Myanmar, a country in Southeast Asia, is characterized by its rich cultural tapestry, ancient temples like Bagan’s pagodas, and diverse landscapes ranging from lush forests to the serene Inle Lake. Despite its historical and natural beauty, Myanmar has faced socio-political challenges, and its complex dynamics continue to shape its path toward development and stability. This article delves into the impressive collection of Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) that serve as the backbone of Myanmar’s national defence. We will examine the distinct specifications and features of Myanmar’s top five tanks: the T-72S6, Type 69-II, Type 59, T-55, and M41 Walker Bulldog. Each of these tanks possesses unique capabilities, providing Myanmar with a diverse range of armoured fighting vehicles.
Myanmar’s Top 5 Battle Tanks
The T-72S, a variant of the Soviet T-72, stands as one of the most extensively manufactured tanks after World War II. Equipped with the 9K120 Svir missile system, the T-72S version boasts a 125mm 2A46M smoothbore cannon that utilizes a rotating ‘carousel’ mechanism for ammunition loading, eliminating the need for a human loader. Notable features of the T-72S include a V-84 liquid-cooled four-stroke multi-fuel diesel engine, a planetary transmission with a hydraulic servo-control system, and running gear with RMSH track and torsion bar suspension accompanied by hydraulic shock absorbers. In comparison to the T-64, this tank possesses a larger engine compartment, with the radiator grill positioned near the rear of the hull. Furthermore, the Myanmar Army procured over 139 T-72 main battle tanks from Ukraine in mid-2003 and entered into a contract to establish a factory in Myanmar for the production and assembly of 1,000 BTR armoured personnel carriers in 2004.
The Type 69-II, an enhanced variant of the Type 69-I, was specifically developed for the global market and commenced production in 1982. It incorporates several notable upgrades such as the Type 889 radio, rubber track skirt, and an advanced fire control system. This system encompasses a TSFC 2-axis gun stabilization system for the main gun, a Type 70 gunner sight, a TLRLA Laser rangefinder, and a BCLA Ballistic computer. The tank is armed with a 100mm smoothbore gun and propelled by a 12150L-7 V-12 diesel engine generating 580 hp. It boasts a top speed of 50 km/h and has an operational range of 440 km. With a weight of 36.7 tonnes, the tank measures 6.24 m in length (hull), 3.3 m in width, and 2.80 m in height. It requires a crew of four to operate and is equipped with 7.62 mm coaxial and bow machine guns, along with a 12.7 mm antiaircraft machine gun as secondary armament. The tank’s suspension utilizes a torsion-bar system. Myanmar’s army, predominantly composed of Chinese-origin combat vehicles, possesses a fleet of 130 Type 69 main battle tanks, consisting of 50 Type-69 and 80 Type-69II. Since 2007, all of Myanmar’s tanks have been upgraded to the latest version.
The Type 59, also known as the WZ-120, is a Chinese version of the Soviet T-54A tank, which is an early model of the T-54/55 series that was widely produced. It entered service in 1959 after the first vehicles were manufactured in 1958. Serial production began in 1963. The Type 59 is fitted with a 100mm Type 59 rifled gun and a Model 12150L V-12 liquid-cooled diesel engine that generates 520 hp. It has a top speed of 50 km/h and an operational range of 450 km. This tank weighs 36 tonnes and has dimensions of 6.04 m in length (hull), 3.27 m in width, and 2.59 m in height. It requires a crew of four and is armed with a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun, a bow machine gun operated by the driver from inside the central glacis, and the anti-aircraft heavy machine gun Type 54 12.7 mm positioned over the loader’s hatch. The tank’s suspension is a torsion bar. Myanmar’s army, which primarily utilizes Chinese-made combat vehicles, possesses 160-280 Type 59 main battle tanks. Before delivery, the Type-59s were upgraded to Type-59Ds and now feature thermal imaging sights.
The T-55, a main battle tank from the early Cold War era, has its origins in the Soviet Union. It is an upgraded version of the T-54, which was manufactured in large quantities for the Soviet forces. Equipped with a D-10T 100 mm rifled gun and a Model V-55 (V-54) V-12 water-cooled diesel engine, the T-55 boasts a power output ranging from 500 to 800 horsepower. With a top speed of 51 km/h and an operational range of 325 kilometres (extendable to 610 kilometres on unpaved roads with additional tanks), this tank weighs 36 metric tons and measures 9.00 meters in length (gun forward), 3.37 meters in width, and 2.40 meters in height. Operated by a crew of four, it is armed with a 7.62 mm SGMT coaxial machine gun and a 12.7 mm DShK heavy machine gun as secondary armament. The tank’s suspension utilizes torsion-bar technology. Myanmar has acquired 10 T-55 tanks from India for training purposes.
The M41 Walker Bulldog, an American light tank, was specifically designed for armed reconnaissance purposes. It was manufactured by Cadillac between 1951 and 1954, serving as a replacement for the ageing M24 Chaffee tanks used by the U.S. Army during World War II. On the other hand, the T-72S is a variant of the Soviet T-72, which is renowned as one of the most extensively produced tanks following the Second World War. The T-72S is equipped with the 9K120 Svir missile system and a 125mm 2A46M smoothbore cannon, featuring a rotating ‘carousel’ mechanism for ammunition loading. Myanmar’s Army has displayed significant interest in these tanks, acquiring more than 139 T-72 main battle tanks from Ukraine in mid-2003. Furthermore, they have entered into a contract to establish a factory in Myanmar, responsible for the production and assembly of 1,000 BTR armoured personnel carriers. These acquisitions and developments underscore Myanmar’s commitment to modernize its military capabilities and enhance its national defence.