Pakistan’s Armor – a comprehensive look

WARREN SS

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An Alpha Defense Analysis-Kunal Varshney

Pakistan’s Army has a large fleet of Main Battle Tanks in service and is looking decently good with its future plan. Pakistan has more than 2400 Tanks divided in around 50+ armored regiments. But not all these tanks are modern, in fact quite a decent numbers are 2nd generations tanks which are modified to meet current firepower requirement. Pakistan is currently procuring modern 3rd generation tanks to replace older 2nd generation tanks. One interesting thing to note is that Pakistan, unlike other nations, has quite a different types of tanks, while most nations generally prefer 1 to 2 types of tanks for logistic streamlining, as tanks move around almost everywhere and require quick relocation at many times, so a common logistic chain actually helps a lot with respect to speed of deployment.

Pakistan on other hand currently operate 6 types of tanks and their variants, which include, Type 59, Type 69, Al-Zarrar, Type-85, Al-Khalid I, Al-Khalid, T-80UD, VT-4,T-55 (Rumored to be with Frontier Corps). They are also working on improved version of Al-Khalid called Al-khalid II and have also shown interest in buying T-84 Oplot, T-90 and Atlay, which means even in future Pakistan’s plan is to have a diversified tank inventory, which is quite a challenging approach.

Nevertheless, Let’s have an overview of Pakistan’s tanks.

Pakistan’s TanksPakistan’s VT-4

VT-4 is a Chinese Norinco Build Main battle tank weighting 52 tons. VT-4 is powered by 1200hp turbo charged diesel engine giving the tank top speed of 70km/hr and operational range of 500km. The tank uses torsion bar suspensions and utilizes an automatic gear transmission. The tank is operated by 3 men crew, which include a commander, gunner and driver with hull based autoloader with firing rate of up to 8 rounds per minute. The tank has 125mm smoothbore gun along with 7.62mm coaxial machine gun and 12.7mm Remote control weapons station (RCWS). The tank can fire APFSDS, HEAT, HE and Canon launched guided missiles (CLGM). The tank is capable of firing DTW-125 tungsten rounds with penetration of >600mm at 2km, as well as locally build Nazia DU rounds.

The tank has decent all round protection and uses composite armor, which give it protection level of 500mm in the front turret without ERA against APFSDS round. The protection level in further enhanced to around 700mm with use of FY-4 ERA panels. These panels are placed around front and side of the turret and front section of the hull. The side and back of turret also feature caged armor, which enhances protection, while also acting as additional storage space. The tank can be equipped with GL-5 APS as well as Laser warning system, but if the same is bought by Pakistan army is not known. It features a dual axis stabilized Thermal sight and panoramic sight for commander along with advanced fire control system providing it hunter killer capability. It also features NBC protection, fire detection and suppression system and smoke grenade launchers. Pakistan plans to acquire at least 300 such tanks.

Pakistan’s T-80UD

Pakistan bought some 320 T-80UD from Ukraine between 1997-2002. T-80UD weights around 46 tons and is powered by 1000hp diesel engine giving the tank top speed of 60km/hr and operational range of 560km. The tank uses torsion bar suspensions and 5 gear (4 forward and 1 reverse) manual transmission. The tank is operated by 3 men crew, which include a commander, gunner and driver with hull based autoloader with firing rate of upto 6-8 rounds per minute. The tank has 125mm smoothbore gun along with 7.62mm coaxial machine gun and 12.7mm anti aircraft machine gun. The tank can fire APFSDS, HEAT, HE and Kombat Canon launched guided missiles (CLGM). The tank is capable of firing APFSDS-T tungsten rounds with penetration of 460mm at 2km, as well as locally build Nazia DU rounds with penetration of 570mm at 2km.

The tank has decent protection level with use of composite inserts in RHA steel armor with addition of Kontakt-5 ERA. It gives tank protection level of around 750 mm in frontal turret. These panels are placed around front of the turret and hull. It features a dual axis stabilized Thales Catherine Thermal sights along with 1V528 ballistic computers with laser range finder. It also features NBC protection, fire detection and suppression system and smoke grenade launchers. Pakistan army has recently signed a contract with Ukraine to upgrade their fleet of T-80UD. Pakistan Army operate 320 T-80UD.


Pakistan’s Al-Khalid

The tank in developed by China and was locally produced by Heavy Industries Taxila under a joint venture, with HIT able to achieve high level of indigenization. Al-Khalid weights around 46tons and is powered by Ukrainian 6TD-2 1200hp diesel engine giving the tank top speed of 72km/hr and operational range of 500km. The tank uses torsion bar suspensions with hydraulic dampers and semi-automatic transmission. The tank is operated by 3 men crew, which include a commander, gunner and driver with hull based autoloader with firing rate of upto 6-8 rounds per minute. The tank has 125mm smoothbore gun along with 7.62mm coaxial machine gun and 12.7mm anti aircraft machine gun. The tank can fire APFSDS, HEAT, HE and Kombat Canon launched guided missiles (CLGM). The tank is capable of firing APFSDS-T tungsten rounds with penetration of 460mm at 2km, as well as locally build Nazia DU rounds with penetration of 570mm at 2km.

The armor involves use of composites and RHA steel as well as Locally produced AORAK MK-2 ERA panels on turret and hull front. The protection level with ERA is said to be around 550-600mm in frontal turret. Al-Khalid features ATCOP LST-1 – LTS786P laser warning system along with smoke grenade launchers. Tank has dual day/night sight with French thermal imaging sight providing tank a hunter killer capability. It features ballistic computer with laser range finder, automatic fire detection and suppression system, INS and GPS based navigation system and NBC protection. Pakistan army operate around 450 Al-Khalids.

Pakistan’s Al-Khalid I

Al-Khalid I is improvement over Al-khalid tanks. The improvements include higher ammunition carrying capability i.e. 49 rounds instead of 39 in Al-Khalids. The Fire Control System has been improved along with French 3rd generation thermal sights. Autoloader has been improved too, which now feature a solid state autoloader with by directional tray movement with larger carousel for longer rounds like DTW-125 and rate of fire increasing upto 9 rounds per minute. The tank also received Ukrainian Varta Electro-optical jammer, and improved base armor and ERA placement. The weight of tank got increased by 1 ton to 47 tons. Pakistan army operates 100+ Al-khalid I with plan to have total of 220-300 examples before moving on to Al-Khalid II.

Pakistan’s Al-Zarrar

Pakistan around 2004 started upgrading their type 59 tanks to Al-Zarrar standard. Al-Zarrar weights around 44 tons and is powered by 730 hp KMDB liquid cooled 12 cylinder diesel engine giving it top speed of 65 km/h and range of around 450km. Suspension used are torsion bar, while transmission remain manual. The tank is operated by 4 men crew i.e. commander, gunner, loader and driver. The main gun was replaced with 125mm smoothbore gun capable of firing Nazia APFSDS round other than HEAT and HE rounds. The secondary armament has a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun and a 12.7mm anti aircraft machine gun. The protection level was improved with add-on composite armor and AORAK MK-2 ERA panels, but it still not decent enough. Anyways tank has been upgraded with different role in mind. Upgrade also included addition of caged armor on the rear as well as addition of ATCOP LST-1 Laser warning system and smoke grenade launcher. Overall tank had 54 modifications to keep it relevant. Pakistan has around 500 Al-Zarrars in service.

Pakistan’s Type 85 UG

Acquired from China and produced in Pakistan from 1991, this tank was originally a 4 men crew tank, but with recent upgrade it now features a solid state autoloader from CARE firing 6-8 rounds per minute. This mean tank now has 3 men crew i.e. gunner, commander and driver. Type 85 UG weights around 41 tons and is powered by 730 hp liquid cooled diesel engine giving it top speed of 57 km/h and range of 350km. It features a 125mm smoothbore gun as main armament along with 7.62mm coaxial gun and a 12.7mm anti aircraft machine gun. The Tank is capable of firing Nazia APFSDS rounds as well as Kombat ATGM other than HEAT and HE rounds.

Type 85 UG is said to feature a composite + RHA steel armor, which give turret front protection level of around 370-400 mm, this can be enhanced with use of ERA panels. Just like all other Pakistan’s tanks, it feature a rear caged armor which also act as storage area. Upgrade also added FCS-212 fire control system with LRF ballistic computer and ND YAG laser range finder. It also feature 2nd generation Thales Catherine Thermal Imaging sight, NBC protection, fire suppression system and smoke grenade launcher. Pakistan army has around 280 Type 85 tanks.

Pakistan’s Type 69 IIMP

Procured in 1980s from china, this tank is in its last phase of Service life and is being transferred to Frontier Corps (FC). It weights around 37 tons and is powered by 580 hp water cooled diesel engine giving it top speed of 50 km/h and range of around 450km. The tank has 4 men crew i.e. commander, gunner, loader and driver. The tank has 105mm rifled gun and is capable of firing APFSDS, HEAT and HE rounds. Secondary armament include a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun and 12.7mm anti aircraft gun.

It features a steel armor with thickness of around 200mm, however ERA can be added to increase Protection level, but this tank is mainly used for fire support now and is suppose to be replaced with more VT-4, Al-Khalid I and II. It features TSFC 2-axis gun stablisation, type 70 gunner sight, TCRLA laser range finder and BCLA ballistic computer. It also feature smoke grenade launcher. Suspensions used are torsion bar with steel shock absorber. Pakistan has around 140 tank in service with Pakistan Army and 20 with FC, while rest are being in process of transfer.

Pakistan’s Type 59

The tank were procured from China in 1965. It weights 36 tons and is powered by 520 hp liquid cooled engine giving it top speed of 50 km/h and range of 450km. The tank has 4 men crew i.e. commander, gunner, loader and driver. The tank has 100 mm rifled gun and is capable of firing APFSDS, HEAT and HE rounds. Secondary armament include a twin 7.62mm coaxial machine gun and 12.7mm anti aircraft gun. It features a steel armor with thickness of around 200mm. Pakistan has upgraded 45% of its Type 59 fleet to Al-Zarrar Standard while rest were left without upgrade and are waiting replacement. Pakistan currently operate or have held in reserve around 600 Type 59 tanks.

Verdict

Overall Pakistan armor is pretty much comparable to Indian armor quality wise, infact it exceeds Indian tanks in some areas, specially the ammunition. Their Nazia and DTW-125 have better performance than the current mango round used in T-90 and T-72. Even new DRDO FSAPDS MK-II ammunition developed for T-90 and T-72 are inferior to DTW-125 ammo which Al-Khalid I and VT-4 will feature. DRDO is now working on 600-800mm penetration round which will likely exceed Pakistan’s Ammunitions. Pakistan current ammunitions can probably penetrate through T-72 Ajeya but will still find it difficult against T-90 Bhishma and Ajrun. Overall their tanks feature better ERA than our T-72 tank which only feature DRDO MK-1 ERA, but are comparable to Kontakt-5 on T-90 and DRDO ERA-Mk2 on Arjun MK-1A. The protection level of majority of Pakistani tanks are good enough to hold off current T-90/72 APFSDS ammunitions, however CLGM like INVAR, Samhoo will be a threat. Arjun FSAPDS mk-2 ammunition is of some threat to Pakistani Tanks, but it still might won’t be able to penetrate VT-4 and AL-Khalid I Turrets.

However mission kill involves many other factors namely destroying sights, tracks, engine, etc that makes tank inoperable, but still allow enemy to repair tank and return to battle. One more thing, protection levels mentioned here are w.r.t. frontal turret, which is thickest, tanks are still vulnerable from various angles as they don’t face each other face to face always. Coming to sights, most of Pakistan tanks feature better night fighting capabilities than Indian counterparts, while India still playing catch up game, but with better 3rd generation thermal sights.

In the end, any battle outcome mainly depends on tactics employed on field than which weapon system is better on paper. So these kind of articles are good for insight and should not be deemed as conclusive remarks on capabilities of a force, as a force by employing better tactic can wreck havoc even with inferior systems.
 

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