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Chinese P.L.A. (1958-?)
Medium Tank – Conversion: around 800

The Chinese Upgrade of the T-34-85

In the early 1950’s, the Chinese-Soviet relations were high, and they received a shipment of some 1837 tanks. Some 400 were passed later to their North Korean ally then full involved in the conflict, before sending proper Chinese T-34/85s in turn in Korea, by 1952. Battle records were at first clearly in favor of the T-34/85s thrown against US-Forces light tanks like the M24 Chaffee. However, after massive reinforcements, the tide gradually turned in favor of the US M46 Patton and British Centurion. A 1954 survey from the Operations Research Office report stated that on 119 tank versus tank engagements, 38 US tanks were knocked-out by the T-34. Later one, records shows less encounters of the type, most NK T-34s have been then captured or destroyed, and the Chinese T-34s were employed peale-meal in support of the infantry.

Characteristics of the Type 58

The T-34/85 was a simple and crude model relatively to copy without extensive labor skills or complex tooling. For this reason it was found perfect, with Soviet engineers as consultants, for the first Chinese domestic large-scale production of a sizeable tank. By 1958, the Chinese had produced the components of a T-34/85, but is not believed to have assembled fully a T-34/85 copy. This is because the Chinese were given license to produce the more modern T-54, which the Chinese designated ‘Type 59’. As a result, the Chinese decided to upgrade their T-34/85s.

The Type 58 upgrade was basically similar in all directions to the original Soviet model, almost without major alterations. For example, they retained the two models of roadwheels, as T-34s from different factories were supplied to the PRC. However, some upgrades include the adoption of the next Type 59 MBT sights, and redesigned cupola. The Type 58-I was fitted with dome-type commander’s hatches and an HMG mount, while the Type 58-II was given an additional cupola also fitted with an HMG mount.



The former T-34/85s are believed to be totally replaced, albeit gradually, by the time the Type 58 upgrade programme was complete. However, some are believed to have become a Chinese version of a Tank Recovery Vehicle, just like their Soviet-built cousins (others were bought in the years 1950-1955).

The Type 65

The Type 63/65 was the first Chinese SPAAG (AA) vehicle. It was developed from the Type 58 or earlier with the T-34/85 in the early 60s when Type 58 was gradually phased out. The major change was a turretless configuration with a steel platform secured by 27 bolts to the hull, above the turret ring, where a twin Type 63 Dual 37mm was fitted, and a lightly armoured squared enclosure around as a “turret”, with a slight chamfer. The platform could traverse fully, helped by a gearbox. The gun itself was hand-cranked for traverse and elevation, which spanned from 5 to 85°. There was also a large metal ammunition storage container fastened to the side. Since it was an open-top configuration, crew safety was obviously in jeopardy. But it was a potent armed system to go along Chinese Armoured divisions, although it was produced for the North Vietnamese army. One was captured and was for some time at the Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Operational history

Some sources question why no Type 58 was ever recorded as part of offensive units operating in North Korea by 1954 – this is because they did not exist at that time. The Type 58 formed the bulk of the Chinese armoured divisions until being replaced over time by the newly built Type 59s. The latter was built inside a brand new plant entirely constructed with Soviet help. The Type 59 formed the very basis of several PLA’s MBTs designs. The Type 58 was only apparently only engaged in combat, (probably Type 58-II in limited numbers) in the Sino-Soviet border conflict with USSR, where the bulk of Chinese forces were made of Type 59 and Type 62.

Links on the Type 58

Generic Chinese tanks lineage on wikipedia…

Chinese Type 58 specs.

Dimensions : 7,8 x 3,4 x 2,2 m hull
Total weight, battle ready : 34-36 Tons.
Crew : 4
Propulsion : GAZ 500 bhp
Top speed 40 km/h (50mph)
Range/consumption 600 km -4200 liters
Suspension Torsion bar
Armament Main: 85 mm
Sec: 2x 7,62mm coaxial, hull, AA Type 85 12,7mm Mg.
Armour : Sloped glacis 60 mm, others 50 mm.
Total production Around 800
T34 in Korea
Chinese T-34/85 in Korea, 1954.Type 58
A Type 58-I, early, in maneuvers along the Korean border, late 1950s.Type 58-II early
An early Type 58-II. The turret is turned to see the searchlight fasteners.Late Type 58
A type 58-IIM (modernized) deployed during the Sino-Soviet border conflict of 1969.


T-34-85 in Chinese service - Credits : Hayate - wikipedia commonsType 58 in a museum - Credits : wikipedia commonsNV type 65 SPAAG - Credits : wikipedia commons

Type 59 MBT
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3 Responses to Type 58 Medium Tank

  1. TinkerTanker says:

    My biggest complaint (and only complaint) is that you can only click on one picture to make it bigger, and not the others. It’s the same thing with The Type 63, and Type 62 LT.

    Other than that everything else is EPIC!

  2. BobMarvin says:

    I love this tank very much!

  3. Cap Camouflage Pattern I says:

    The Type 63 SPAAG at Aberdeen proving grounds has been moved to the Fort Sill Air Defence Artillery Museum.

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