The term Al-Khalid tank 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. Al-Khalid is designed with a 125 mm (length: 48 calibres) smoothbore, auto-frettaged and chrome-plated gun barrel which can fire the following types of conventional ammunition:APFSDS, HEAT-FS and HE-FS. The gun is a modified variant of KBA-3 series of 125 mm smooth bore gun for Al-Khalid MBT which provided compatibility with Ukrainian ATGMs such as Kombat. 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: 550 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.
Effective range: 200 to 7,000 metres
Sensor: laser ranging from 200 to 9,990 metres
French Auto-tracking, interfaced with gunner station, firing four types of munitions, gunner’s thermal imaging sight, commander’s image intensification night vision sight, gyro-stabilised and UPS power supply system.
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 thePakistan 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.