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The Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT) in Pakistan’s Taxila city buzzed with anticipation as Pakistan Army Chief General Syed Asim Munir graced the rollout ceremony of the Haider tank. This unveiling marked a significant moment in Pakistan’s defense capabilities, as the Haider tank is slated to become the nation’s Main Battle Tank. However, recent revelations from documents reviewed by ThePrint shed light on a different narrative, one that contrasts with the triumphant image the Pakistani military seeks to portray.

The genesis of the Haider tank can be traced back to Pakistan’s 2017 order of around 176 VT-4 tanks from China’s Norinco (North Industries Corporation). This procurement aimed to modernize Pakistan’s aging fleet of Main Battle Tanks, bolstering its defensive prowess. after it failed to develop Al-Khalid II MBT that was to be superior to the Al-Khalid I which was claimed to be based on the older T-9X tank from China. Al-Khalid I faced numerous issues and production was curtailed to just 250+ units, before it was shutdown.

Initial assessments revealed teething issues with the imported VT-4 tanks, prompting Pakistan to reconsider its procurement strategy. Amidst severe financial constraints and operational setbacks, the initial order of 176 tanks was expanded to 300, earmarked for Pakistan’s elite armoured division under the Mangla Corps.

Nevertheless, the challenges persisted, and Pakistan found itself grappling with faulty hulls and critical dimension variations in the received tanks. These discrepancies raised red flags regarding the reliability and suitability of the VT-4 tanks for Pakistan’s defense needs. Consequently, plans to expand the fleet were curtailed, and attention turned towards exploring alternative avenues.

Pakistan went ahead and inked a separate agreement with China’s Norinco for local assembly and production of VT-4 tanks under license by Heavy Industries Taxila. Branded as ‘Haider,’ this initiative aimed to address the shortcomings of the imported tanks while enhancing Pakistan’s indigenous defense manufacturing capabilities.

VT-4 tank is export variant and according to Pakistani Army officials ,’Haider,’ has improved electronics and FCS which is Better than the T-84 Oplot-T that were procured from Ukraine in late 80’s. Easier to start the engine up than the T-84s.

According to Chinese sources, the VT-4 is an export tank not on par with the latest “premium” tanks of China, Russia and the West. It has relatively limited armor, but it has better optics and electronics than the current main tank of the PLA’s ground force (which is still the Type 96G).