yea, but H-J bring some good answer to it
(now if i could i find his post
but i kinda remember it)
it had an introduction ceremony in 1996
so it was produced before 1996
and it had an extra extensive 5 years trial before which could be shorten to 2-3 years
the extra years were test in the high mountains in the west and some other weird landscapes, but the tank was never used for there in the end. Another tank fulfilled that role
the long testing period didnt change the tank fundamentally
so the first version was adequate
Yeah, my argument was based on those things you mentioned, and this photo:
Caption gives us the date December 1996 for the introduction of the new PLA 3rd generaion tank (read: ZTZ-98), and shows us those tanks in ceremonial red.
I guess the mystery is over. It is not 1998, but 1996. Which also means that the small scale production must have begun at least a year earlier...
And my other point was this one:
The low rate production indeed started in '98, but the tank could have been finished faster than that, if there werent such rigourous tests. The high altitude tests took the longest, but the fact still stand that the Chengdu Military Region that oversees Tibet and the border to India doesnt even field ZTZ-99s, but its little brother, the ZTZ-96. The ZTZ-99 is exclusively used in the Beijing Military Region and Shenyang Military Region, facing Russia and Korea respectively. Now, the ZTZ-99 is also introduced for the armored units facing central asia in the Lanzhou Military Region, but still, Tibet gets none. Instead, China now introduces a completely new light tank class (kinda like an up-armored XM-8 AGS in appearance) for Tibet. And that, as a reaction to the recent militarization on the Indian side of the border, with the new 'mountain strike corps' of the Indian army.
So, if the need arises, China would have accelerated the testing phase, omnitted the high altitude tests and produced the ZTZ-99 in 1993-94 the latest.
I have to correct myself here. It seems, based on the photo and the apparent handover ceremony to an operational unit (as only those warrant the traditional chinese ceremony of cutting the red band and decorating the new toy), the low rate production didnt start in 1998 as previously thought, but must have been before that 1996 ceremony.
China usually introduces even her newest stuff battalion wise, which is at least 31 tanks for mechanized regiments (or 41 for armored brigades) , and her production rate of that time was one battalion a year. China hardly introduces only a handful of samples into an active battalion, and leaves that particular battalion with a mishmash of different hardware that would screw up logistics, training and operation. Always either a full battalion, or nothing at all.
So, the low rate production must have begun a year earlier than 3rd December 1996. Or the latest in Janurary 1996.
Since the ZTZ-98 was a new tank, I'd even say that the production begun even earlier than that, somewhen late 1994, as the production lines are usually not that fast and efficient for the first batch, and usually take longer than a year for a full battalion, compared to the production rate for tanks that were in active service and production far longer.
Hence, the ZTZ-98 could have been included, as it isnt that OOTF as previously thought.
But well, It was my fault, actually, as I discovered this photo (which was in my own goddamn ZTZ-99 folder all the time!!!) far too late. I've cited wikipedia and other websites that gave that 1998 number, which appears to be wrong.
My sincere apology for all PLA fans out there. I failed as Marshall.