The Khalid Main Battle Tank was born out of the aborted "Shir 1" initiative undertaken by the British to fulfill an Iranian Army requirement. The Shir 1 was developed as an interim design that would have preceded the all-new "Shir 2" MBT combat system (which became the Challenger 1 MBT). Development began in 1974 and was based on the Chieftain MBT, the standard main battle tank of the British Army at the time. The Iranians were already the largest foreign operator of the Chieftain with over 700 of the type in inventory. Three prototypes of the Shir 1 were made ready in 1977 and production began at Royal Ordnance Factory, Leeds thereafter. At least 125 Shir 1 models were on order and 1,225 Shir 2 tanks were slated for procurement by the government of Iran. However, the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran effectively killed the Shir 1/Shir 2 endeavors.
All was not lost however as the Royal Jordanian Army (thank to last-minute negotiations put forth by British authorities) ordered a new main battle tank based on the qualities of the Shir 1 and these came to be known under the local designation of "Khalid" ("Sword"). Orders were placed in 1979 with deliveries agreed to begin in 1981. The Khalid MBT was finished with a Perkins Engines Condor V12 diesel engine as well as several requested internal changes to suit Jordanian Army needs. Beyond these changes, the Khalid remained more or less faithful to the original Chieftain design save for a raised engine compartment required of the new powerplant installation as well as an updated fire control system more akin to that as used on the Challenger 1. In fact, the Khalid was essentially a hybrid of the Chieftain and Challenger 1.
Outwardly, there was very little to distinguish the Jordanian breed form the British model outright. The running gear consisted of six double-tired road wheels to a track side with the track idler at front and the drive sprocket at the rear. The hull sides and upper track sections were protected in thin armor skirts as in the basic Chieftain. The engine was conventionally set in a rear-fitted compartment. The turret sat at the center of the hull roof with a full 360-degree traverse possible. There was a standard operating crew of four personnel made up of the driver, commander, gunner and loader. The driver maintained a position under a hatch at the front center of the hull with vision blocks for exterior viewing. Headlamps are fitted at the extreme end of the hull front for low-light driving. The glacis plate was nearly horizontal in its design to promote a low profile and provide for basic ballistics protection. The turret front was well sloped as in the original Chieftain with noticeable turret overhang (bustle rack) at the rear. A commander's cupola could be clearly identified along the right side of the turret roof.
As in the Chieftain, primary armament of the Khalid was the powerful and accurate 120mm L11A5 rifled main gun and this was augmented by the fitting of a 7.62mm L8A2 coaxial machine gun for anti-infantry defense. A second 7.62mm L37A2 machine gun could be fitted at the commander's cupola for point defense against low-flying aircraft as well as oncoming infantry. There were 12 total electrically-actuated smoke grenade dischargers set in two banks of six each along the front turret sides and these could be used to cover the tank's movements from enemy gunners. A laser range finder and gun stabilization assisted in providing for accurized fire at range as well as firing on-the-move. The main gun was stabilized along both axis.
As mentioned, the Khalid was given a Perkins Engines Condor V12 12-cylinder, water-cooled diesel-fueled engine developing 1,200 horsepower and this was mated to an automatic transmission. The vehicle was suspended atop a bogie-type suspension system that was a modified form of the one as utilized on the original Chieftain. Altogether, this supplied the vehicle with a top speed of 56 km/h and an operational range of 400 kilometers, all suitable qualities for modern armored warfare.
Of note is that Jordan also received several Chieftain tanks from Iraq (as many as 90), these having been captured from Iran during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s. The Royal Jordanian Army also became the recipient of ex-British Army Challenger 1 tanks and knew these as the "Al Hussein".