The Chinese PLA has started receiving the new PLC 181 155mm vehicle-mounted, air transportable howitzer in mass numbers to replace legacy PL-66 152-mm guns and Type 59-1 130-mm towed cannons.
The howitzers were delivered to the PLA Eastern Theatre Command in batches, China Military reported Thursday.
The equipment was reportedly used in an artillery brigade in Tibet during the 2017 China-India stand-off.
“The howitzer has a 52-caliber cannon with a range of over 50km and shoots laser-guided and satellite-guided projectiles. It will boost the high-altitude combat capability of the PLA in Tibet,” Song Zhongping, a military expert, was quoted as saying by Global Times in January 2019.
Chinese state media have earlier reported that People's Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF) in the Tibet Military Command, the Army's 71st, 73rd, and 77th Group Artillery Brigade had been equipped with the new howitzers.
PLC-181 can fire a variety of armaments including laser-guided projectiles and satellite-guided artillery shells with a maximum range of 50km. It can carry 27 rounds of ammunition and 15 barrels of propellant.
The PCL-181 is equipped with an automatic fire control system (AFCS). Digitalized control panels can be found in the cab, and this highly digitalized system allows artillery gun deployment with the press of a button, automatic gun calibration and half-automatic ammo reload. This can shorten the preparation time to shoot the weapon, giving the artillery stronger combat capabilities.
Following the input of the target azimuth data, the vehicle-mounted fire control computer can automatically settle the shooting elements and automatically adjust the azimuth and height of the artillery. However, such element adjustments of the PL-66 rely entirely on manual operation.
Weighing only 25 tons, the howitzer reportedly provides longer endurance than heavier counterparts that use crawler tracks. “This data means the PCL-181 not only has high mobility, but it can also be transported by large transport aircraft like the domestically made Y-20, which has a cargo capacity of more than 60 tons,” a military expert told the Global Times on April 30.
A single Y-20 can likely carry two PCL-181s, or a combination of one PCL-181 and one 30 ton-class Type 15 lightweight main battle tank, both of which are choices that offer frontline troops immense firepower, the expert added.
The bulletproof vehicle on which the howitzer is mounted on has a large driver's cab that can accommodate all six artillery squad members, CCTV reported a week ago.