Monday, 22 December 2014

World of Tanks History Section: WZ-111

After WWII, China's tank fleet consisted of a diverse collection of worn-out vehicles that could only be called an armoured force with some difficulty. The country had no domestic tank production at all. However, it had excellent relations with the Soviet Union. The brotherly socialist cry for help was heard, and massive shipments of Soviet vehicles for the People's Liberation Army began. T-34-85s, SU-100s, IS-2s and APCs began their service under Chinese flags.

Independent Development

In parallel, China was developing its own heavy tanks. The WZ-111 began development in 1957, as a replacement for the IS-2. Soviet industry greatly influenced its design. The vehicle, first indexed 111 and then WZ-111 after passing trials, was obviously designed with the IS-3 as an inspiration. The front-mounted bowl turret, piked front armour, sloped sides, all taking after its "older brother".

Several guns were considered for the vehicle: 130 mm M46, 122 mm D-25TA, 100 mm D-10T. It is difficult to establish which gun was ultimately selected, as there is little available information on this project.

The tank never reached mass production. Only one hull was built. Work on the turret was not finished before the project was closed. It is likely that the tank entered trials with only a dummy weight in place of the turret. Currently, the WZ-111 hull in the People's Liberation Army Museum is topped with a thin sheet metal structure, designed to prevent snow or rain from getting inside.

Victim of circumstance

Why did this tank not reach production? There were several reasons. One was that the development of a heavy tank is one of the most difficult tasks for engineers, and Chinese science and industry was not as developed as it is today. Heavy tanks are expensive to built and difficult to maintain. Chinese military minds could not ignore the fact that foreign militaries build limited amounts of heavy tanks, and the development of new ones all but ceased. Additionally, even the limited amount of information on this project reveals that it suffered from design flaws.

Another explanation for the unfortunate fate of this design was the purchase of several T-54s from the Soviet Union, along with a production license. The T-54 was a mass produced, mature design which did not need extensive trials, and Soviet engineers were available to help with ramping up production.

One way or the other, the WZ-111 remained on paper along with other domestic designs.

Original article available here.

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