September 27, 2002
Pakistan showed off it's Al-Zarrar main battle tank (an upgraded Chinese Type-59) during their Defense Export Promotion Organization live fire on 20 September 2002. Based on the Chinese copy of the late-1940's Soviet T-54 design, the Al-Zarrar has a 125mm smoothbore main gun, an improved Fire Control System, add-on Armor/Explosive Reactive Armor packages and a 700 HP engine. The demonstration at the Sonmiani firing range (75 km northwest of Karachi) was part of the four-day international defense exhibition, aimed at introducing new products to a specifically targeted audience in Central, South and West Asia, Africa and the middle East.
Most of Pakistan's 2,300+ tanks are obsolescent, with the exception of 300 modern T80UDs manufactured by Ukraine. With their Indian neighbors integrating Russian-made T-90s into service, the Pakistanis simply can't afford to discard or phase out all 1,200 of their T-59s in the foreseeable future.
The Pakistani Army's phased upgrade program began in 1990 and the first phase was supposedly completed in 1997, with the second phase launched the following year featuring a total of 50 upgrade items. If anyone actually buys into this Pakistani program, it would allow Karachi to reduce their Type-59 fleet for hard capital while simultaneously funding their own upgrade program. The question remains whether any improvements can turn a 50+ year old tank design into a viable 21st century weapons systems. With no chance against a first-rate tank like the T-90, what enemy is the Al-Zarrar designed to face? Unimproved T-55s or Airmobile LAVs? - Adam Geibel
Factory photo online at: http://www.depo.org.pk/products/hit/images/alzarrar.jpg