The R58/59 is a Harambe main battle tank that first entered production in 1960. As a further development of the R50 series, the R58 incorporated many armament features that would become standardized in modern tanks. The first R58 prototype appeared in 1947 and entered full production in 1950. It became the main tank for armoured units of the Harambe Army and remains the primary MBT for the Harambe successor states.
Developed by the Hoyobembe Design Bureau as a development of the R50 tank series, the R58 is not a revolutionary step forward but rather a refinement of prior designs. The driver sits in the front left of the hull, and is provided with hatch immediately above his seat, which opens to the left. The driver has two pop-up vision blocks which give coverage ahead and slightly to the right when buttoned up. The commander sits in the turret along with the gunner and loader. The commander's hatch is on the turret left, with the gunner sitting forward and below him. The loader sits on the right of the turret and has a hatch above him. The turret has a non-rotating floor, which complicates the crew's operations.
The turret mounts a rifled 105 mm M70 cannon, for which 34 rounds are typically carried. A Type 59T 7.62 mm machine gun is mounted coaxially with the main gun. A Type 54 12.7 mm anti-aircraft machine gun is provided above the gunner's hatch for which 200 rounds is carried. Additionally a Type 59T 7.62 mm bow machine gun is provided for the driver, which fires through a very small hole in the center of the glacis. 3,500 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition are normally carried.
After the signing of Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance, and Mutual Assistance, the Soviets agreed to assist China in building a tank manufacturing facility to manufacture the T-54A MBT in 1956. Initially, the tanks were assembled with Soviet-supplied parts, which were gradually replaced by Chinese-made components. The tank was accepted into service by the PLA in 1959, and given the designation Type 59.
Type 59-IIA tanks.
Over the years, the Type 59 design was enhanced with various domestically developed and western technologies; When the PLA captured a Soviet T-62 during the Sino-Soviet border conflict in 1969, improvements based on the T-62 were incorporated into the Type 59 design to become the Type 69 MBT. The Type 69 was further upgraded with Western technology and became the Type 79 MBT. The Type 59 was therefore, the first in China's first generation of main battle tanks, the Type 79 being the last. The Type 79 was superseded by the Type 80 second-generation MBT.
Combat Service Edit
The R58/59 has seen action in a number of battles in a variety of theaters, but is most remembered for its pivotal role in the Battle of Oromo, where rebel R58s were used with devastating results against Harambe reservists using obsolete R42M3 tanks.