Al-Khalid tank

The term Al-Khalid tank and MBT-2000 refers to the jointly developed variants of a modern main battle tank by Pakistan and China during the 1990s. About 300 Al-Khalid tanks were in service with the Pakistan Army as of 2009. The Bangladesh Army ordered 44 MBT-2000s in 2011. The tank is also used by the Royal Moroccan Army. It was trialed 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.

Pakistan plans start the production of next generation Al-Hyder tank (Main Battle Tank 3000) after the completion of orders for Al-Khalid MBT.

Al-Khalid tank
Class Vehicle
Type Armoured Fighting Vehicle
Manufacturer Norinco
Origin Pakistan
Country Name Origin Year
Pakistan 2001
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Bangladesh View
Burma View
Ceylon (Sri Lanka) View
China 2001 View
Morocco View
Pakistan 2001 View
Saudi Arabia View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Norinco 2001 View
Heavy Industries Taxila 2001 View

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 finalised during these talks in a deal worth over US$100 million.

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).

Type Main battle tank
Place of origin Pakistan
Service history
In service 2001 – present
Used by Al-Khalid Operators
Production history
Designer Norinco, Factory 617
Heavy Industries Taxila
Designed 1993-99
Manufacturer Heavy Industries Taxila
Unit cost $4.7 million – $5.8 million USD in 2011
Produced 2001 – present
Variants Pakistani:
Al-Khalid I
Al-Khalid II (under development)
Type 90-IIM
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)
Crew 3
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)
Power/weight 26 hp/ton
Transmission SESM ESM500 5-speed automatic
Suspension Torsion bars, hydraulic dampers
500 km (combat range)
Speed 72 km/h

End notes