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Pakistan Officially Reveals VT4 Tank Induction

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.[1]

However, with the PA now confirming the VT4 procurement program, Pakistan likely signed a contract in late 2018 or by mid-2019. According to sources, the PA is slated to receive 176 VT-4 tanks at a cost of $859 million US, though it may acquire additional batches for a total of up to 300 units.

On April 2020, NORINCO’s Inner Mongolia First Machinery Group showcased an initial batch of VT4s with FY-IV explosive reactive armour (ERA). Due to the green camouflage, it was unclear if those specific tanks were for Pakistan (which had generally used desert schemes on its tanks until recently). However, footage from the ISPR show those exact same tanks, thus confirming that Pakistan was the user of that batch.

In May 2020, open-source export-import (EXIM) logs show that the Pakistan Army received 20 cases of high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rounds (click here to see the actual logs).

Pakistan is the third country to acquire the VT4, following Thailand and Nigeria. However, based on the reported cost of the program and units on order, Pakistan will also become the largest user of VT4s.

The gross weight of the VT4 is 52 tons, which makes it the heaviest MBT in the PA’s inventory to-date. It is armed with a 125 mm smoothbore cannon capable of firing armour-piercing fin-stabilised discarding-sabot rounds, HEAT rounds, and anti-tank missiles to a range of 5,000 m.[2]

The VT4 also has secondary armament consisting of a remote-operated weapon station (RWS) capable of supporting a 12.7 mm machine gun and a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun.[3] The VT4 crew can use secondary armament to engage low-flying aircraft and infantry, respectively.

The VT4 relies on a turbocharged 1,300 hp diesel engine. This powerplant enables the VT4 to reach a top speed of 70 km/h and a maximum range of 500 km.[4] Reportedly, the VT4 can operate at a depth of four-to-five metres in river fords/crossings (but with preparation) and trenches of up to 2.7 m.[5]

In terms of self-protection, the VT4 is reportedly fitted with the GL5 active protection system (APS). [6]  Each GL5 suite consists of four fire control radars with a detection range of 100 m. These radars detect incoming anti-tank projectile threats. The GL5 can also counter these threats with rockets. [7] Thus, the GL5 is a hard-kill APS, making it the first of its kind in use by the Pakistan Army.

Finally, the VT4 is also reportedly equipped with a network-enabled warfare suite. This system allows VT4 tank commanders to share information with other allied armoured commanders in real-time.[8] Potentially, the end-user could also use this suite to share information from tanks to artillery and aircraft.

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.

However, how would further investment in the VT4 affect Pakistan’s in-house MBT project, the al-Khalid?

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.

With the al-Khalid MBT program, there are several key issues at play.

First, Pakistan still relies on China to further this program. ISPR had noted this fact when the Pakistan Army officially inducted its first batch of al-Khalid-I MBTs. However, EXIM logs show HIT importing kits of some kind from China for use in manufacturing the al-Khalid-I (read more).

This is not surprising considering that the al-Khalid-series is, at its core, a customized evolution of China’s MBT-2000. The MBT-2000 was a platform NORINCO developed for export in the early 1990s. However, it is clear that HIT is importing kits to manufacture the al-Khalid. Granted, at this stage, NORINCO could be supporting HIT with some of the inputs, not knockdown kits. In other words, HIT and NORINCO appear to be manufacturing the al-Khalid on a workshare or co-production basis.

Second, the production of the al-Khalid-I and the development of the al-Khalid-2 is moving slow. The root causes for these issues are not officially known. However, it is possible that the issues may revolve around funding constraints, organizational and management problems, or a lack of internal capacity (such as the lack of automated manufacturing or skilled manpower) at HIT.

If HIT is unable to keep up with the required output, the Army may opt to procure additional off-the-shelf tanks, such as the VT4. It will be worth observing how far HIT progresses with the development of the al-Khalid-2 and, in turn, pushing it to production. However, the VT4 need not be a complete break from the al-Khalid-2; there may be opportunities for synergy and commonality between the VT4 and al-Khalid-2.

Realistically, Pakistan/HIT will still import the al-Khalid-2’s engine, transmission and other critical parts it cannot manufacture domestically. Pakistan may have the option to use the same engine and other critical components of the VT4 in the al-Khalid-2. Not only would doing so create commonality between the PA’s future mainstay MBT platforms, but effectively leverage its collaborative ties with NORINCO.

NORINCO is already the most important supply-side partner to the al-Khalid, so the al-Khalid-2 will draw on this relationship. If the Army selects key subsystems (e.g., engine and transmission) NORINCO is already familiar with integrating into a MBT design, it could lower the cost and complexity of the al-Khalid-2. The PA would also simplify its logistics and support costs by building commonality between tank models.

[1] Usman Ansari. “Government report reveals Pakistan’s progress on military acquisitions amid financial woes.” Defense News. 19 September 2019. URL:

[2] “Latest VT4 battle tanks delivered to foreign buyer: report.” Global Times. 27 April 2020. URL:

[3] Profile. MBT-3000 / VT-4. Army Recognition. URL:

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] “China unveils GL5 active protection system for main battle tanks.” Defence Blog. 16 August 2017. URL:

[8] Zhao Lei. “Tank maker seeks to increase exports on land armaments.” China Daily. 05 June 2015. URL:

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