n 2015, the Pakistan Army evaluated a number of next-generation main battle tanks (MBT), including the Chinese NORINCO VT-4. The program is under the designation “Haider,” a new MBT positioned to support the al-Khalid series of MBTs in the Army’s tank formations.
On the surface, it may seem curious why the Pakistan Army is searching for a new tank, especially when it already has the al-Khalid. After all, the al-Khalid was to form the mainstay of the Army’s tank inventory, and there is nothing to stop the design from incorporating new subsystems (such as self-protection suites) should they become available. What is the need for the Haider?
If the VT-4 (and another potential contestant, the Ukrainian Oplot-M) is to be considered, then it seems that the Haider program is leaning on the heavier side. In other words, the Pakistan Army is beginning to shift from its preference for highly mobile – but lightweight – MBTs in favour of heavier and up-armoured designs. The al-Khalid sits in the 45-ton area, the VT-4 and Oplot-M weigh a little over 50 tons. If powered by 1500hp engines, these designs could potentially take on even more weight should Pakistan require it.
Pakistan was reportedly even interested in the Turkish Otokar Altay MBT, a heavyweight of 65 tons. While not currently available for export (as Turkey needs to secure an exportable powerplant), the Army’s look at the Altay may indicate an interest in heavier and qualitatively driven MBTs. Weight, power and armour aside, the Altay is flush with cutting-edge subsystems, most notably the Akkor active self-protection suite produced by the Turkish electronics giant Aselsan.