In an event held at the Jhelum firing ranges and attended by the Chief of the Army Staff, the Pakistan Army ran a demonstration of their latest main battle tank (MBT). The VT-4, built in China, had been thought to be entering service soon and the demonstration of the new tank gives confirmation that the vehicles are now being delivered to the Pakistan Army.
The VT-4 is a third generation main battle tank built by Norinco for overseas export. Broadly equivalent to the M1A1 Abrams, the VT-4 uses technology developed for the PLA’s Type 99A model MBT. Armed with a 125mm smoothbore gun, the VT-4 appears to have composite and explosive reactive armor and is equipped with NBC protection and an explosion suppression/fire extinguishing system.
The Pakistan Army is believed to have ordered 300 VT-4s from China, which will supplement the indigenous Al-Khalid tank. Initially trialled in 2015, a number of issues with the tank led to a redesign and new trials in 2017. It is this improved vehicle that is now entering service.
It is expected that the new MBTs will be deployed to front line units on the Indian frontier, replacing older Al Zarrar tanks. These in turn are expected to be moved to the Frontiers Corps, a paramilitary force responsible for security in Baluchistan and for guarding the Afghan border. This organisation suffers from a shortage of heavy armor.
Pakistan is currently re-equipping it’s armored forces with large numbers of modern designs. Alongside the VT-4s, 450 locally built Al-Khalid’s have been delivered. Deliveries have begun of an improved model, the Al-Khalid I, of which between 300-400 are expected to enter service. Once this order is complete a further improved variant, the Al-Khalid II, is projected to enter production.
With rival India recently ordering almost 500 new T-90S MBTs, it appears that the tank – the utility of which is in doubt in some quarters – will very much play a part in any military confrontation in the subcontinent for the foreseeable future.
Many thanks to Farooq Bhai for providing information and insight for this article