Ukraine and Pakistan have started implementing a bilateral agreement for the upgrade of the Pakistan Army’s T-80UD Main Battle Tank (MBT), according to Ukrainian media reports.
Ukraine’s Interfax news agency reveals that representatives of Ukraine’s largest state-run defense contractor have met with Pakistan defense industry officials at this year’s International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) in Abu Dhabi in late February and concluded a number of agreements.
According to two signed contracts, Ukraine is slated to supply 88 tank sights and kick off a pilot project for the overhaul of an initial batch of five Pakistan Army T-80UD MBTs, which, depending on Islamabad’s satisfaction with the upgrade work on the first five tanks, will extend to the army’s entire inventory of around 300 T-80UD MBTs.
Interfax reports that the implementation of the agreements has begun this month, although no details were given as to the specific timeframe of the pilot project nor a delivery date supplied for the tanks sights.
The T-80UD, an improved variant of the Soviet-made T-64 MBT, was first introduced into service with the Pakistan Army in the late 1990s in order to counter the Indian Army’s newly acquired T-90 MBT. From 1997 to 2002, Pakistan received a total of 320 tanks from Ukraine.
Unlike their Russian counterparts, the Ukrainian version is powered by a diesel engine, features a new welded turret, and is armed with the KBA3 125 millimeter smoothbore gun, a Ukrainian version of the Russian 125 millimeter 2A46M-1 cannon originally manufactured for the T-64 MBT.
Pakistan’s T-80UD tanks could be upgraded to the standards of the T-84 ‘Oplot-M’ MBT, a much improved variant of the T-84 (which in turn is an improved version of the T-80), featuring a larger turret mounting sophisticated sensors and, among other things, a panoramic thermal-imaging system.
In November 2016, Pakistan’s Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT) and Ukraine’s Ukrspecexport signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) covering prospective agreements with an approximately total worth of $600 million for the modernization of Pakistan’s tank force.
Among other things, Ukraine and Pakistan agreed to the sale of 200 Kharkiv Morozov Machine Building (KMDB) 6TD-2 engines for the Pakistan Army’s al-Khalid MBT, jointly developed by Pakistan and China in the 1990s.
The Pakistan Army currently operates around 350 al-Khalid MBTs and is expected to substantially expand its MBT force in the years ahead. According to some sources, Pakistan is working on an upgraded variant of the MBT, dubbed al-Khalid II, and plans to build as many as 600 tanks of this improved variant.
Given the recent uptick in Ukraine-Pakistan defense cooperation, Ukrainian technical support for the al-Khalid II program may appear likely.