Sure the PLA and DPRK are not superpowers but I believe that these factions have not been convincingly modeled in an asymmetrical way that can overcome the various METAs of superheavy MBT+Superjet micro+whatever is the dejour flavor of the day. Furthermore I'd much rather have authentic units (even if OOTF) than highly fictitious re-skins like the T-90S which likely exceeds the capabilities of an OOTF tank like the Songun-915 or ZTZ-90-II. As it stands the PLA faces the dual challenge of asymmetrically compensating for a poor airforce AND a poor armor complement which in every single iteration of the air and armor dominated RD Meta has proven to be an insurmountable challenge. I believe the armor component of these factions has the most authentic growth potential with the relaxing of certain rules which though bringing in "new" tech remain completely within the flavor of their historical capabilities, unlike the PLAAF which would change into a radically different vision of itself.
First we have to remove SovKor. SovKor is an imperfect bandaid fix, a crutch who's intent was to try and get an imperfectly modeled DPRK used more (Because it didn't create a convincingly good faction with its original titular coalition partner the PLA). The DPRK will never be fixed while it has the specter of "But that in combination with T-72BU AND T-80UM AND T-80U equals armageddon..... etc etc etc" hangs over it. Simply put, RD can't have good tanks as long as the DPRK is tagging along with the USSR.
Secondly I have come to the conclusion that the prototype cutoff needs to be relaxed in the case of the Red Dragons (within the bounds of original factional flavor and authenticity). It is painfully obvious that PLA/DPRK afv developments extending into the 1990's only approach the capabilities of NATO afv's like M1A1 or Leo 2A4. The TL:DR is the huge deadzone of defense procurement and development post USSR should give RD (and NSWP but thats another thread) a bit more leeway with the proto cutoff as we see in the case of nations like the USA the development/procurement party largely kept going after the wall fell while concurrently most of RedFor ceased to even be the countries they are in game..... The problem with RD is the CatA timeframe is perfectly situated on a time when the West was still developing and fielding new systems while OPFOR was in 99% of cases simply not developing of fielding new systems. Tough luck? Yes. Do these hard and fast rules make for a good, playable, competitive faction? NO..
Finally these units had PROMISE! So little was and still is not known about them unlike NATO and PACT systems that they could have been assigned whatever stats were needed to make them flavorful, well balanced participants in the armor ecosystem of RD. Instead these factions are saddled with re-skins and Unicorns for most of their most important roles that unfortunately bring with them the same weaknesses and balance inflexibility of their parent units (See DPRK T-72M) due to their known and established capabilities. Furthermore it cannot be argued than any of them exceed the capabilities of NATO kit in the game. Even the ZTZ-96G/A that was a non-starter back in suggestions in beta days does not exceed the capabilities of a T-72B3 and the tanks included in this proposal hardly exceed even that level of capability.
With so little known about indigenous systems and vehicles there has huge potential for Eugen to shape the stats and capabilities of the Red Dragons to create a faction with a playstyle and philosophy of use subtly different from that of the NATO/PACT duality that evolved across the Iron Curtain. Red Dragon units, especially those from the DPRK could very well have been assigned practically any stats that were required to achieve balance and a good fit with other factional units existing in the game (within reason) because much of the accepted knowledge of their "capabilities" is based on conjecture (informed guessing) and carefully crafted propaganda. So what happened? The opportunity to quickly create most of the new units for two entire new RedFor factions with simple re-skins proved too much temptation to resist.
While there were many new models implemented in RD it was the reliance on a ToE mostly filled out by re-skins that doomed these factions to mediocrity. Excellent AFV's like the Chonma-Ho V, Pokpung-Ho, numerous IFV's and seemingly the ENTIRE PLA/DPRK Self Propelled ARTILLERY PARK.... were completely overlooked in favor of units that could be shoe-horned into existing skins. As the debacle that was NAVAL became a greater burden the necessity of relying upon re-skins became even greater and the faction acquired a serious unicorn problem as Eugen tried to balance out the high end of the faction. Why was this a problem? The celebrity appearance of existing units such as the T-90S, the T-72M, the Su-27SK and Mi-25 among others completely hamstrung the balance potential of the Red Dragons by filling these slots with units that had concretely known capabilities and LIMITATIONS.
Furthermore these decisions were limited by an unrealistic insistence upon adhering to an arbitrarily decided cutoff timeline for units and prototypes. Without even going into the Dev's apparent confusion with DPRK designations (where a M-2002 may have been fielded in 1993) it is patently absurd to hold the Red Dragons (Or USSR/NSWP) to the same timeline as the USA/NATO. The Cold War ended in 1991, Countries like the USSR/NSWP ended most defense procurement and fielding of new equipment on an appreciable scale in 1989-90, the systemic effects of this also severely affected procurement in RD nations..... In many cases Bluefor (especially US) kept on developing buying kit like it was 1981. The result is a deadzone of RedFor defense evolution for up to 10 years in the case of the RedDragons, even today in the "Tank Biathalon" we see the capabilities of the quite recent and modern ZTZ-96A falling behind that of the near antiquated T-72B3.
The truth is most of the units being fielded by the PLA/DPRK in the mid to late 1990s and even early 2000s only barely approach the capabilities of US/NATO units fielded in the 1980's/early 1990's. The relaxing of the completely arbitrary WESTERN BIASED prototype cutoff dates for Red Dragons would have resulted in the faction being populated with interesting, flavorful INDIGENOUS units and systems that would hardly have been overpowered despite their "impressive" service dates in the 1990s.
So what does this faction now look like?
Tanks: This is where it went really bad. On the DPRK side we have authentic factional units up to 65 points. The PLA side is better but the ZTZ-85 line only brings the authentic vehicle pool up to the M1A1/Leo 2A4 135-145 pt. capability level and even then the coverage provided by the ZTZ-85 series is sparse and wanting and hardly compares to the variety per price slot you find in other factions like USSR, NSWP, USA/NORAD, EURO, VIKING. What is missing is more flavor in the 60-100 point range and 120-180 point heavies to round the faction out...
Being a generation behind the West in AFV development it is possible to bring 1990's (and 2002 for DPRK) tanks of the PLA and DPRK into the game under some justification which accelerated their development in this alternate timeline where Scandinavia is fighting in SE Asia.... It's not like we're throwing M1A2's into the 1970s Fulda Gap here and in my proposal I exclude developments like the ZTZ-96A/98/99 etc because they belong to a new generation of AFV's in their respective programs. Furthermore all currently OOTF proposals are developments of systems currently in game. FFS most of the DPRK Cho-ho V variants are still carting around a 115mm gun!?
Ideally the DPRK contributions should have been drawn from:
Chonma-Ho V ('92)
Chonma-Ho V ('98)
Chonma-215 (can mount ERA)
Chonma-216 (can mount ERA)
While the ZTZ-88/85 populated PLA MBT series should have also included the following on its high end, allowing for the stats of the ZTZ-85-III to be deflated.
ZTZ-88C (ie ZTZ-96 not ZTZ-96A)
1. The Chonma-92 "Chonma-Ho V" Welded turret with composite armor however possessing obvious shot traps rectified on....
2. The Chonma-98 "Chonma-Ho V"
But wait, if you look past the biased timeline there's another 115mm gun armed tank...
3. The Chonma-214 Observe the new turret but retains 115mm gun and inline 4 grenade smoke discharger.
4. And the supposedly 125mm armed Chonma-215 "Pokpung-Ho I"
Observe subtle differences in turret shape and chassis as well as glacis armor and new arrangement of smoke grenade discharger into cluster of four.
1990's/2000's Unicorn MBT's for the 160-180 point range that are soooo much better than the decidedly 1990's/2000's T-90S..... These tanks may approach the performance of a T-72 Obr 87/89 lacking a GLATGM. The Chonma-216 and Songun-915 are both great flavorful tanks which being ultimately flawed (flavored) by their parent technologies are an interesting alternative to the ZTZ-85-IIA/III, the Songun-915 is in my opinion the best candidate for the Red Dragon's 160 point second tier superheavy like the M1A1HA/HC or the T-80U.
Chonma-216 "Chonma-Ho VI/Pokpung-Ho I"
Songun-915 "Pokpung-Ho II/III or Songun-Ho"
I believe that the original ZTZ-96 stands a great chance of serving as the PLA's medium heavy tier MBT because it was an incremental development of the ZTZ-88, namely being the ZTZ-88C. Viewing the visual similarities of the ZTZ-96 to the ZTZ-85 it becomes clear that the PLA is literally A PAINT JOB AWAY FROM A MORE CAPABLE MBT. ZTZ-96 (ZTZ-88C) provides an excellent 155 point Obr '89 analogue to the Red Dragons and continues the developmental lineage of the ZTZ-88 through the ZTZ-85 and is the next link which leads to the top tier MBT of the Red Dragons, ZTZ-90-II, unlike previously called for PLA mbt's like the ZTZ-96A or ZTZ-98/99 the ZTZ-90-II is the pinnacle of the previous evolutionary generation of PLA MBT design. I believe it will be capable enough to be a one card superheavy but will not outperform its Western competitors, in other words a great fit.
And finally the top Tier Tank for the Red Dragons. The ZTZ-90-II, an incrimental development of the ZTZ-85 and ZTZ-88, it was the basis for the eventual Pakistani MBT-2000 (once that got through nuclear test sanctions), It is a developed and ITF mature piece of kit that is not a unicorn, in fact its age was telling when it eventually lost out to the ZTZ-96A/99. Here is a tank with capabilities that fit perfectly into the top tier of MBT's in the game and again.... The Red Dragons are A ZTZ-85-III PAINT JOB AWAY FROM A TOP TIER MBT THAT'S NOT T-90S!!!!