PT-85, or M-1981 Shin'heung

North Korean light amphibious tank

By Massimo Tessitori

PT-85 is the common western designation of a light amphibious tank whose North Korean name is Model 1981 "Shin'heung" (Rise), built in North Korea for the needs of their army. 500 examples of this tank are thought to be operative with NK army.

Its chassis is based on the North Korean VTT-323 APC,  a copy of the Chinese NORINCO YM 531 (type 63). 

The most interesting characteristic of PT-76 and 85 is their anphibious capability, and it is thought to have a speed around 10km/h in water. 

At present time, anyway, such light tanks are made obsolete by modern, strongly armed ICV as BMP-3: if they have to be very large and with thin armour to float, why not to use the internal extra space to bear infantry? It's interesting to note that some sources have started to call such IFV as 'light tanks'.

The PT-85 is thought to be powered by a 6 cylinder inline, water-cooled diesel engine of 240 hp, to have a road speeds of up to 60 km/h and a ranges of 500 km. The suspensions use the typical torsion bars. 

The PT-85 esteemed weight is about 20tons. The esteemed overall measures are:  Overall Length: 7.63 m, Width: 3.10 m, Height: 2.80 m.

It has a classic crew of 4 men: commander, gunner, loader, driver.

The primary armament is an 85mm gun. Besides, the tank is fitted with a launcher along the top of the barrel, near the gun mount base, for a 9M14 Malyutka (AT-3 "Sagger") anti-tank guided missile. Besides, there is a 7.62 mm coaxial MG on the right side of the main gun. None of the available photos show the tank armed with any AA heavy machine gun.
Like the Soviet PT-76, the North Korean PT-85 is fully amphibious, capable of maintaining a top speed of 10 km/h across water sources. Tha speeed on a way us thought to be around 60 km/h.

pt85bw1.jpg pt76xx.jpg
Above: photo of an early PT-85 with a 9M14 Malyutka (AT-3 "Sagger") anti-tank guided missile installed atop the turret.
Note the lack of the IR projector on the turret, introduced on later production ones, and the lights disposed on the side plates

Above right: a PT-76 image from
Right: a scale drawing of PT-76 with measures.

Comparing PT-85 to the PT-76 shown aside, we see that the resemblance is vague,  although the Korean light tank is clearly inspired to the Russian one that is still in service their army.
PT-85 has an higher turret, horseshoe-shaped, with an 85 mm gun and hatches similar to those of a T-54.
Not even the hull of PT-85 isn't a direct descendant from that of PT-76, although wheels and tracks seem identical, and this helps much to esteem its size.
 The hull of PT-85 becomes wider over the fenders, has sloped sides, driver moved on the right, plates scomposed in different way etc.

pt85bw2.jpg yw-531.jpg
Another image of PT-85 aside a Chinese-built YW-531, also known as Type 63.
The hull of PT-85 is clearly a derivative of the Chinese vehicle, but with deep differences:  it is longer,with two road wheels added on each side,  it seems wider too, it has its engine and driving wheel well on the rear instead of on the front,  has idrojets as the PT-76.
Image from

Two images of tanks in parade. Details of the right side and of the rear can clearly be seen.
When compared to earlier examples, these tanks have a large IR projector on the turret, linked to the gun with a brace for elevation, as on T-55/62; the arrangement of lights on the hull has changed: now there are three lights on the right side of the front glacis (two black ones and one white), plus one on the left side plate; someimes some of these lights are omitted.
Note the absence of the AT-3 missile; it's unclear if this variant can be armed with that missile, and where could its launcher be installed.
An image from the rear, showing the idrojet outlets on the rear plate, covered by pivoting covers. The idrojet intakes on the hull sides are only vaguely visible from this perspective due to the incliation of their grid.
6 spare links are visible on the rear part of the side plate.
Looking at the turret's rear, we see a circular hand grip and a u-shaped upport plate for something.
A partial image of the left side. This tank looks to have two lights on the frontal glacis, plus one on the left side plate.
Interesting image from above-front.
The tank is camouflaged, apparently with sand bands over the olive green background.
Although of poor quality, the image allows to see interesting details, as:
the cylindrical protrusion on the rear-left side of the turret to lodge the tank commander's cupola, apparently similar to that of T-62;
the arrangement of the tools on the left side of the hull;
interesting markings, perhaps representing a red parachute;
two lights on the frontal glacis, and none on the side plate.
pt-85mov.jpg Some screenshots of PT-85s from a movie, probably related to the parade of 2010.
Despite the poor quality of the images, it shows some interesting details:
the shape of the turret, clearly not fully circular, but horseshoe shaped;
only one white light under the guard on the frontal plate, plus one on the left side plate;
3 track links are located over the light guard;
the inscription  is painted on the downed wave shield;
some details of the engine deck are vaguely visible.
A night image of tanks on parade, probably in 2015. The front lights are definitely 3 on the right side (of which two are IR) and one on the left side.

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