China rolls out new cheap and lightweight howitzers amid tensions at LAC
Amid the ongoing tensions between India and China at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh, the latter has reportedly deployed new lightweight howitzers.
According to a report by the South China Morning Post, the howitzers are designed for rugged terrains and border regions.
The deployment comes amid nearly two months of tensions at the LAC, which peaked with the clashes at Galwan Valley that killed 20 Indian soldiers. According to available satellite images, there is a sizable troop build-up by both sides.
According to the Hong Kong daily, most of China’s five theatre commands, the country’s military jurisdictions, have been equipped with the PCL-181 155 mm vehicle-mounted howitzers, with the Southern Theatre Command’s 75th Group Army taking the most recent delivery earlier this month.
Citing footage aired on state broadcaster China Central Television, the report stated the howitzers were demonstrated in January in a military exercise by the Western Theatre Command in Tibet.
“Since the border stand-off began in May, a number of the weapons were reportedly transported to the Tibetan Plateau, together with other weapons specifically designed for high elevations, such as Type 15 lightweight tanks,” it added.
The report quoted observers, saying the PCL-181 - which is cheaper and lighter than the tracked, self-propelled howitzers in the PLA’s arsenal - would be the likely choice of the Chinese army in case a conflict arises on the plateau.
India has also done mirror deployment, and inducted over three division-strong personnel and equipment, including latest artillery over and above the firepower, which is already deployed, defence sources have earlier said.
According to the report, the howitzer “has an edge in engine speed, endurance and flexibility over its predecessors, especially in the oxygen-depleted Himalayan border areas”.
It said the howitzer can move at up to 100 km/h (62 miles per hour), while carrying 27 shells and a short, compact design for greater mobility on narrow and winding mountainous roads, with improved control and calibration and semi-automatic ammunition reload systems.
It added the Chinese military has designed a range of 155 mm ammunition applicable to the system, including laser-guided and satellite-guided bombs.
It said the Type 15 lightweight main battle tank and the howitzer could be rapidly deployed to a front line in China’s Y-2-transport aircraft.