In an attempt to bolster its combat prowess along the border with India, Pakistan had drawn up an ambitious plan to procure close to 600 battle tanks including T-90 tanks from Russia, PTI on Sunday reported quoting military and intelligence sources.
Most of the tanks Pakistan was procuring will be able to hit targets at a range of 3 to 4 km and they are set to deploy some of the tanks along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, the sources told PTI.
Apart from battle tanks, Pakistan Army is also procuring 245 150mm SP Mike-10 guns from Italy out of which it has already received 120 guns.
The PTI sources said Pakistan was eyeing to buy from Russia a batch of T-90 battle tanks- the mainstays of the armoured regiments of the Indian Army, and that the move reflects Islamabad's intent to forge a deeper defence engagement with Moscow which has been India's largest and most trusted defence supplier post Independence.
Pakistan has been holding joint military drills with Russia in the last couple of years besides going for defence purchases from it, triggering some concerns in New Delhi.
The sources said as part of the mega plan to significantly revamp its armoured fleet by 2025, Pakistan has decided to procure at least 360 battle tanks globally besides producing 220 tanks indigenously with help from China.
Pakistan Army's move to enhance its armoured corps comes at a time when the Line of Actual control in Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed growing hostilities in the last one year. The Indian Army has been strongly retaliating to every unprovoked firing by Pakistani side.
But, when the Indian Army is focused on counter-terror operations, the Pakistan Army was fast reducing its gap with Indian forces in fighting a conventional war, the intelligence sources said.
Military sources said modernisation of the Indian Army's armoured regiments were moving at a "snail's pace" due to procedural delays and the issue is being examined at a very high level of the government.
The Indian Army had drawn up a mega plan to modernise its infantry and armoured corps. However almost all the procurement projects including the Rs 60,000 crore Futuristic Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) programme are stuck due to a variety of reasons.
At present, India's armoured regiments, comprising mainly T-90, T-72 and Arjuna tanks, have much more superiority over Pakistan, but sources said Islamabad was seriously planning to bridge the gap at the earliest.
As against around 67 armoured regiments of Indian Army, the number of similar regiments in Pakistan Army is around 51, the sources said.
At present, over 70 per cent of the tanks in Pakistan's armoury have the capability to operate during night which, they said, was a matter of concern.
Besides eyeing to procure T-90 tanks, Pakistan Army is also in the process of inducting Chinese VT-4 tanks as well as Oplod-P tanks from Ukrain, the sources said. Trials for both Oplod and VT-4 tanks have already been conducted by the Pakistan Army.
At present, Pakistan is learnt to have around 17 units of Chinese origin T-59 and T69 tanks, which comprise 30 per cent of its total tank strength, the sources said.
It also has 12 regiments of Al-Zarar tanks, which makes 20 per cent of the tank fleet while Ukrain origin T-80-UD and T-85-UD as well as upgraded version of T-59 tanks comprise the rest 50 per cent tank fleet, they said.
"The Pakistan Army is carrying out modernisation of its armoured regiments in a calibrated and time-bound manner which is not the case in India," said an expert, who wished not to be named.
He said it was a matter of concern the way Pakistan was modernising its tank fleet.
The Indian Army has also raised an independent tank brigade which is stationed in Ladakh but it is not enough, the expert said.
(With inputs from PTI)