Pakistan operates a fleet of around 750 Al-Zarrar, and about 600 remaining Type 59s will soon be upgraded to this standard.

Pakistan is a huge foreign customer of the Chinese Type 59 tank. According to the report, about 1,100 MBTs were in service with the Pakistani ground forces. And over time these tanks need to be upgraded to meet the modern battlefield. A deeply upgraded version of this tank has been developed, with the local designation Al-Zarrar, serving in the Pakistani Army since 2004. Pakistan operates a fleet of around 750 Al-Zarrar, and about 600 remaining Type 59s will soon be upgraded to this standard.

After the upgrade, Al-Zarrar weighs about 44 t, length is 9.50 m, width is 3.30 m, height is 2.50 m. The crew of 4 includes commander, driver, gunner, and loader. 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.

Al-Zarrar’s primary armament is a 125 mm smoothbore gun. It is a Chinese non-licensed clone of 2A46 capable of firing APFSDS, HEAT-FS and HE-FS rounds as well as anti-tank guided missiles and a Pakistani depleted uranium round, the 125 mm Naiza, which is capable of penetrating 550 mm of RHA armour at a distance of 2 km. The gun has a dual-axis stabilization system and thermal imaging sights integrated into the fire-control system for the commander and gunner, giving it enhanced night-time target acquisition capabilities. An improved gun control system is also fitted.

The upgraded protection system includes modular composite armour and explosive reactive armour against anti-tank missiles, mines and other weapons. A domestic 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.

The Al-Zarrar is powered by a liquid-cooled 12-cylinder, 580 horsepower diesel engine, for a top speed of 65 km/h. Crew comfort is improved over the Type 59 by a modified torsion bar suspension system.

The comprehensive upgrade package of the Pakistani army has been proven in combat. In a counterterrorism operation, Al-Zarrar performed excellently beyond the expectations of the Pakistani army. During the raid against the Taliban near the border with Afghanistan, an Al-Zarrar sheltered 35 infantrymen against a rebel ambush. With the power and protection proven in real combat, Al-Zarrar deserves to be listed as the most valuable upgrade package of the T-54/55 tank line.

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