The MBT 2000 (Type 90-II) is a third-generation main battle tank (MBT) designed and developed by the China North Vehicle Research Institute (also known as 201 Institute) in Beijing and the Inner-Mongolia First Machinery Group Corporation (also known as (617 Factory) in Baotou, Inner Mongolia for the export market. A further improved model known as MBT-2000 was marketed by NORINCO to the foreign customers in the late 1990s. The tank is built by Pakistan under license as the Al-Khalid.
The Type 90-II first revealed in 1992 featured a welded turret, a 125mm smoothbore gun with a Russian 2A46’s autoloader, and a 1,200hp diesel engine. The tank was also much heavier than previous Chinese-made MBTs, suggesting a transformation of design principles in the Chinese tanks. The tank received extensive field testing but did not enter production due to lack of interest from either domestic or foreign customers.
201 Institute and 617 Factory continued to improve the Type 90-II by incorporating the tank with a foreign-made engine with better performance and reliability. Initially the French 1,500hp diesel V series engine was considered, but the project (known as Type 90-IIA) was later cancelled due to France joining the arms embargo imposed on Pakistan for its nuclear testing in 1998. A second design powered by a Ukrainian-made 6TD 1,200hp engine later led to the introduction of the Type 90-IIM in 2000. During the 2001 Abu Dhabi Defence Exhibition, the tank was first revealed by NORINCO under its export name MBT2000. The tank has been produced in Pakistan as the Al-Khalid MBT since November 2001.
The Type 90-II is not a totally new design with around 45% of its components coming from current designs. This can be broken down as follows: 10% from the Type 59, 15% from the Type 69, and 20% from the Type 85/88C; the remaining 55% being new components.
The layout of the Type 90-II is conventional, driver's compartment at the front, fighting compartment/turret in the centre, and power pack in the rear. The complete powerpack assembly can be removed in around 30 minutes and in field conditions. Suspension is of the conventional torsion bar type and there are six rubber-tyred roadwheels on each side, the drive sprocket at the rear.
The turret and hull are of all-welded steel armour construction. A layer of composite armour has been added to the front arc and maximum thickness is estimated to be around 600mm on the turret front, and around 450mm on the glacis plate. The armour package is of modular design, enabling damaged sections to be replaced or upgrades installed throughout service life. Explosive reactive armour (ERA) can be fitted if required.
In 2007, a Chinese magazine revealed a new “enhanced third-generation MBT”, which was believed to be a further improved variant of the MBT-2000. The tank features front arrow-shaped add-on armour modules on the turret, a roof-mounted 14.5mm antiaircraft machine gun similar to the QJG02, and a slightly shorter hull possibly due to the engine being placed latitudinally instead of longitudinally. No further information has been released.
Main armament consists of a fully-stabilised 125mm auto-fed smoothbore gun capable of firing various types of ammunition including high explosive, high explosive fragmentation and APFSDS. 39 rounds are carried. The gun may also be capable of firing the Russian 9M119 Refleks (NATO codename: AT-11 Sniper) anti-tank guided missile or its Chinese copy.
Both commander and gunner have roof-mounted stabilised sights fitted with either day/image intensification or day/thermal channels, a laser rangefinder and an auto tracker facility. A computerised fire control system is also fitted as standard.
Second armament includes a 7.62mm co-axial machine gun and a 12.7mm air defence machine gun mounted on the commander's cupola.
The hull and turret are protected by composite armour plating. The Type 90-II was the first Chinese tank developed from the start with a 'systems approach', that is, it was intended to have components replaced and upgraded. The new turret design contains composite armour in the frontal arc that is designed to be exchangeable when better armour becomes available. Two sets of six-barrel smoke/HE grenade launchers are mounted on the turret sides.
At least four diesel powerpack options have been tested on the Type 90-II/Al Khalid MBT, including two supplied by the Perkins Engine Company and each comprising of a CV-12 Condor diesel of 1,200hp (as fitted in the Challenger 1 and 2), coupled to a French SESM ESM 500 automatic transmission (as installed in the Leclerc).
The Pakistan-manufactured Al Khalid MBT is reported to be fitted with a Ukraine built 6TD diesel (as fitted in the T-80UD). Claimed to be the most compact MBT diesel engines in the world, the 6TD series are two-stroke, liquid cooled and supercharged with horizontal cylinders and opposed pistons. At its current battle weight of 46t, the engine gives the Al Khalid MBT a 26hp/t power-to-weight ratio and a max speed of 72km/h.