On 22 September 2020, the Pakistan Army (PA) showed-off a newly acquired VT4 main battle tank (MBT) at the Field Firing Ranges near Jhelum. Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Qamar Javed Bajwa, observed the demonstration and “expressed satisfaction over demonstrated performance” of the VT4.
In a statement via Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the Army said that it will employ the VT4 tank as an offensive asset in its strike formations. The ISPR added that the VT4 is comparable “with any modern tank in the world” and offers “advanced armour protection, maneuverability, fire power capabilities and state-of-the-art technology.” The VT4 tank will join the al-Khalid Improved (al-Khalid-I) as a new addition to the Armoured Corps – Pakistan inducted the latter in August 2020.
Pakistan’s VT4 Tank Program
Pakistan originally evaluated the VT4 tank under the Haider MBT program. The PA sought the Haider MBT as an off-the-shelf solution for replacing its older tanks. It would also serve as an interim stopgap to handle delays in the domestic al-Khalid MBT program, including the forthcoming al-Khalid-2.
By 2017, the PA had seemingly narrowed its options to the VT4 by NORINCO (China North Industries Group Corporation Limited) and the KMDB (Kharkiv Morozov Machine Building Design Bureau) Oplot-P. In 2018, NORINCO reportedly revealed that the PA selected the VT4, but it had yet to sign a deal. However, with the PA now confirming the VT4 procurement program, Pakistan likely signed a contract in late 2018 or by mid-2019.
Based on the VT4’s stated capabilities, this tank could be Pakistan’s most sophisticated armour platform. It is equipped with subsystems not yet available to the PA’s older tanks, such as a hard-kill APS, and it can potentially operate as a true network-enabled platform with real-time target information sharing.
In addition, the VT4 is also a significant investment for Pakistan. In all cases, a new big-ticket system needs new logistics, maintenance, training, and other overhead expenses. The only way to make that overhead cost-effective is to scale or distribute it across more operable units. In other words, Pakistan will likely opt for additional VT4 tanks to get more mileage out of the high upfront overhead costs.
Status of the al-Khalid Tank Project
Currently, the PA is in the process of inducting 110 al-Khalid-Is. Between 2015 and 2018, Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT) built 45 al-Khalid-Is. HIT’s output is below capacity, and the organization had pinned that issue on “budgetary constraints” in 2017. However, at this time, HIT is working to modernize its facilities with automated manufacturing systems, likely to support the forthcoming al-Khalid 2 (read more).
In its 2017-2018 disclosure, Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence Production (MoDP) noted that the al-Khalid-2 was in the “final stages” of development. The MoDP did not reveal any specific technical information, but it noted that the al-Khalid-2 would use a more powerful engine and other new subsystems. However, the Pakistan Army and HIT have yet to set a timeline for the al-Khalid-2’s prototype or production.
However, how would further investment in the VT4 affect Pakistan’s in-house MBT project, the al-Khalid?
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For More Information on Pakistan’s Armour Programs: Usman Ansari. “Government report reveals Pakistan’s progress on military acquisitions amid financial woes.” Defense News. 19 September 2019. URL: https://www.defensenews.com/global/asia-pacific/2019/09/19/government-report-reveals-pakistans-progress-on-military-acquisitions-amid-financial-woes/