice paddies and rivers of southern China, which conventional tanks could not cross easily.

A prototype amphibious tank was built by the Chinese 1959, but it had a number of problems, including an engine that tended to overheat.  The design was revised and the Type 63 finally entered service in 1963.

Specifications

The hull of the Type 63 light amphibious light tanks is flat and boat-like, similar to the hull of the PT-76.

Like the PT-76, the Type 63 has a torsion bar suspension with six roadwheels. The idler is at the front and the drive sprocket is at the rear. There are no track return rollers.

There are many differences between the Type 63 and the PT-76 however.

The glacis plate on the Type 63 has a much gentler slope than the glacis plate on the PT-76.  The Type 63's glacis plate is almost horizontal.

The Type 63 has a different turret than that of the PT-76.

It is also heavier than the PT-76. (The Type 63 weighs 18 tons, while the PT-76 weighs 14 tons)

The Type 63 light amphibious tank has a more powerful engine than the PT-76 (400 hp vs. 240 hp on the PT-76).  This allows it to move more quickly than the PT-76, despite its greater weight.  

On land, the Type 63 light amphibious tank has a maximum speed of 40 miles per hour (64kph). Maximum sped on water is 7 miles per hour (12kph).

The maximum range of the Type 63 on land is 230 miles (370km).  Additional fuel tanks on the rear decking allow extra fuel to be added so that the operational range can be increased.

Armor on the Type 63 light amphibious tank is relatively thin. Maximum armor thickness is only 0.55 inches (14mm).

The Type 63 light amphibious tank is more heavily armed than the PT-76.

Armament on the Type 63 light amphibious tank consists of a 3.35 inch (85mm) main gun, a 0.3 inch (7.62mm) coaxial machine gun and a 0.5 inch (12.7mm) antiaircraft gun that is mounted on the roof of the turret.

While the PT-76 has a three men crew, the Type 63 is operated by four crewmen - a driver, a commander, a gunner and a loader.  Having a separate gunner and loader is supposed to enable the crew to operate the tank more efficiently.

The driver sits in the front of the hull, on the left.  The commander, gunner and loader sit in the turret - the commander and gunner on the left and the loader on the right.

Like the PT-76, the Type 63 light amphibious tank has a trim vane that is erected before the tank enters  water.  Bilge pumps are turned on, ensuring that the tank will stay afloat if it is hit.

The Type 63 and the PT-76 both use hydrojet propulsion to move through the water.  Each tank has two water jets, one on each side of the hull. Water enters the tank, is pressurized and then expelled.

In the Type 63 light amphibious tank, the water enters through the front of the tank, while in the PT-76, the water enters through the bottom of the tank.  Water exits through the back of the tank in both the Type 63 and the PT-76.

Use

The Type 63 light amphibious tank has been used for crossing inland waters, for amphibious coastal assaults, for supporting infantry during attacks, for reconnaissance and for patrol.

The Type 63 light amphibious tank was used by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War and by the Chinese during the 1979 Sino- Vietnamese border war.  It was also used during the Civil War in Sri Lanka.

Although it had excellent mobility, its thin armor made it very vulnerable to anti-tank weapons.

The type 63 light amphibious tank has been exported to a number of different countries. It is currently used by Vietnam, North Korea and Myanmar.

Type 63A Light Amphibious Tank

A variant of the Type 63, the type 63A light amphibious tank was introduced by the Chinese in 1997. It is designed for maritime warfare.

The Type 63A light amphibious tank can be launched from amphibious ships about 3 to 4 miles (5 to 7 kilometers) offshore.

The Type 63A has a different turret than the Type 63. It has a more powerful 580 hp engine. It can move more through water more quickly than the Type 63 can. The Type 63A light amphibious tank's maximum speed on water is 17 miles per hour (28kph).

Instead of a 3.35 inch (85mm) main gun, the Type 63A light amphibious tank has a 4.13 inch (105mm) main gun.

The Chinese have replaced most of their Type 63 light amphibious tanks with type 63As. However, they have retained a small number of Type 63s.