Al-Zarrar is the main battle tank of the Pakistani Army based on a modernised Type 59 tank
Al-Zarrar is the main battle tank (MBT) of the Pakistani Army, developed and produced by Pakistan’s Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT). The Al-Zarrar tank was developed by modernising and rebuilding the obsolete Chinese Type 59 tank. The tank weighs 40t and can accommodate a crew of four.
The Al-Zarrar development programme began in 1990. Pakistan is reported to have ordered 400 Al-Zarrar tanks in total and the first batch of 80 tanks was delivered to the army in February 2004.
In October 2008, the Bangladeshi Army formed a joint venture with Pakistan to rebuild its Type 59 MBTs to the new Al-Zarrar tank standard. Pakistan will transfer the relevant technology to Bangladesh under the joint venture. About 300 tanks are expected to be modernised under the project, which will be carried out in Bangladesh at the 902 Heavy Workshop of the Bangladeshi Army.
Al-Zarrar main battle tank development
The Type 59 MBT was in use by the Pakistan Armoured Corps for more than 30 years. The upgrade and rebuilding of the T-59 to Al-Zarrar was considered to be economical against replacement of the large fleet in the Pakistani Army with modern MBTs.
The first phase of the upgrade programme was completed in 1997 and the second phase began in 1998.
In the second phase, HIT rebuilt a tank by modifying 50 features of the old T-59. It incorporated some of the HIT’s systems, originally developed for the Al-Khalid MBT.
HIT developed three prototypes of the Al-Zarrar and several technical and operational trials were conducted. Production of the selected version of the tank began in 2003. Future upgrades of the third phase Al-Zarrar development programme are also planned to keep it compatible with modern tanks. HIT also aims to upgrade the T-54 and T-55 to Al-Zarrar standards.
Al-Zarrar incorporates about 54 modifications to the original Type 59 main battle tank. The main modifications include improvements to armament, ballistic and armour protection, the fire control system, mobility and GPS. The fire control system features semi-automatic loading, computerised image stabilisation and thermal imaging for day and night combat.
The primary armament of Al-Zarrar is a 125mm smoothbore gun with chrome-plated, auto-frettaged gun barrel. The secondary armament includes a 12.7mm Type 54 anti-aircraft heavy machine gun – mounted on the turret roof, which allows the crew to fire at targets from inside the tank – and two 7.62mm coaxial machine guns.
Al-Zarrar can fire armour-piercing fin-stabilised discarding sabot (APFSDS), high explosive anti-tank fin-stabilised warheads (HEAT-FS), HE-FS and anti-tank guided missile rounds.
The tank can also fire 125mm Naiza, a depleted uranium round developed by Pakistan. The Naiza can penetrate rolled homogeneous armour up to 550mm-thick from a distance of 2km.
The armour protection of the T-59 has been upgraded with an add-on composite armour, explosive reactive armour and anti-mine armour.
The tank is also fitted with the LTS-1 laser threat warning system, developed by Al Technique Corporation (ATCOP). The ATCOP LTS-1 warns the crew when the tank is the target of a laser designator or a laser rangefinder. The sides of the turret are fitted with smoke grenade launchers. The tank also has explosion suppression and an automatic fire-extinguisher system for crew survivability.
Mobility of Al-Zarrar has been increased by replacing the 520hp power engine of the T-59 tank with a liquid-cooled, 12-cylinder diesel engine with a power output of 730hp. The engine provides a torque output of 305kgm at 1,300rpm-1,400rpm. The rubber tracks and modified bar torsion suspension system provide agility and crew comfort stable. The transmission and power to weight ratio (18.3hp/t) were also improved to give the tank a maximum speed of 65km/h.