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Though Slow, Pakistan’s Armour and Artillery Modernization is Moving

In its disclosure of production and procurement activities for 2017-2018, the Pakistan Ministry of Defence Production (MoDP) outlined that the Pakistan Army’s projects, while slow moving, were progressing. But it appears that the priority at this stage is overhauling older tanks and procuring surplus/used howitzers.

Main Battle Tanks


According to the MoDP, Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT) manufactured 20 al-Khalid-I main battle tanks (MBT) for the Army, a slight increase over the 16 it rolled-out in 2016-2017.[1]

The main difference between the al-Khalid-I (short for Improved) and the preceding version is that the al-Khalid-I has a new digital fire control system.[2] In addition, it is also equipped with a laser warning system for detecting incoming anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM)[3] as well as head mirror stabilized gunner-sight.

According to IHS Jane’s in 2016, the Pakistan Army operated about 400 al-Khalid MBTs.[4] With these two batches, it should have at least 436, potentially more since the latest MoDP report only covers activities for 2017-2018. In other words, the information is 12-18 months behind, so the Army may have more.

During the 2016 International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS), HIT signed for 200 6TD-2 1,200 hp diesel engines, which indicates that the Army intends to procure up to 200 al-Khalid-Is. However, the new disclosures also show that HIT is still producing well below its capacity of 50-60 al-Khalid MBTs per year.

Al-Khalid 2

In terms of the al-Khalid 2 — the next-generation variant of the al-Khalid — the MoDP report states that it is in the “final stages” of development. HIT will work on prototype with a “powerful power pack and latest/ modern fire control system / gun control system … in near future.”

The al-Khalid 2 is expected to feature a 1,500 hp diesel engine, new electronics, and possibly, new armour technology. On the latter front, the Turkish OEM Roketsan is offering Pakistan the composite and ballistic armour it developed for the Altay MBT.[5] HIT could receive offers from China and Ukraine as well.

Likewise, Aselsan is offering its support on electronics. However, it appears that HIT’s Advanced Research, Development & Information Centre (ARDIC) is responsible for the al-Khalid 2’s electronics, at least in terms of integration and testing, if not development. The Army did not disclose how it intends to configure the al-Khalid 2 in terms of electronics and countermeasure systems.


HIT disclosed that it successfully repaired 45 T-80UD MBTs. Furthermore, it will also overhaul five T-80UDs as part of a pilot project, potentially as part of a joint-project with UkrOboronProm. HIT stated that upon the successful completion of the pilot, it will overhaul the Army’s remaining 315 T-80UDs.

Neither HIT or UkrOboronProm disclosed the improvements made to the T-80UD as part of the overhaul project. However, HIT briefly released footage of one of the pilot machines. The most obvious difference is a new or modified turret. Thus, there are changes to the armour, and, potentially, electronics as well.

Interestingly, the MoDP report also makes mention of the 6TD-2 diesel engine with the T-80UD. Basically, Pakistan is apparently manufacturing two component types for the 6TD-2 and T-80UD.

It only built four of said components, so it is possible that the overhauled T-80UDs are using the 1,200 hp 6TD-2 instead of the T-80UD’s original 1,000 hp 6TD-1.


HIT rebuilt or upgraded 36 T-85IIAP MBTs. This is approximately half of the number of T-85IIAPs it rebuilt in 2016-2017. According to HIT, it will rebuild/upgrade 160 T-85IIAPs in 2019-2020 and 2020-2021. A key feature of the T-85IIAP upgrade is the inclusion of a new Thales Optronic electro-optical (EO) system, but it is unclear if it is the same model as the EO system the Army is using on the al-Khalid.

Engine Parts Manufacturing

Under HIT’s ‘indigenization’ section, the MoDP outlined that HIT internally manufactured 116 different types of components for 730 hp diesel engines. It manufactured a total of 35,242 parts. HIT also produced 52 component types (and a total of 6,432 parts) for the 6TD-1 diesel engine.

Haider MBT

The MoDP did not mention the trials of the NORINCO VT4 or KMDB Oplot-M. NORINCO reportedly said it won the bid for up to 100 off-the-shelf MBTs, but no contract was signed. It is unclear if Pakistan shelved or ended the program.

Infantry Fighting Vehicles

According to HIT, the Pakistan Army requires a tracked multipurpose infantry fighting vehicle (MIFV). As part of its proposal, HIT designed the Viper MIFV. The Viper MIFV is an original design, albeit developed on the basis of the Talha, itself a variant of the M113 armoured personnel carrier (APC).

HIT unveiled the prototype of the Viper at IDEAS 2018. The Army intends to use MIFVs as part of its next-generation mechanized fighting column. It is worth noting that other original equipment manufacturers (OEM) may propose their own IFV solutions, such as Otokar (Tulpar), FNSS (ACV), NORINCO (VN17), and UkrOboronProm (BMP-U). It is possible that the Army is planning to procure the al-Khalid 2 and MIFV at the same time as part of a concerted effort to building a next-generation armoured force.

However, no mention was made of the 8×8 armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) program. Nonetheless, as part of its analysis for 2016, IHS Jane’s projected that Pakistan could spend $1.1 billion by 2024 on new types of IFV and AFVs. Moreover, Pakistan’s IFV/AFV procurements would extend past 2024.


Interestingly, though the MoDP did not mention much about artillery, the Pakistan Army did take delivery of a number of tracked 155 mm self-propelled howitzers (SPH) in 2017-2019. The most notable of these were the ex-Italian Army M109Ls, of which Pakistan received 99 in 2017 and 2018, and 31 in 2019.

In a sense, these have been the Army’s most significant procurements in terms of vehicles because they have swelled its M109 SPH numbers. Moreover, Leonardo is also testing an upgrade that would turn the M109L into a 155 mm/52-calibre SPH, i.e., into a system at-par with the newest SPHs, such as India’s K9.

In fact, in 2017-2018, Pakistan ordered $3.9 million US worth of velocity-enhanced artillery projectiles – i.e., the HE ERFB-BBRA (short for Extended Range Full Bore – Base Bleed – Rocket Assisted) – that could have a range of 45-52 km. It is not known where it got these V-LAP shells, though it is likely NORINCO.

The M109Ls have given the Army a low-cost, but highly effective SPH solution. It has alleviated the need to procure costly new-build solutions, such as Turkey’s T-155, though these options are still available.

Unfortunately, it appears that the Army’s wheeled and towed SPH programs have fallen in limbo, despite thorough testing of the KH179 (towed), Denel T5-52, and Yugoimport-SDPR NORA B-52.


In terms of procurement, the Army is clearly prioritizing the purchase of new – and immediately available and low-cost – artillery. In fact, the M109L SPH is only a part of this effort, the Army is also procuring the A100, a 300 mm multiple rocket launch system (MLRS).

Officially unveiled in 2019 as an “indigenous” system, it seems that Pakistan is manufacturing the A100 under license, though the 2017-2018 MoDP yearbook did not disclose any MLRS production work.

The core benefit of artillery is the ability to attack targets at stand-off range, which fits with the current tension on the Line-of-Control (LoC), which involves frequent artillery exchange fire. Of new procurement work, it would not be surprising if the Army prioritizes wheeled and tracked SPHs, and towed howitzers.

If the goal is to improve the Army’s stand-off attack capability, then the Army’s next procurement focus is likely to be on new artillery. Granted, the procurement of wheeled SPHs has stalled, but could pick-up again, especially as the Army now evidently has access to a V-LAP shell.

In terms of next-generation armour, the future MBT will be the al-Khalid 2 and, in all likelihood, the MIFV will be Viper. The benefit of both platforms is that the Army can begin procurement relatively sooner and start recapitalizing its forces across both tanks and carriers.

However, it would be prudent for the Army to conceptualize a long-term vision beyond the al-Khalid and M113-based platforms. Just as the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) decided to develop a clean-sheet fighter design for its next-generation requirements under Project Azm, the Army could consider the same for armour.

In fact, Ukraine, which is one of Pakistan’s core armour technology partners, stated that it will develop a next-generation IFV and MBT. UkrOboronProm tasked Kharkiv Morozov Machine-Building Design Bureau (KMDB) with the development of the MBT, which will be a new clean-sheet platform with a new 1,500 hp engine, transmission, weapon systems, armour, and automation (for a crew of two instead of three).

While the al-Khalid 2 MBT and Viper MIFV can sustain the Army’s needs through the 2020s, a clean-sheet, next-generation project (potentially in partnership with Ukraine) could carry those requirements starting 2030. Moreover, like Project Azm, the Army could approach such a program with the aim of maximizing localization and indigenization. With Ukraine willing to partner with Pakistan, this would be a worthwhile consideration, especially given how Ukraine is already an integral player in Pakistan’s armour efforts.

[1] Year Book (sic) 2017-2018. Ministry of Defence Production. Government of Pakistan. 05 September 2019. URL:

[2] “Al Khalid I makes public debut at IDEAS.” Asian Military Review. 29 November 2018

[3] Ibid.

[4] Farhan Bokhari. “Defending the Borders.” Pakistan Briefing. IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly. 2 November 2016.

[5] “A Roketsan Product for Every Need.” MSI Turkish Defence Review. January 2017.

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