SOURCE: ANITA DESAI / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
Pakistani military Generals are desperately scouting for a new Main battle tanks and, after evaluating many Chinese and Ukrainian options in last few years, they seem to have locked on to Russian T-90S Main Battle Tanks which according to their military planners fits the bill in different parameters and also meets their objective of trying to make Russia one of the defense suppliers of Pakistan.
T-90S Main Battle Tanks which are locally produced in India and with orders over 1500 tanks just coming from India alone, Russians don’t even want to hold talks about it with Pakistan let alone even consider selling them to Pakistan even in small numbers but that it not stopping Pakistani government officials who keep bringing that up even though Russians continue to decline to sell them to keep Indian order flow intact.
Pakistani Army in the last few years has evaluated Chinese MBT VT4 main battle tank and also carried out extensive trials of Turkish-made Altay MBT. Pakistani Army even went back to its older defense equipment supplier of Soviet origin weapons and conducted another round of extensive trials of Ukrainian T-84 Oplot-M main battle tank which basically was an upgraded T-80UD which Pakistani Army already has in its arsenal, but was not convinced.
After several false starts and after several declaration to buy Chinese,Ukrainian and Turkish main battle tanks ,Pakistani military planners limited by budget and limited by options are hoping to procure T-90 MBTs from Russia ,which is a main battle tank of Russian and Indian Army . T-90s seems to be the obvious choice due to its high production line and better availability of spares and supplies after so-called locally developed Al-Khalid main battle tank jointly developed by Pakistan and China during the 1990’s flopped big time.
Pakistanis don’t want to admit it but their so-called pride Al-Khalid main battle tank which was just a re-branded Chinese Type 90-IIM tank was such a disaster that Pakistan doesn’t even want to develop a successor to it and the tank has been maintaining a low profile due to poor supply of spares and due to poor serviceability of it’s Ukrainian engine that even after producing 310 of this in Pakistan that they have no interest in restarting its production and instead are looking for a main battle tank from abroad.
Al-Khalid MBTs entered into service with Pakistani Army in 2001 and immediately there was demand for 600 to 900 tanks, skeptics even with Pakistani army were not convinced about its capabilities but one-upmanship against India due to its delayed Arjun MBT program and ego of high ranking generals meant tank was rushed into production without proper extensive trials and without proper capabilities locally developed which made it superior to Indian T-72 MBTs at that time but India by then, decided to procure latest T-90s from Russia which over the years have been upgraded and have also been battle-tested in Iraq where they have performed exceptionally well when compared with American supplied M1A1 Abrams tanks.
Heavy Industry Taxila (HIT) which manufactured 310 Al-Khalid MBTs, In anticipation of the larger order, had developed a facility which can produce 50 tanks annually but was producing less than 18 Al-Khalid MBTs due to budget constraints and technical issues. As per HIT, each Al-Khalid MBTs costs $30 million which is close to three times over the cost of average a T-90 tanks which not only makes them super expensive but also technically inferior which is plagued with several issues and is a non-performer in a battleground. Al-Khalid was send to several friendly countries for evaluation in hope of export orders but technical issues kept cropping up even in those trials and none of the countries agreed to procure them and very few instead opted for Chinese Norinco-made MBT-2000 (Type 90-II) model, upon which so called pride of the nation Al-Khalid was based upon.
For Years Pakistanis kept working on so-called “pride of the nation” Al-Khalid MBTs to fix all its issues yet issues remained and financially it was getting out of hand so the production was stopped at 310 units in 2014 and secretly the program was also buried without much hyper Halla Bulla which you usually find in Indian side when an indigenous program is closed down.
Talks of Pakistan working on the development of Al-Khalid-2 has been going around for a decade now but that has been a no-show also because Pakistanis couldn’t find a desired main tank from China to re-brand it as Al-Khalid-2. Pakistani Army’s most reliable tank still remains 80’s procured 300 T-80UD tanks supplied by Ukraine but less than 88 are been upgraded with latest generation upgrades which mean hardly a handful of them now seems operational thus this explains Pakistan’s continues push to acquire T-90s from Russia.