How Capable Are Pakistan’s New VT-4 Battle Tanks? Why New Chinese-Supplied Armour Could Be A Game Changer: US Media

The Pakistani Army became the third operator of the Norinco VT-4 battle tank in late 2020 or early 2021, after its was widely reported that an order had been placed earlier that year for an unknown number of the vehicles. This reportedly came after a performance demonstration which had impressed Pakistani military officials, with the tank having been developed by China’s Norinco specifically for export and previously sold to Thailand and Nigeria to modernise their own armoured units. While Pakistan’s armoured units are made up almost entirely of Chinese designs, the most capable of which were previously the Al Khalid and Al Zarrar, the VT-4 took the place of the most capable tank by far in the country's inventory.

The tank's GL5 active protection system is particularly highly regarded, and can detect incoming projectiles and fire pairs of rockets at them with the double detonation sufficient to neutralise most threats. The VT-4's 1,300 hp diesel engine is also considered very powerful for a vehicle of its size, with the tank benefiting from torsion bar suspension, an integrated hydraulic transmission system and automatic gear transmission for steering and acceleration.

The VT-4's 125mm main gun has access to a range of advanced specialised munitions to engage particular types of targets, and its sophistication allows it to compete at a peer level to much heavier tanks. Chinese penetrative anti-armour rounds are thought to be among the most capable in the world, and are expected to pose a major threat even against well defended enemy armour such as the Indian T-90S, and possibly even the upcoming T-90MS, which Pakistan is likely to face in the event of a major conflict.

Although not as capable as the heavier Type 99A relied on by China’s own armed forces, the VT-4 uses many of the same technologies and may well be more cost effective. The export oriented tank is has lower maintenance requirements meaning even countries with more limited budgets can field several large units. It remains uncertain how many of the tanks Pakistan intends to purchase, but considering prior trends in acquisitions by the country an order for over 300 tanks, and potentially many more, is far from unlikely.