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Pakistani tank for Saudi Arabia

The Saudi armed forces are due in April to begin trialling the MBT 2000 Al Khalid main battle tank (MBT), manufactured by Pakistan's Heavy Industries Taxila. Islamabad is hoping that this will lead to the conclusion of the country's first large MBT export deal, Pakistani defence sources. The Saudi desert trials come almost two years after the Royal Saudi Army expressed interest in purchasing a batch of the newly developed Al Khalid, which is powered by a 6TD-2 1,200 hp diesel engine manufactured by the Ukrainian Malyeshev tank plant. Pakistan signed a USD150 million contract with the Malyeshev plant in early 2002 for the supply of 6TD-2 series engines. Pakistani defence officials said that if the tests are successful, Saudi Arabia could buy up to 150 Al Khalids in a deal worth up to USD600 million. This would be the largest single export contract of its kind ever for Pakistan's emerging defence industry. The Al Khalid is of conventional layout, with the driver's compartment at the front, turret in the centre and the power pack at the rear. In many respects it appears to be almost identical to the Chinese Norinco Type 90-II MBT. The turret and hull are of all-welded steel armour construction and an additional layer of composite armour has been added over the frontal arc, to which explosive reactive armour can be added if required. Turret thickness at the front is estimated to be 600 mm with the glacis/nose estimated to be 450 to 470 mm. The armour is of modular design, enabling the user to change damaged modules or replace the existing models with new armour packages as the threat evolves or as new technology becomes available. The Al Khalid's main armament is a 125 mm smoothbore gun fitted with a thermal sleeve and a fume extractor. The gun is fed by an automatic loader, enabling the crew to be reduced to three: commander, gunner and driver. The Pakistan Ordnance Factories have manufactured ammunition for the 125 mm smoothbore gun for several years, including armour-piercing fin-stabilised discarding-sabot and high-explosive fragmentation types. As originally developed, a total of 39 rounds of 125 mm ammunition of the separate loading type were carried (projectile and charge), of which 22 rounds were in the automatic loader for ready use. However, as a result of recent modifications an additional 10 rounds of ammunition can be carried, bringing the total up to 49 rounds. Vehicles already completed will be brought up to this latest production standard and carry a total of 49 rounds of 125 mm ammunition. A 7.62 mm machine gun is mounted coaxially with the main armament and a 12.7 mm machine gun is mounted on the roof for anti-aircraft and local defence purposes. Mounted either side of the turret, towards the rear, is a bank of four electrically operated forward-firing smoke grenade dischargers. A turret basket is provided at the rear. The computerised fire-control system includes a bi-axis stabilised dual magnification gunner's sight, bi-axis stabilised commander's sight with hunter killer capability, computer, commander's control panel, laser rangefinder, crosswind sensor, tilt sensor and angle velocity sensor, allowing the Al Khalid to engage moving targets under day and night conditions.

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