Background and Induction
Pakistan’s armored has always been the backbone of ground forces and performed extensively well in the Wars and proved it’s might in the battles like “Battle of Chawinda” also known as “Graveyard of Indian Tanks”. In the recent years India has been continuously increasing its military Might and inducting different weapons. Keeping in view the increasing tank arsenal of India Pak Military decided to induct a state-of-the-art tank in armored core to keep the legacy and stand toe to toe with India (maintaining the balance of power).
Pakistan evaluated three latest MBTS which include:
- T-90MS (Russian)
- T-84 Oplot-M & Oplot-P (Ukrainian)
- VT-4 (Chinese)
As India already uses a large number of Russian T90MBTs so this option was rejected by Pak Military.
T-84 Oplot-M & Oplot-P
Pakistan Evaluated Oplot-M & rejected it as it was derived from T80 tank of Soviet origin and Pakistan already operated highly upgraded variant of T80UD’s. So going for this option was not much of an improvement.
VT4 also known as MBT-3000 is tank produced by Chinese state-owned armored vehicle manufacturer, Norinco. It is a 3rd generation tank modernized with fourth-generation technology. After extensive tests and evaluation Pakistan Military selected VT-4 as the new tank to enter armored core.
Till date, Pakistan has formally inducted the first batch of the China-made VT-4 battle tanks (176 tanks) as it expanded its army’s armory capacity. After on-field tests Pakistan army said, “the VT-4 tanks would be employed in an offensive role by strike formations after induction. The VT-4 is compatible with any modern tank in the world integrating advanced armor protection, maneuverability, firepower capabilities and state-of-the-art technology.” With the latest induction, Pakistan is the third country to have procured these tanks from China after Thailand and Nigeria.
The second batch of VT4s (124 tanks) is likely to start induction by the end of 2022.
The MBT-3000 (industrial designation) project began development in 2009, under the cooperation of First Inner Mongolia Machinery Factory and other companies. It was based on the Type 99A and outfitted with a locally produced 1200hp power plant. The MBT-3000 concept debuted at the 2012 Eurosatory. The tank was subsequently shown at the 2014 Norinco Armor Day and the tenth China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition as the VT-4.
The VT4 is a Chinese main battle tank, developed specially for export. It is being marketed by NORINCO. The VT4 is a downgraded export version of the Type 99A. It also shares many subsystems technology and features from other latest Chinese MBT’s such as Type 96B. Key examples are automatic transmission system, muzzle reference system, FY-4 ERA, carousel style autoloader.
The overall layout of the VT4 is conventional with the driver’s compartment at the front, fighting compartment in the center and power pack at the rear. The VT4 has a crew of three, including commander, gunner and driver. The driver is seated in the center and has a single-piece hatch cover that lifts and swings to the right and in front of this are three-day periscopes, the center one of which can be replaced by a passive periscope for driving at night. The commander is seated on the right and the gunner is seated on the left with both provided with single-piece roof hatches and vision devices.
Protection & systems
The turret of VT4 is in the center and is of all-welded steel armor construction to which a layer of composite armor has been added over the frontal arc. The tank is equipped with an active protection system designated GL5, defensive grenade launchers, and a laser warning device. To increase the body side protection, it is protected by a new ceramic armor set in modular ‘bricks’ to enhance flexibility. A new digital FCS computer is used in conjunction with an all-weather thermographic sighting system. Stowage baskets are mounted to the rear and each side of the turret. The latest version of the VT4 MBT is now protected with new armor ERA (Explosive Reactive Armor) Level FY-4 providing protection against Tandem Warhead ammunition.
GL5 Active Protection System
The GL-5 is a Chinese active protection system developed by NORINCO. It was designed to provide additional protection for tanks and to increase survivability of the tank and other vehicles (such as infantry fighting vehicles) against anti-tank rockets and anti-tank missiles.
A total of 12 launchers and 4 radars of the GL-5 system are fitted across the turret of the tank or other vehicle. Radars detect incoming threats and trigger special High Explosive Fragmentation (HE-FRAG) munitions. These munitions operate in a broadly similar manner as the buckshots. Missiles and rockets are destroyed 10 meters away from the tank. Even if incoming rocket or missile was not destroyed, a blast can set it off course. This system provides 360° horizontal and 20° vertical coverage. The system operates automatically without the input from the tank crew. It has a brief reaction time and can protect the tank against multiple incoming threats.
Also, a drawback of this system is that it had a kill zone of at least 25 meters around the tank. Once activated this active protection system is dangerous to supporting infantry. Also, it can’t provide protection against kinetic energy munitions (such as armor-piercing sabot rounds) or anti-tank munitions launched from buildings and rooftops.
Reactive armour is a type of vehicle armour that reacts in some way to the impact of a weapon to reduce the damage done to the vehicle being protected. It is most effective in protecting against shaped charges and specially hardened kinetic energy penetrators.
China currently produces four Level of ERA (Explosive Reactive Armor) including the
- FY-I with protection against HEAT ammunition
- FY-II with protection against HEAT, APFSDS ammunition
- FY-III with protection against HEAT, APFSDS and tandem warhead ammunition
- FY-IV providing protection against HEAT, APFSDS and tandem warhead ammunition
Pakistani VT-4 offers superior and greater protection against multiple types of threats such as APFSDS, HEAT & tandem AT projectiles due to the FY-4 ERA. The ERA armour consists of steel blocks with C4 explosives inside.
Thermal Imager Sights
The standard VT4 is equipped with a stabilized fire control including 2nd generation cooled thermal imager sights. But the Pakistani version of VT4 uses 3rd generation cooled thermal imager sights for the commander and gunner.
Laser Range Finder
A laser range finder, also known as a laser telemeter, is a rangefinder that uses a laser beam to determine the distance to an object. The tank is also fitted with a laser range finder. The tank commander position is fitted with a roof-mounted stabilized panoramic sight that allows a target to be acquired and then handed over to the gunner for engagement.
Other equipment of the VT4 includes a collective NBC protection system, IFF (Identification, friend or foe), fire extinguisher feature, air-conditioning system, and explosion suppression system. The active protection system is linked to laser threat warning with smoke shell launchers. The driver position is also equipped with a rear camera and monitor fitted for whilst driving in reverse.
Although, the standard VT-4 uses a locally produced 1200HP diesel engine with torsion bar suspension and an integrated hydraulic transmission system.
But the Pakistani specific version of VT4 is motorized with a 1500hp Ukrainian engine which gives the Pakistani version great maneuverability, speed and increases operational range and that makes it even with the Type99A tank which uses a 1500hp engine.
The suspension is of the torsion bar type with hydraulic shock absorbers and either side consists of six large dual rubber-tired road wheels with the drive sprocket at the front, idler at the rear and track return rollers. To extend the operational range of VT4, two additional diesel fuel drums can be mounted externally at the rear. The 52-tonnes VT4 can run a maximum road speed of 70 km/h with a maximum cruising range of 500 km. The VT4 can ford a depth of 4 to 5 m with preparation and a trench of 2.7m. The tank can climb a gradient of 60% and a vertical obstacle of 1.2m maximum.
Command and control
The tank is also integrated with digital communications systems for tank-tank communication and communication between commanders.
The main armament of the VT4 is the 125mm smoothbore gun fitted with a thermal sleeve and fume extractor capable of firing kinetic Energy penetrator, High Explosive Squash Head and High Explosive Anti-Tank Warhead and High Explosives rounds and guided missiles. It can carry a total of thirty-eight rounds of main ammunition.
The remote weapon station on the turret is armed with a 12.7 mm heavy machine gun for engaging ground and aerial targets. The fire control system has hunter-killer capabilities, laser rangefinder, panoramic sight and a third-generation thermal imaging system. The APFSDS used by VT-4 can reach 700mm penetration which is enough to penetrate any armored target, although the distance was not disclosed.
The coaxial armament fitted to the right of the cannon is a 7.62 mm machine gun.
Mounted on rear side of the turret is a bank of six electrically operated smoke grenade launchers which fire forwards.
The tank is also equipped with a set of guided weapons, allowing the use of a guided missile 9K119 Refleks with a range of up to 5 km.
Pakistan Army has inducted customized variant of VT4 with many modifications (including a new more powerful engine [1500hp], 3rd generation thermal sight, improved laser range finder and many more upgrades), which make Pakistan’s VT4 most capable tank in South Asia and capability wise equal to the PLA’s most advanced Type 99A tank.
Author: Ali Hassan