Al-Zarrar tank

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Al-Zarrar MBT during the IDEAS Convention in Karachi Expo Center, ca. 2008.
TypeMain battle tank
Place of originPakistan/China
Service history
In service2004–Present
Used byPakistan Army
WarsWar in North-West Pakistan
Production history
DesignerHeavy Industries Taxila
ManufacturerHeavy Industries Taxila
Produced6 May 2003
No. built720 [1]
Mass44 t (97,000 lb)[1]
Length31.17 ft (9.50 m)[1]
Width10.83 ft (3.30 m)[1]
Height8.20 ft (2.50 m)[1]

Shell125mm smoothbore
Calibre125 mm[1]

ArmourModular composite armour
Explosive reactive armour[2]
125mm smoothbore ammunition[2]
12.7 mm external anti-aircraft machine gun[2]
7.62 mm coaxial machine gun
8x smoke grade dischargers
Engine1xKMDB 12 cylinder liquid cooled diesel[2]
730 hp[2]
Power/weight18.3 hp/tonne[2]
SuspensionHigh-hardness-steel torsion bar[1]
450 km (280 mi)[1]
Maximum speed 65 km (40 mi)/h[1]

The Al-Zarrar (Urdu: الضرار), is a second generation main battle tank (MBT), currently in the services of the Pakistan Army since 2004. The tank is named after Muslim warrior Zarrar bin Al-Azwar.[3]

It is an upgrade of Pakistan's aging Chinese Type 59 tanks (a design that in turn was based on the Soviet T-54A from the mid 1950s), developed with Ukrainian assistance[1] and manufactured by the Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT), featuring a 125 mm smoothbore gun as primary weapon. The Al-Zarrar can achieve a maximum speed of 65 km (40 mi) per hour, weighs around 44 tons and has a four-man crew: commander, gunner, loader and driver.[1][4]

Although the upgrade program started in 1990 the Al-Zarrar did not enter military service with the Pakistan Army Armoured Corps until 2004, gradually replacing the Type 59s. Attempts were made to export the Al-Zarrar to the Bangladesh Army in 2008 to replace its massive fleet of Type 59 tanks through the technology transfer. However, Bangladesh Army later upgraded its Type-59 tanks to Type 59 Durjoy, Pakistan Army remained its sole operator.[5]


It was decided by the Pakistan Army that their inventory of Chinese origin Type 59 tanks was too large to be discarded and replaced, so a phased upgrade programme was started by Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT) in 1990. The idea was to upgrade the firepower, mobility and protection of the Type 59 to allow it to compete on the modern battlefield at a fraction of the cost of a modern main battle tank (MBT). The first phase of the upgrade programme was completed in 1997. The second phase started in 1998 when HIT began development and testing of a new tank, a Type 59 re-built with over 50 modifications, resulting in three prototypes with slightly differing specifications (different fire-control systems, for example). Many systems originally developed for HIT's Al-Khalid MBT were incorporated. The prototypes underwent extensive testing by HIT and the Pakistan Army, who selected the final version of the tank, dubbed Al-Zarrar.

By mid 2004, it was expected that 50 AL-Zarrar tanks would be exported to other countries.[6] The Al-Zarrar is a modern main battle tank (MBT) developed and manufactured by Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT) of Pakistan for the Pakistan Army. An upgraded variant of the Chinese Type 59 tank, the Al-Zarrar is cost-effective modern replacement for the Type 59 fleet of the Pakistan Army. Equipped with modern armament, fire control and ballistic protection, the Al-Zarrar upgrade is also offered by HIT to the armies of foreign countries to upgrade their T-54/T-55 or Type 59 tanks to Al-Zarrar standard. 54 modifications made to the Type 59 make the Al-Zarrar effectively a new tank.

The Al-Zarrar development programme started in 1990. HIT began mass production of Al-Zarrar on 6 May 2003 under a renowned Project Manager, Engineer Mahmood Khan. First batch of 88 Al-Zarrar were delivered to the Pakistan Army on 26 February 2004. Delivery ceremony was graced by General Pervez Musharraf.


Al-Zarrar MBTs of the Pakistan Army's 27th Cavalry regiment stationed at Kharian.
Al-Zarrar MBTs of the Pakistan Army's 27th Cavalry regiment stationed at Kharian.

Armament and fire-control[edit]

Al-Zarrar's primary armament is a 125 mm smoothbore tank gun with an autofrettaged, chrome-plated gun barrel. It is capable of firing APFSDS, HEAT-FS and HE-FS rounds as well as anti-tank guided missiles and a Pakistani DU (depleted uranium) round, the 125 mm Naiza. Naiza is capable of penetrating 550 mm of RHA armour at a distance of 2 km. Reloaded by a semi-automatic autoloader, the gun has a dual-axis stabilization system and thermal imaging sights integrated into the fire-control system for the commander and gunner. The image stabilized fire-control system includes a laser range-finder for accurate range information and ballistics computer to improve accuracy.[citation needed] An improved gun control system is also fitted.

The secondary armament consists of an external 12.7 mm anti-aircraft machine gun mounted on the roof of the turret, which can be aimed and fired from inside the tank, and a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun.


The Al-Zarrar is powered by a liquid-cooled 12-cylinder diesel engine, giving a power output of 730 hp (540 kW) and torque output of 305 kg.m at 1300–1400 rpm. A combat weight of 40 tonnes gives Al-Zarrar a power-to-weight ratio of 18.3 hp/tonne and a top speed of 65 km/h. Crew comfort is improved over the Type 59 by a modified torsion bar suspension system.


Al-Zarrar uses modular composite armour and explosive reactive armour to give improved protection from anti-tank missiles, mines and other weapons. The Pakistani ATCOP LTS-1 laser threat warning system is fitted to inform the tank crew if the tank is targeted by a laser range-finder or laser designator. Smoke grenade launchers are fitted to the sides of the turret. An automatic fire-extinguishing and explosion suppression system is installed to improve crew survivability.


Current operators[edit]


Failed bids[edit]


In October 2008, the chief of the Bangladesh Army met his Pakistani counterpart to discuss a programme to modernise Bangladesh's fleet of Type 59 tanks.[9] A joint venture was planned to be formed with Pakistan to upgrade the Type 59 tanks to Al-Zarrar MBT standard. Pakistan would transfer the relevant technology to Bangladesh under the joint venture. About 300 tanks were expected to be modernized under the project, which would be carried out in Bangladesh at the Bangladesh Army's 902 Heavy Workshop.[10] However, the plan did not materialize and Bangladesh chose Chinese modernization package instead.

See also[edit]

Related development
Comparable tanks
Related Lists


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "HIT Al-Zarrar Main Battle Tank". MF. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Al-Zarrar Main Battle Tank (MBT)". Army Technology. Army Technology. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  3. ^ "50 Al Zarrar tanks to be exported this year". Dawn. Islamabad: Dawn Newspapers. 15 January 2003. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  4. ^ "Bangladesh Army is going to upgrade Type 59 Tanks". Bangladesh Defence. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  5. ^ Arthur, Gordon. "Main Battle Tanks in Asia". Gordon Arthur, Defence Review. Archived from the original on 10 July 2017. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  6. ^ "50 Al Zarrar tanks to be exported this year". Dawn. 15 January 2003. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
  7. ^ "Pakistan and China to jointly market Al Khalid tank".
  8. ^ "Pakistan Land Forces military equipment and vehicles Of Pakistani Army".
  9. ^ "Pakistan, BD army chiefs discuss defence co-operation". Daily Times (Pakistan). October 22, 2008. Retrieved May 10, 2013.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ "Al-Zarrar Main Battle Tank (MBT), Pakistan". Retrieved 28 June 2013.[unreliable source?]

External links[edit]

Pictures of Al-Zarrar in service during anti-insurgency operations