The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) 75th Group Army recently commissioned a batch of vehicle-mounted PCL-181 howitzers and immediately used it in exercises in Nanjiang Haojiao, or Horn of the Southern Border amid border tensions with India.
The official WeChat account of the 75th Group Army, revealed in a statement released on Tuesday, Chinese media reported.
The PCL-181 is a 155 millimeter wheeled howitzer which made its public debut as a newly developed weapon at the National Day military parade in Beijing on October 1, 2019.
It weighs only 25 tons, making it much lighter and faster and with longer endurance than the previous self-propelled howitzer, according to China Central Television (CCTV). Its light weight gives the weapon quick deployment ability in high altitude areas when the lack of oxygen could impact the power of the engine.
Digitalized control panels allows artillery gun deployment with the press of a button, automatic gun calibration and semi-automatic ammo reload. This can shorten the preparation time needed to shoot the weapon.
Howitzers are useful in mountainous areas because projectiles fired from them follow a parabolic path, which can bypass mountains on terrains which would block linear shots from, for instance, traditional tanks, the expert said, noting that China has a lot of this kind of terrain along its western borders.
“During the Doklam standoff with India in 2017, PCL-181s were dispatched to the PLA Western Theater Command and contributed to the safeguarding of peace at the border,” reported Eastday.com. another Chinese media site.
India and China have pulled back from the brink of a potential conflict in the Ladakh region and have commenced military-level talks just last weekend to solve the border issue between them.
By frequently releasing reports of weapons being deployed near the conflict region, China could be using this as part of its sales pitch to sell weapons to third countries. While China is becoming an arms production powerhouse, the lack of combat usage of many of its weapons has become a hindrance to sales.