Armor: October 27, 2003

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: The Pakistani press reported that Saudi Arabia completed preliminary talks for the purchase of Pakistani Al Khalid main battle tanks. If true, this would be the first sale of the Al Khalid (a joint Pakistani-Chinese venture) to a foreign country. Pakistan also offered to provide training facilities for tank crews. A team of Saudi technicians arrived in Pakistan for trials of the Al Khalid tank, with reports even touting Saudi Master Gunner Subedar Major Yahya Bin Ahmed Atif's ability to hit targets "at extreme ranges" after a few days training. Test tanks were to be transported to Saudi Arabia for more trials. However, these events go beyond the simple purchase of a handful of tanks. 

Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz's recent visit to Pakistan may have paved the way for major sales of indigenously-manufactured defense equipment, including Saad armored personnel carriers and Super Mashak training aircraft. The Saudis have already carried out trials of Super Mashak aircraft both in Pakistan and in Saudi Arabia. An exhibition of Pakistani military equipment held exclusively for Crown Prince Abdullah, while Major General Ahmed Bin Saeed Al-Shehri led a 23-member Royal Saudi Land Forces evaluation team headed by visited Pakistan to evaluate the indigenously manufactured products of Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT). 

While Defense Minister Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz denied that Saudi Arabia struck any military deals with Pakistan during Crown Prince Abdullah's weekend visit to Islamabad, Pakistani and Gulf newspapers reported said the two sides had discussed the possibility of deploying Pakistani units in Saudi Arabia. These would replace thousands of US troops withdrawn from the kingdom following the US-led ouster of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in April, ending a 13-year military presence. President Musharraf also allegedly assured his counterpart that in case of aggression against Saudi Arabia, Pakistan will provide its military and non-military resources for Saudi Arabia's defense and in return, the crown prince assured Musharraf that his government will make important investments and purchase defense equipment from Pakistan.

To date, the sale of Pakistani defense products to Saudi Arabia was limited to small arms and ammunition. Most of Saudi Arabia's heavier military equipment came from the Western markets, which the Kingdom can well afford. Pakistani pilots have been employed as contract pilots for the Royal Saudi Air Force for the past 30 years and an entire Pakistani tank brigade is based in Saudi Arabia, so it's not inconceivable that the House of Saud is pre-positioning equipment for future use by their Pakistani allies. - Adam Geibel

Al Khalid tank technical information, online at:
http://www.pakistanidefence.com/PakArmy/AlKhaildMBT2000.html

 


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