TAXILA, Jan 14: Pakistan has started the commercial production of the Al Zarrar tank, and it will manufacture about 50 tanks by this year to export to other countries, defence sources told Dawn on Tuesday.

The project was launched at the Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT) the hub of Pakistani tracked vehicles and tanks installation.

The sources said that the military hardware like Al Zarrar and Al Khalid tanks had great export potential. Pakistan was already engaged in collaboration with China and Ukraine in the defence production and the cooperation may be enhanced during the next couple of years.

Sources claimed that the country had made spectacular progress in defence production including tanks and arms and ammunition during last few years.

Al Zarrar, meaning main striker, was the developed and upgraded version of the Chinese origin T-59 tank which had been in use with the Pakistan Army.

The defence engineers had decided to upgrade the tanks as per requirements of the 21st Century armoured warfare.

Three prototypes were manufactured and their trails had confirmed the success of the project. T-59 after conversation as Al Zarrar had 54 major improvements including enhanced mobility, firepower and survivability.

After upgradation it had 700 horse power Ukraine engine, improved suspension system, 125mm chrome plated smooth bore gun, a stable firing platform, modern computerized fire control system with sensors, stabilization and thermal imaging-based night sights made the tank capable for firing accurately at long ranges during day as well as night under all environmental conditions.

A bank of six electrically operated smoke grenade launchers had been mounted on either side of the turret and new large storage box had been added to the rear turret.

By improving the type 59-armour mobility and firepower offered improved reliability and reduced maintenance making it more attractive for users.

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