KZJ-96 Chungmu

From Themys Project
KZJ-96 Chungmu
The basic chassis of the KZJ-96 Chungmu (left) and the Main Battle Tank variant (right).
TypeMain battle tank
Place of origin Zhenia
Service history
In service1998-present
Used by Zhenia
Production history
DesignerLi-Jien Dynamics, Jinmu Defense Industries
Designed1992-1997
ManufacturerLi-Jien Dynamics (1998-Present)
Jinmu Defense Industries (2005-Present)
Produced1998-present
No. built4,000+ (total)

1,800+ (KZJ-96A variant)

988 (KZJ-96B variant)
VariantsBaseline: KZJ-96 Chungmu Main Battle Tank
See below for further details
Specifications (KZJ-96A Chungmu-I)
Mass56.5 metric tons
Length10.72 m
Width3.71 m (including side armor)
Height2.72 m to turret roof
Crew3 (driver, gunner, commander)
Passengersnone

ArmorWelded steel base

Composite armor (turret and hull)

Non-explosive reactive armor (side armor)
Main
armament
1 x 120 mm/L55 smoothbore gun
Secondary
armament
1 x 12.7 mm Eagle's Nest RWS
1 x 7.62 mm RWS
EngineEDE-100X diesel-electric engine
1500 hp
Power/weight26.5 hp/metric ton
SuspensionIn-arm suspension unit
Ground clearance45 cm
Operational
range
720 km on internal fuel
Maximum speed 70 km/h (road)
48 km/h (offroad)

The Li-Jien Dynamics KZJ-96 Chungmu (Zhenian: KZJ98 충무), commonly the KZJ-96 Chungmu Main Battle Tank and also referred to as the Azure Dragon MBT due to its project name at the time of development, is a 3.5th-generation main battle tank built in Zhenia. Developed as a modern main battle tank to complement the existing KZJ-78 Temujin main battle tank and replace the aging KZJ-64 Thunder main battle tanks within service of the Republic of Zhenia Army, it is equipped with numerous characteristics that have been implemented after tactical feedback from recent military tensions, such as the 120 mm/L55 smoothbore cannon, its networking systems and its array of active protection systems. Its most recent variants, particularly the KZJ-96B, are considered as fourth-generation main battle tanks, due to significant upgrades that distinguish it from existing variants.

As the main backbone of the Republic of Zhenia Army's armored units, almost 5,000 units have been produced and are in service within the Republic of Zhenia Defense Forces, while KZJ-96A units are rapidly replacing existing Z5 Temujin tanks in the Marine Corps. The chassis upon which the main battle tank is built has been developed to serve other purposes, including engineering vehicles, assault breaching units or heavy infantry fighting vehicle for intensive urban warfare. Its chassis, dubbed the Common Combat Platform - Heavy (CCP-H), has evolved to serve as the baseline of other non-tank vehicles as well. Variants of the KZJ-96 Chungmu have also been vouched for export across numerous nations.

Development

KZJ-78, despite modifications (such as the KZJ-78M1 like above) had proven insufficient for survival in future combat situations.

While existing and upgraded variants of the KZJ-78 Temujin proved to be an effective main battle tank early on, its platform was reaching its limits by the late 1980s. While the usage of the 105 mm smoothbore cannon (120 mm/L44 smoothbore in upgraded variants) and other then-advanced technology, as well as the design philosophy centered around four crew members, were effective early on, its armor and armament were being outdated in the midst of advancements in armored technology across the world. Improved variants of the KZJ-78 Temujin partly solved the armament and armor problem, but the limits of the platform, without much change, were showing by the early 1990s, calling for a drastic replacement design.

In response to such demands, Li-Jien Dynamics, forming a consortium with Jinmu Defense Industries, began working on a proposal for a next-generation main battle tank to complement and ultimately replace the KZJ-78 Temujin, forming its philosophy around a three-man crew with an autoloader. Although it was met with challenging designs from Shinjin Technologies by 1994, it won the contract to supply the said new main battle tank in 1995. Development of associated technologies set to be applied to the new main battle tank - new HEAT/APFSDS rounds, gun-launched ATGMs, and active protection systems - progressed in tandem with the development of the vehicle itself, parallel to other vehicle developments in the Republic of Zhenia Defense Forces.

The first production prototype of the KZJ-96 was introduced in late 1996, although the first operational units didn't see service until 1998. The production prototypes showed minor improvements from Li-Jien Dynamics' proposal. Although it was initially anticipated that it would not be procured in large amounts, the Republic of Zhenia Army, after being satisfied with the overall performance of the vehicle, shifted its plans and decided to field the new tank in larger amounts than expected; the existing technological advancements derived from it were used to update the KZJ-78 Temujin. The new main battle tank was later designated as the 'KZJ-96 Chungmu', after the term 'Chungmu-gong' given to the highest warriors and military commanders in Zhenian history.

Design

Layout

Unlike its predecessor, all combat variants of the KZJ-96 Chungmu are in principle a three-man vehicle operated by the driver, commander and the gunner; the driver is in the frontal part of the hull, while the remaining two are located inside the turret. The power pack, containing the engine and transmission, is located in the rear of the tank, while ready ammunition are stored in fireproof compartments of turret bustle to minimize any further damage should the tank ever be hit. Core compartments of the hull, including the power pack compartment, is separated from the rest of the crew so as to minimize further damage to the crew in the event the power pack is hit.

Although the tank should primarily operate with three crew, it allows for the commander to override control from the gunner in emergency situations, thus theoretically allowing for the tank to be operated by only two crew members. Further upgrades in later patches of the KZJ-96B are set to further reduce this to one, with further automation and planned improvements to the onboard combat system set to allow for automatic target detection, tracking, targeting and engagement.

Armament

The main gun on the KZJ-96 Chungmu is a 120 mm/L55 smoothbore cannon.
File:KZJ-96 autoloader.jpg
The KZJ-96 is the first Zhenian main battle tank after the Second Great War to be equipped with an autoloader.

The primary armament of the KZJ-96 consists of a 120 mm/L55 smoothbore cannon mounted on the turret, an improvement from the previously-used 120 mm/L44 gun used in later variants of the KZJ-78. With a barrel lifespan of around 960-1200 rounds depending on the rounds used, the gun is connected to an autoloader, allowing it for a rate of fire of around 10-12 rounds per minute. The gun is capable of firing a variety of ammunition, including armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot (APFSDS) projectile rounds, high-explosive anti-tank shells, top-attack munitions and gun-launched anti-tank guided missiles for engaging vehicles and low-altitude helicopters at extended ranges. The KZJ-96 has an armament capacity of 48 rounds for the main gun.

The secondary armament of the KZJ-96 consists of a 12.7 mm heavy machine gun with 840 rounds and a coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun with 4,800 rounds. At the time of introduction, both guns were manned: the 12.7 mm heavy machine gun, since the KZJ-96A variants, have been substituted with the Eagle's Nest remote-controlled weapon system (RWS), above the turret's roof-mounted commander sight, minimizing visual obstruction. There have been proposals to add an additional launcher for short-range anti-air missiles or anti-tank missiles, similar to the KJJ-108 Typhoon, near the back of the turret, although they are not yet within the agenda: may believe that further development of top-attack munitions, as well as existing gun-launched missiles, retain the capacity to deal with low-altitude aerial targets, including attack helicopters and ground attack aircraft.

In December 2018, an experimental version of the KZJ-96, one of its prototypes, were spotted with a 130 mm/L51 smoothbore cannon instead of its usual 120 mm/L55 gun as its armament; the Ministry of Defense later clarified it as a part of an "experimentation of future weapons systems designed to counter heavier armored units in the near future" and had "no plans to field them into service", although the optional 130 mm gun was well within the tank's design capacity. There have also been speculations that a notional 120 mm electro-thermal chemical gun, once it completes development, would also see service in a modified KZJ-96, sometime around 2027.

Mobility

All variants of the KZJ-96 are powered by a single 12-cylinder EDE-100X diesel-electric engine delivering up to 1,500 hp, although the theoretical but not frequently-used maximum power is around 1,800 hp. The engine provides adequate power to operate the tank to its full capacity, with a power-to-weight ratio of around 26.5 hp per metric ton and a maximum speed of 70 km/h (paved roads) or 48 km/h (offroad). Specifically developed for usage in the KZJ-96 Chungmu, the EDE-100X is built as a power pack that also houses the vehicle's transmission and auxiliary power unit, which provides around 100 kW of additional power to operate its onboard systems when the engine is turned off or down. Future modification plans include an all-electric engine design, which would greatly reduce the noise and heat signature of the tank when installed.

The KZJ-96 uses an in-arm suspension unit (ISU), with each bogie having its own hydroneumatic arms linked to the lower sides of the hull, allowing for individual control of all seven bogies on each side of the track. Implementation of the ISU gives the KZJ-96 more positional options both in roads and in rough terrain, allowing for hull-down positions to increase the firing angle of the tank and ground clearance control in various situations, while it also reduces the operating vibrations to the chassis in rough terrain. During combat, the implementation of the ISU allows for the vehicle to maintain a stable firing position so as to reduce vertical and horizontal recoil when firing the main gun.

File:KZJ-96 Chungmu snorkel during military exercise 2018.jpg
In fording through streams and small rivers, the KZJ-96 engages snorkels to provide air for the crew.

The KZJ-96 has a snorkel system that allows for the vehicle to cross rivers up to 4.1 meters in depth without assistance from other vehicles. Taking around 30 minutes to prepare, the turret becomes watertight when the tank crosses the river, while the chassis can take in up to 550 gallons of water to minimize excessive tank buoyancy in the process; the tank is capable of moving in speeds up to 8 km/h when in the water. Although not advised, the KZJ-96 in theory remains combat capable in the water and is combat-ready directly out of the water.

Protection

File:Composite armor cross-section.jpg
The KZJ-96 implements composite armor in all directions to increase its protection capacity.

Drawing lessons learnt from the KZJ-78, the KZJ-96 is the first main battle tank in Zhenian history to implement composite armor directly from the beginning of development, although the base itself is constructed from welded steel. The composite armor applied to the hull and turret was meant to withstand 120 mm/125 mm APFSDS projectile hits without additional reactive armor. Although exact details of the composite armor used in the KZJ-96 remains classified, it is known that composite armor of unknown composition is sandwiched between the steel-based outer shell and base. The composite armor has seen further improvement with the KZJ-96B variants, with a new modular composite armor package replacing the existing composite armor system. Explosive reactive armor modules were seen since initial production units; non-explosive reactive armor is set to be introduced by late 2020.

File:Cheongan APS.jpg
The Cheongan APS is a component of the KZJ-96's hard-kill system.

In addition to armor, the KZJ-96 is the first Zhenian main battle tank to be equipped with both soft-kill and hard-kill countermeasures against incoming missiles. The soft-kill component begins with a millimeter-band radar system on the turret, which, alongside the radar warning receiver (RWR), can operate as a Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS), while also detecting, tracking and eventually targeting the incoming threat. The onboard computer, linked to the combat system, warns the crew of the incoming threat, while also firing smoke grenades to block optical, infrared and radar signatures. Infra-red and Laser warning receivers (IR-LWR), facing six directions to provide 360-degree coverage around the vehicle, is also linked to the combat system to provide better situational awareness and to allow for direct response against incoming attacks. The hard-kill component, primarily consisting of the Cheongan Active Protection System, is capable of being linked information from the millimeter-band radar system, targeting the incoming threat and firing interceptor grenades to the missile to neutralize the threat.

The KZJ-96 is also equipped with an automated fire suppression system to minimize further explosion even after being hit. In response to CBRN environments, its air conditioning system also sports a positive pressure device and airtight hull system to minimize the influx of hazardous material from outside the vehicle, should the outside environment ever be polluted by chemical, biological, radioactive or nuclear weapons.

Variants

KZJ-96A

The KZJ-96A is an improvement from the original KZJ-96, introduced in 2005. With feedback from the Republic of Zhenia Army, it has been fitted with increased fuel storage, improvements on the fire control system, improved image intensifiers and commander's periscope, as well as further upgrades in the thermal imaging sensor to allow for better situational awareness. The 120 mm/L55 main gun has also been updated with simplified internal mechanics, reducing the number of parts needed to operate the main gun.

An urban warfare package for the KZJ-96A was revealed in 2007. It included explosive reactive armor modules, a remote-controlled weapon system, additional slat armor to the sides and rear and improved thermal sights. It was initially proposed as an optional upgrade to existing units, although some elements, including the implementation of the Eagle's Nest 12.7 mm RWS and thermal sights to all crew members, became adopted as a variant-wide option starting from the KZJ-96A.

KZJ-96B

Introduced in 2014, the KZJ-96B is a further development from the KZJ-96A, in response to changing battle situations in the 2010's. The KZJ-96B is the first of the KZJ-96 to implement non-explosive reactive armor modules instead of its explosive counterparts, so as to minimize damage to nearby infantry and vehicles. Significant improvements in the turret are also observed, including an updated fire control system that allows direct engagement against moving targets, including low-flying ground attack aircraft and helicopters, even while the tank itself is moving. The fire control system is supported by an enhanced thermal night vision system, a new television sight augmented by IR-LWR cameras outside the vehicle to provide 360-degree coverage and a dynamic cant angle system. It is also the first of the KZJ-96 variants to be equipped with the Cheongan active protection system since its production. As of February 2020, around 65% of all KZJ-96As within GEUDEF service have been upgraded to KZJ-96B standards.

Further improvements to the KZJ-96B, dubbed the 'KZJ-96C' but more likely to receive a new designation as the 'KZJ-120', has been undergoing testing in Shingang Province. Improvements include a more powerful engine delivering up to 1,800 hp, the implementation of artificial intelligence capability to augment the vehicle crew's target acquisition and targeting, as well as increased situational awareness via 360-degree multifunction aperture systems and a datalink system sharing information to all crew members and other vehicles nearby. Situation awareness at the crew level is further enhanced via helmet-mounted displays on brand-new crew helmets, developed by Signus Systems using technology found in fighter aircraft. Although its details remain classified, an array of armor upgrades have also been disclosed, ensuring higher survivability of the vehicle as a whole.

Other Variants

KGJ-96-0
Initial production variant seen since 1996. Almost all production variants, with the exception of some experimental platforms, have been upgraded to KGJ-96A or KGJ-96B standards.
KGJ-96
An engineer vehicle based on the KZJ-96 Chungmu chassis.
KGJ-98 Assault Breacher Vehicle
An assault breacher vehicle variant developed from the KZJ-96 to perform mine- and explosive-clearing roles, being equipped with line charges and a mine-plough. A total of 88 have been manufactured.
KJZ-112 Lynx
A heavy armored personnel carrier/infantry fighting vehicle variant developed directly from the chassis of the KZJ-96A, specifically for urban warfare.

Operators

Zhenia Republic of Zhenia Defense Forces

See Also