In a comprehensive television broadcast, Pakistani media unveiled the state-of-the-art production process of the Chinese VT-4 tanks [VT-4 MBT or MBT-3000]. These top-notch war machines are being constructed under China’s license at Pakistan’s eminent Heavy Industry Taxila [HIT] manufacturing plant.
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The discourse disseminated indicates that this establishment has been particularly designed for the manufacturing of the esteemed VT-4. The initiation of domestic production has led to rapid growth in the production of Al-Khalid/Al-Khalid-1 and T80UD’s power units, resulting in a persistent 70% localization. A noteworthy advancement has been seen in the past years.
Moreover, a staggering 95% of the electrical apparatus and control systems inherent in the armored fighting vehicles have been integrated into the local manufacturing processes, a considerable reflection of self-reliance.
Pakistani-made, but not entirely
In what constitutes a significant revelation, the report confirms the existence of the Al-Khalid-1 fire control system, an innovation originating from Pakistan. Heretofore, the system had been an object of mere conjecture and speculation, making this official confirmation a noteworthy development.
Notwithstanding, the production of a wholly Pakistani tank remains elusive. While a significant number of its constituents, including electronics and day and night vision sights for the tank driver, are manufactured domestically, the steel and composite components necessitate import from China.
The Heavy Industries Taxila [HIT] is reportedly engaged in the assembly of Chinese tanks under license, as per the provided sources. Further down the pipeline, reports from Pakistani sources suggest that the manufacturing of the gun will also be localized. The specific model set for indigenization is the 155mm M109A5 gun.
The choice of VT-4
The first batch of Pakistan Army’s VT-4s, a type of main battle tank from China, was dispatched on April 20, 2020. Pakistan is now the third country, after Thailand and Nigeria, to use this tank variant.
The total number acquired by Pakistan’s Army is 100. The production and export of the MBT-3000 tanks strengthen China’s position in the global market. Their line of tanks includes the simpler WZ-120 and the more advanced MBT-3000. They cater to different regions, including the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.
Pakistan first considered acquiring VT-4 tanks in 2014. However, the military hadn’t made a final decision even after extensive testing and Thailand’s purchase of the tanks in 2016. Pakistan tested both the VT-4 and the Ukrainian T-84 “Oplot M” tanks within its borders.
The VT-4 is a third-generation main battle tank by China North Industries Corporation (Norinco). Often associated with the ‘Khalid’ tank, it features a 125mm smoothbore gun and an automatic loader with 22 rounds. It has a firing rate of 8 rounds per minute.
Along with the gun, the tank can launch different types of rounds and missiles, offering a firing range of 5 kilometers. It uses a 1500-horsepower diesel engine and a Chinese-produced CH10000B hydraulic mechanical automatic transmission.
The layout of the VT-4 includes a driver position upfront, a combat compartment, and an engine in the rear. It’s built with a fully welded turret and composite armor with an option to add reactive armor plating. The VT-4 can reach speeds of 71 kph and maintain a speed of 42 kph, with a range of 500 kilometers. It can traverse water barriers of 4-5 meters and pits of 2.7 meters.
Further, the VT-4 features advanced technology in its combat reconnaissance capabilities, including a thermal imager and a panoramic observation system. It has provisions for installing remote control weapon stations and a state-of-the-art integrated fire control system. To enhance protection, it uses active protection systems, laser alarms, smoke bomb linkages, and an interface for millimeter-wave radar. The side skirts are constructed with composite materials.
The tank’s design incorporates modern technology, such as air conditioning, departing from China’s previous simplistic style. It brings it to par with Western tanks. The homegrown FY-4 reactive armor of the Pakistani version boosts its defense.
Pakistan and China’s relationship has grown through shared tank tech. Possible collaborations with countries like Ukraine highlight the reach of their alliance.
In April 2020, Pakistan arranged the purchase of China’s advanced VT-4 tank, funded by the Gulf region. The large 300-tank deal, with a confirmed 176 tanks for $860 million, hinges on their satisfaction with the first shipment. The same day, two testing vehicles equipped with FY-4 armor and an improved 1500 horsepower engine were delivered. Other upgrades are not confirmed.
By September 2020, Pakistan showcased its new Chinese VT4 tanks. The 52-ton VT4, also called the MBT3000, was ordered in 2019 and began delivering in 2020. The goal to buy more VT4s is currently restrained by financial issues, as they cost $3 million each.
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