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Pakistan Reveals First Locally Built ‘Haider’ Tank

On March 06, Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT), the primary supplier of the Pakistan Army’s (PA) armoured combat vehicles, including main battle tanks (MBT), rolled out its first locally manufactured ‘Haider’ MBT. The Haider is a variant of the NORINCO VT4, which the PA inducted in 2020.

According to Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the press arm of the Pakistani military, the Haider was “indigenously manufactured through collaboration with NORINCO China and various industries of Pakistan.” The ISPR also states that the freshly produced unit was part of a “pilot project.”

The PA inducted the VT4 in 2020, following an off-the-shelf purchase of 176 tanks in late 2018 or early 2019 under a $859 million USD contract. By involving HIT in the tank’s production (albeit to a lesser degree than what HIT has been doing with the al-Khalid series), the PA showed its intention to make the VT4 or Haider a mainstay system, one it would acquire in sizable numbers.

How Much of the Haider is Pakistan Producing?

Based on local news media footage of HIT in 2023, it appears that the Haider program involves more than simply assembling the tank from NORINCO-supplied knockdown kits.

For example, there is footage of HIT welding the VT4’s turret and chassis. Likewise, HIT also revealed that it was locally manufacturing various subsystems, notably the Haider’s gun system. This includes the barrel, breech mechanism, and elevation mechanism, among other inputs. HIT also stated that it was indigenizing the Haider’s fire control system (FCS), gun control system (GCS), and, potentially, the optronics, such as the gunner and commander sight systems.

HIT’s internal R&D wing, the Advanced Research and Development and Information Center (ARDIC), is carrying out much of this localization work. Currently, it seems that the PA is aiming to expand how much it sources locally for use on the Haider. For example, there is footage of HIT/ARDIC developing their own track parts and shock absorber parts for use on the Haider.

Overall, the bulk of the Haider’s inputs were certainly sourced from NORINCO. However, unlike early VT4 units, the Haider likely leverages key domestic inputs, notably the gun system and electronics. It is possible that future tranches of the Haider will involve more local inputs such that the final batches could comprise of a significant proportion of Pakistani subsystems.

What Happens to the al-Khalid?

Since the delivery of the al-Khalid Improved (al-Khalid-I) tanks, the status of the PA’s older workhorse MBT has not been clear. In 2021, it appeared that HIT had a clearer direction of where to take the al-Khalid 2 program, which was supposed to be a significant upgrade of the tank.

Then Chairman of HIT, Major General Syed Aamer Raza, said that the PA could potentially leverage the VT4’s technology to upgrade the al-Khalid 2. This made sense in that, fundamentally, the VT4 was a distant and vastly upgraded variant of the MBT-2000, the core platform of the al-Khalid. Thus, there was a scenario where the al-Khalid 2 could have some commonality with the VT4/Haider.

However, with HIT evidently focusing on producing the Haider, it is unclear if there is an al-Khalid 2, at least as a significant upgrade of the al-Khalid. In a sense, the Haider and al-Khalid 2 are basically the result of the same direction, i.e., upgrading the underlying MBT-2000 platform. Thus, for the time being, the Haider could be the PA’s lone next-generation tank program.

That said, the PA may be looking to retrofit its existing al-Khalid tanks, perhaps along closer lines to the Haider/VT4. Thus, the Haider/VT4’s inputs, especially the locally produced elements, could make their way onto to the al-Khalid series, albeit on older tanks rather than new-built units.

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