The Chinese People’s Liberation Amy (PLA) inducted newly-developed mobile assault vehicle-based howitzers in the second half of 2020.
The equipment were used in recent live-fire exercises held by the PLA 72nd Group Army. The howitzer appears to have been derived from six-wheeled Dongfeng Mengshi off-road assault vehicle. It has a 122-millimeter gun on its roof. It can rapidly switch from driving mode to shooting mode, and provide key combat advantages on the battlefield, CCTV reported Tuesday.
These howitzers are said to be more mobile than truck-based howitzers and can operate in challenging, off-road terrains where other types of other artillery cannot.
"The gun can be calibrated with only one push of a button, and it can also be semi-automatically reloaded. This can greatly reduce the number of operators needed and shorten the preparation time for firing," Li Qiuyu, a company commander of the brigade, told CCTV.
Passion News, a media outlet under k618.cn, a news portal run by the Communist Youth League of China Central Committee, identified the new howitzer as the PCL-171.
A military expert told the Global Times on Wednesday that the new howitzer likely uses similar technologies to the Chinese Army’s two other truck-based howitzers: PCL-181 155mm howitzer that made its debut at National Day military parade in 2019, and PCL-161 122mm howitzer that was spotted in an August CCTV report covering live-fire drills in a high-elevation region in the Himalayas.
Assault vehicle-based howitzers offer higher mobility than truck-based towed or self-propelled counterparts; but since they are lighter, they may be less accurate and less powerful. “That is why both truck-based and assault vehicle-based versions are being developed, as they each have their own strengths and can compensate for one another in different combat conditions,” the expert noted.
China is also reportedly developing another howitzer with a range of at least 40km based on Type 15 tank chassis.