Pakistan MBT Modernisation Plans

In mid-1997, the Pakistani tank fleet consisted of approximately 1,200 Chinese Type 59s (100 mm), 40/50 Russian T-54/T-55 (100 mm), 120 US M47M (90 mm) and 300 M48A5 (105 mm) vehicles. These are organised into two armoured divisions and six independent armoured brigades. Recent deliveries of brand new vehicles from China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO) include at least 200 Type 69-IIP and at least 200 Type 85-IIAP MBTs with the P in the designation standing for Pakistan.

The Type 85-IIAP is armed with a 125 mm smoothbore gun fed by an automatic loader and it is understood that a further 400 will be acquired by Pakistan in two batches of 200. It is believed that first deliveries of the Type 85-IIAP MBTs were made to Pakistan in mid-1992 with 200 being delivered by April 1994, this being sufficient to equip two brigades. With Chinese assistance, Pakistan has established the Heavy Rebuild Factory at Taxila. The facility covers 48 acres and is capable of rebuilding tanks and power packs as well as manufacturing individual optical and electrical components. The Engine Rebuild Plant was completed at Taxila first, the plant for the rebuilding of the hull was completed shortly afterwards. The facility was fully operational by 1979-80 and normally rebuilds approximately 100 Type 59 tanks and 250 Type 59 tank engines a year. Of the 11,000 components used in the rebuild of the Type 59 some 8,000 are now manufactured locally. More recently the Heavy Rebuild Factory (HRF) at Taxila was renamed Heavy Defence Industries (HDI). The Military Vehicle Research and Development Establishment has developed to the prototype stage the M47M armoured vehicle-launched bridge system. This lays a scissors bridge with a maximum span of 21.4 m. Full details are given in Jane's Military Vehicles and Logistics 1997-98, pages 122 to 123.

In August 1989, an agreement was signed between Pakistan and General Dynamics Land Systems Division, to establish an overhaul facility in Pakistan for M47 and M48 tanks, M109 and M110 self-propelled howitzers, M113 series APCs and M88A1 armoured recovery vehicles. Pakistan is also manufacturing the M113A2 APC under licence and may in the future build the United Defense Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle under licence. Iran had also been overhauling Pakistani M47 and M48 tanks before the fall of the Shah.

Rather than build a new MBT from scratch, Pakistan elected a four-phased approach:

  • Upgrade the existing Type 59 MBT. Some of these have been fitted with a 105 mm rifled tank gun and are then known as the T-59(M)
  • Assembly/manufacture of the Type 69-II MBT; this has 50 per cent of its components from the Type 59 and 50 per cent new components. Production of Type 69-II hulls commenced in Pakistan in 1993 with the turrets still coming from China. The Pakistani designation is the Type 69-IIMP with the engine developing 580 hp
  • Co-production and manufacture of the Type 85 MBT; this has 20 per cent components from the Type 59, 30 per cent components from the Type 69-II MBT and 50 per cent new components. Co-production of the Type 85 has now commenced and a batch of these vehicles has already been supplied from China. In Pakistani service these are designated the Type 85-IIAP
  • Production of the MBT 2000 with 45 per cent of its components taken from existing vehicles (10 per cent Type 59, 15 per cent Type 69-II and 20 per cent Type 85) and 55 per cent new components.
  • The Heavy Rebuild Factory (HRF) at Taxila, also known as P-711, has been established and running for some time. It was then decided to build additional facilities for specific components:

    P-882 All types of AFV hull
    P-883 All types of turret
    P-884 All types of engine from 520 to 1,500 hp
    P-885 Progressive manufacture of guns from 105 mm to 203 mm
    P-886 Flexible machining centre

    In mid-1987, MECAR of Belgium was awarded a contract worth nearly BFr500 million ($12.9 million) for the supply of APFSDS-T ammunition for the 90 mm M47/M48 and 100 mm Type 59/T-54/T-55 tanks. It is understood that this order is for Pakistan. In 1988, two 120 mm armed M1A1s were trialled in Pakistan which has indicated a requirement for up to 400 MBTs of the M1A1 type armed with a 120 mm gun, but, in the short term at least, no purchase or local manufacture of the M1A1 is expected to take place in Pakistan. In mid-1994, a Chinese-supplied NORINCO Type 69 MBT of the Pakistan Army armed with a 105 mm rifled tank gun was fitted with a UK GEC-Marconi Centaur computerised fire-control system for extensive firing trials in Pakistan. It is understood that GEC-Marconi supplied a customised version of the Centaur called the Centaur 69 for the Type 69 MBT, with another version for the Type 85 being called the Centaur 85. Early in 1994 it was disclosed that Perkins Engines (Shrewsbury) of the UK had completed tests of a new integrated power pack for an MBT in the 50 tonne range and this was believed to be for the MBT 2000 project. This power pack consists of a Perkins Engines (Shrewsbury) CV-12 diesel developing 1,200 hp (as installed in the Challenger 1 and Challenger 2 MBTs) coupled to a French SESM ESM 500 automatic transmission (as installed in the Leclerc MBT used by the French Army). In late 1996, it was revealed that the Dr A Q Khan Research Laboratories in Pakistan had developed at least three types (A, B and C) of explosive reactive armour (ERA) kits for installation on MBTs and other armoured vehicles, tracked and wheeled. It is probable that this ERA will be fitted to current and future Pakistani MBTs to improve their battlefield survivability against HEAT projectiles. In August 1996, Pakistan placed an order with the Ukraine for the supply of 320 T-80UD MBTs under a deal worth about $580 million. The first 15 were supplied in February 1997 followed by a second batch of 25 vehicles in mid-1997. As Armour and Artillery was being prepared there was some doubt as to whether the Ukraine could supply all of these tanks in the originally anticipated time scale.