Al-Khalid MBT on display at IDEAS 2012 held at Expo Center, Karachi, Pakistan in November 2012.
|Type||Main battle tank|
|Place of origin||Pakistan
|In service||2001 – present|
|Used by||Al-Khalid Operators|
|Designer||Norinco, Factory 617
Heavy Industries Taxila
|Manufacturer||Heavy Industries Taxila
|Unit cost||$4.7 million – $5.8 million USD in 2011|
|Produced||2001 – present|
|Weight||46 t (51 short tons)|
|Length||10.07 m (33.0 ft)|
|Width||3.50 m (11.5 ft)|
|Height||2.40 m (7.9 ft)|
|Armour||Composite armour, RHA, ERA|
|125 mm smoothbore gun, 39 rds|
|7.62 mm coaxial MG, 3000 rds
12.7 mm external AA MG, 500 rds
|Engine||KMDB 6TD-2 6-cylinder diesel
1,200 hp (890 kW)
|Transmission||SESM ESM500 5-speed automatic|
|Suspension||Torsion bars, hydraulic dampers|
|500 km (combat range)|
The Khalid (Urdu: الخالد ٹینک—Al-Xālid Ṫaiŋk, pronounced [əl-ˈxɑːlɪd̪ ʈæːŋk] lit. The Immortal Tank) is a main battle tank jointly developed by Pakistan and China during the 1990s. The original prototype was known as the MBT-2000. Around 300 Al-Khalid tanks were in service with the Pakistan Army as of 2009 with unconfirmed reports mentioning 500 tanks in 2009. Further production was reputedly on hold due to lack of tank engines, with Ukraine first refusing to provide engines, but later promising to deliver 110 new tank engines. According to news reports, since the political instability, Ukraine is facing issues in making deliveries of equipment. The Bangladesh Army ordered 44 MBT-2000s in 2011. The tank is also used by the Royal Moroccan Army. It was trialled by the Peruvian Army for possible acquisition, but was discarded due to financial problems.
Operated by a crew of three and armed with a 125 mm smooth-bore tank gun that is reloaded automatically, the tank uses a modern fire-control system integrated with night-fighting equipment and is capable of firing many types of anti-tank rounds as well as guided anti-tank missiles. Al-Khalid is named after the 7th-century Muslim commander Khalid bin al-Walid (592–642 AD).
An evolution of Chinese and Soviet tanks, the design is considerably smaller and lighter than most Western main battle tanks. It is based on the Chinese Type 90-II, which combined technologies from several Soviet and Western tanks. The Al-Khalid is unusual in that it was designed to be adaptable for manufacture, so that it can be easily integrated with a variety of foreign engines and transmissions. The current production variant of the Al-Khalid uses a diesel engine and transmission supplied by the KMDB design bureau of Ukraine. The first production models entered service with the Pakistan Army in 2001.
In the 1970s, the leaders of China's People's Liberation Army were concerned about the Soviet threat, and requested an improved main battle tank (MBT) to replace the old and obsolete Type 59 tank. Thus in 1980, Norinco was formed, and the Inner Mongolia First Machine Group Corporation was tasked with developing a series of new tanks.
A joint development deal was signed with Pakistan in January 1990. Initial Chinese-built prototypes were tested in Pakistan in August 1991. Pakistan completed its manufacturing plant at Taxila in 1992. Pakistan spent more than US$20 million over the next eight years on the co-development of a model suitable for its needs and on creating a capability to manufacture it locally. The Director General of Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT) Lt Gen Hamid Javaid and Major General Muhammad Asad supervised the project. The design team modified the tank to accept a foreign-built engine. Several different prototypes were evaluated.
In light of high ambient temperatures and the fine sand or dust that would be encountered in operational areas such as the deserts of southern Pakistan, the development of high performance cooling and air filtering systems was emphasised during the planning stage of the project. Implementation of a hydro-gas suspension system was considered but, after technical evaluation, it was found to be impractical due to various limitations such as problems with reliability and maintainability. Installation of the Renk 304 transmission was also considered but disregarded.
An early version was armed with a Chinese gun and fire-control system, and had a German-designed MTU-396 diesel engine which was built under licence in China. Another version was equipped with a more advanced Western digital fire-control system and powered by a Perkins 1,200 hp (890 kW) Condor diesel engine (as in the British Challenger) and SESM ESM500 automatic transmission (as in the French Leclerc). This version was considered too expensive, and under-performed in the extreme heat of southern Pakistan. Finally, a version was tested with the compact Ukrainian 6TD-2 1,200 hp diesel engine. This configuration was chosen by Pakistan for the production version of the tank and came to be known as Al-Khalid. Ukraine also sold T-80UD tanks to Pakistan, which were powered by a similar engine.
The final tank design resulting from a decade of co-operative development was designated Type 90-IIM. The Chinese company Norinco showed the new Type 90-IIM during the March 2001 Abu Dhabi Defense Expo, under the export name MBT 2000. The version powered by the Ukrainian engine, intended for domestic production in Pakistan, was named Al-Khalid.
During the development period, Heavy Industries Taxila gained experience after building the Type 85-IIAP under Chinese licence and prepared to begin production of the Al-Khalid tank in 1999. A pilot batch of fifteen tanks was inducted into the 31st Cavalry Regiment of Pakistan’s Armoured Corps on 20 July 2001. Pakistan signed a contract with Ukraine's Malyshev Factory in May 2002 for the delivery of 315 KMDB 6TD-2 diesel engines over three years. An additional batch of Al-Khalid tanks was delivered on 23 September 2004. Pakistan planned to build a total of 600 Al-Khalid tanks for its armed forces.
In 2006 a US-based market and special research organisation reported findings showing that the Al-Khalid, along with two other MBTs, would account for nearly 45% of all new MBTs built until 2015.
In April 2002, it was reported that Malaysia was considering purchasing the Al-Khalid after evaluation by Malaysian military personnel, but Malaysia eventually backed out without stating any reasons.
The Saudi Arabian Army began conducting trials of the Al-Khalid's desert performance in April 2006, after expressing interest in purchasing a batch of the tanks 2 years earlier. No order for the tank was placed despite the symbolic naming of the tank after Khalid ibn al-Walid.
In May 2008, Lt. Gen Sarath Fonseka of the Sri Lanka Army held talks with his Pakistan Army counterparts regarding the sale of military equipment, weapons and ammunition. The supply of 22 Al-Khalid MBTs to the Sri Lanka Army was reportedly finalised during these talks in a deal worth over US$100 million. No deliveries of Al-Khalids to Sri Lanka from Pakistan has been reported as of 2015.
Peru leased five VT-1A from China for trials in 2009. The Peruvian government had expressed interest in purchasing 80–120 units to complement the fleet of Soviet T-55 tanks in service with the Peruvian Army. Peru decided to buy MBT-2000 tanks. The deal was blocked as China did not obtain permission to re-sell some Ukrainian components (engine, transmission and Varta Active protection system).
Al-Khalid was revealed on 17 July 1991, by the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, along with the then Pakistani Chief of Army Staff, Mirza Aslam Beg, in a ceremony held at the Heavy Rebuild Factory (HRF), Taxila. In his speech, the Prime Minister said that the completion of the project was a big step towards self-reliance. The Army Chief said that for the first time in history, not only had technology been transferred to Pakistan, but the design was also made by Pakistani engineers themselves.
Al-Khalid is designed with a 125 mm (length: 48 calibres) smoothbore, auto-frettaged and chrome-plated gun barrel which is manufactured with highly stiff electroslag remelting steel. The gun is then put under stringent quality control process to ensure standard barrel life of 1100 rounds EFC, barrels that cannot pass this test are rejected. This gun provides very high internal chamber pressures for APFSDS, HEAT FS and guided missile. Further, this gun can fire the following types of conventional ammunition: APFSDS, HEAT-FS and HE-FS. The gun is a modified variant of both the ZPT-98 and KBA-3 series of 125 mm smooth bore gun for Al-Khalid MBT which provided compatibility with Ukrainian ATGMs such as Kombat. The gun retains qualities of both Chinese and Ukrainians mated with indigenous design for better and accurate firepower on stationary and moving targets alike. The Gun-launched, laser-guided anti-tank guided missiles can also be launched.
Al-Khalid also fires a Pakistani DU round, the Naiza 125 mm DU round (armour penetration: 570 mm in RHA at 2 km). It is equipped with a muzzle reference system and dual-axis stabilisation system. Elevation and azimuth control is achieved by electro-hydraulic power drives. The automatic ammunition-handling system for the main gun has a 24-round ready-to-fire magazine and can load and fire at a rate of eight rounds per minute.
The tank is also equipped with a 7.62 mm-coaxial machine gun, a 12.7 mm externally mounted air-defence machine gun that can be aimed and fired from within the tank, and smoke grenade launchers.
The gunner is provided with a dual-magnification day sight and the commander with a panoramic sight for all-around independent surveillance. Both sights are dual-axis image stabilised and have independent laser range-finders. The tank has hunter-killer capability, giving the commander the ability to acquire new targets independently while the gunner is engaging another target. The automatic target-tracking system is designed to work when tank and target are both moving. Night vision for the gunner and commander is achieved through a dual-magnification thermal imaging sight. Both sights are integrated with the fire-control system. The production Al-Khalid tank has a fire-control system of western origin. In the MBT 2000, the Chinese Norinco fire-control system has inputs from ten sensors. The ballistic computation time is less than one second. The manufacturer claims routine first round hits on standard 8 ft (2.4 m) square targets at ranges over 2,000 metres.
Prototypes were demonstrated with various fire-control systems of Chinese and western origin, but the production model Al-Khalid MBTs use a Western fire-control system (FCS) and gun control system (GCS).
The tank is equipped with the "Integrated Battlefield Management System" (IBMS), named 'Rehbar', a digital communications system developed domestically by HIT and CARE (Centre for Advanced Research in Engineering). It comprises a flat-screen display mounted inside the tank which communicates with those of other vehicles, including command posts such as the HIT Sakb. It uses a data-link to facilitate secure communication of battlefield information between units, including tank video footage and information from unmanned aerial vehicles.
A project to manufacture the first Pakistani tank gun barrel was started by Pakistan's Strategic Plans Division (SPD) in 2000. In April 2011, it was reported that the first Pakistani-produced tank gun barrel was ready to be delivered to HIT for installation on the Al-Khalid and Al-Zarrar. Previously, HIT imported 125 mm gun barrel blanks from France for the two tanks which would then be machined in Pakistan by HIT. The first Pakistani gun barrel blank was produced at Heavy Mechanical Complex (HMC) in a joint project involving HIT, People's Steel Mills Limited (PSML) and other defence-related organisations. The specialist grade steel was produced at PSML and the resulting steel block was passed on to HMC. HMC then pressed the block to a length of 5 metres and square cross-section, before forging it into a 125 mm smoothbore barrel. The barrel was then heat treated several times in facilities such as a large vertical furnace. The process took 2–3 months and was watched by experts from other defence-related organisations. The barrel was to be capable of firing at 4 rounds per minute as well as being compatible with the autoloader and its 24-round magazine. According to a HIT official, a joint team proved to the Pakistan Army that strict standards would be met before the army approved production of a first batch of 50 gun barrels by HMC. The Pakistani gun barrels would likely be installed on upgraded versions of the Al-Khalid which are under development by HIT. A Rs200 million PKR contract has been finalised by HIT for the first 50 barrel batch, which is slightly lower than the barrels imported from France. After production of the first batch of local tank gun barrels in 2011, Heavy Machinery Complex is planning to explore manufacture of artillery guns.
The production model Al-Khalid is powered by a 6TD-2 liquid-cooled diesel engine, designed by the Kharkiv Morozov Design Bureau (KMDB) of Ukraine. The 6TD-2 is a supercharged 6-cylinder engine delivering 1,200 horsepower (890 kW). The 2-stroke design, with the pistons arranged horizontally in an opposed piston configuration, makes the engine very compact and therefore more suitable for being fitted into relatively small vehicles such as the Al-Khalid MBT.
The 6TD-2 engine drives a French-designed hydro-mechanical automatic transmission, the SESM ESM500, which is also fitted to the Leclerc MBT. Capable of manual and fully automatic power-shifting, the transmission has 5 forward and 2 reverse speeds along with a braking system that incorporates carbon friction brakes and a secondary speed-retarding system. Gear changes are controlled by a torque converter which is made more efficient by addition of an automatic lock-up clutch. There is also a mechanical back-up system for use in emergencies, able to shift 2 gears forward and reverse.
The Al-Khalid is fairly lightweight compared to the Western tanks, weighing 46 tonnes compared to the 60 tonne M1 Abrams and Leopard 2. A power-to-weight ratio of 26.66 hp/tonne gives acceleration from 0 to 32 km/h (0 to 20 mph) in 10 seconds and a maximum speed of 70 km/h, the speed and agility also helping to improve survivability.
A snorkel allows the tank to cross water obstacles up to 5 metres deep, after some preparation by the crew. Navigation is assisted by an inertial navigation system (INS) and a GPS satellite navigation system.
Al-Khalid has modular composite armour and explosive reactive armour, high hardened steel plates over rolled homogeneous layers. The composite armour includes classified elements and NERA inserts. Vehicle also has overpressure nuclear-biological-chemical defence system, an effective thermal smoke generator, internal fire extinguisher and explosion-suppression system. The infrared signature of the tank is reduced by infra-red reflective paint. Al-Khalid 1 is equipped with newly developed indigenous explosive reactive armour AORAK Mk.2, which is not only lightweight, but also more resistant to APFSDS, HEAT and HE-FS rounds. ERA is developed by Global Industrial Defence Solutions (GIDS) Corporation. Al-Khalid is also equipped with an active protection system known as VARTA. HIT is working on an indigenous APS system for future batches especially for Al-Khalid 2. In tests it has 350mm-450mm vs APFSDS and 450mm-550mm vs HEAT.
An advanced laser detection system from Al Technique Corporation (ATCOP) is present, the ATCOP LTS 1 laser threat warning system developed by Institute of Industrial Control Systems. LTS 1 consists of a mast-mounted sensor and operator's control box, which includes a display showing threats 360 degrees around the tank. It can detect laser rangefinders and laser target designators and responds automatically by triggering acoustic alarms, smoke generators and other countermeasure systems. LTS 1 can detect laser devices operating in the 0.8 to 1.06 µm waveband, has a 360° field of view in azimuth (resolution of 15°) and a field of view in elevation of -15° to +90°. Operating voltage is 12V or 24V DC nominal with power consumption being 8 W nominal. The sensor head is 165 mm in diameter and 35 mm high and the control box is 80 x 130 x 55 mm in size.
Laser Threat Sensor LTS786P is an early warning device which gives audio and visual alarms of threat by sensing a laser beam aimed at it from any direction. The exact location of the threat (incoming beam) is indicated by nine LEDs, covering all directions above the horizon. It has the capability to differentiate between a Laser Range Finder, Laser Target Designator or a Laser Target Tracker Signal. Provision of sensor output signal, interfacing for appropriate countermeasures, is also available. It can be used on stationary or moving objects of any size or shape. The maximum operating range is 10 km.
Al-Khalid has not been an export success in international markets due to its customization for Pakistani conditions as well as lack of a proper marketing organization. According to Pakistani Forums, the market research was incomplete and the pitch inappropriate. Finally lack of support by outside suppliers (Ukraine for Engines) has been a major issue.