At the end of April 2020, the military editorial office of the Chinese state television channel CCTV 7 showed a detailed report on the latest Chinese defense industry. In fact, this is the full debut of the new Chinese 155 mm self-propelled howitzer on a wheeled chassis. The self-propelled guns under the designation PLC-181 was previously shown to the public, in particular, took part in the parade dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the PRC, but the novelty from the largest engineering corporation Norinco has not yet been shown in such detail. It is known that the new self-propelled guns entered service with the artillery brigade from the 73rd Army Group of the Eastern zone of the PLA combat command.
What is known about the PLC-181 wheeled self-propelled gun
Most likely, work on the creation of a new self-propelled guns began in China in the early 2010s. In any case, the first photos of the PLC-181 wheeled howitzer in acceptable quality only appeared on the Internet in 2015. And it was possible to consider the new product in detail only in 2018, when the first frames of the installations that moved to participate in the 12th international aerospace show in Zhuhai got on the network. It was the full-fledged Chinese premiere of the new 155-mm self-propelled howitzer.
SPG PLC-181, CCTV channel 7 video
Developed by engineers at NORINCO Engineering Corporation, the 155-mm self-propelled howitzer on the PLC-181 wheeled chassis was officially adopted by the PLA in early 2019. The self-propelled guns are based on the Shaanxi chassis with a 6x6 wheel arrangement. The combat weight of the installation is 22 tons (according to other sources up to 27 tons). Engine power - 400 hp In front of the wheeled self-propelled guns there is a four-door cab of a cabless layout. The cabin is armored and protects the installation design from small arms fire weapons, shell fragments and mines. On the roof of the cabin above the hatch, a large 12,7 mm machine gun designed for self-defense can be installed. There were no defensive weapons on the 7 artillery installations shown on CCTV. The calculation of the installation consists of 6 people, including the driver.
The main armament of the self-propelled guns is a 155-mm gun with a barrel length of 52 caliber. The gun is located in the rear of the chassis on a special platform. It is reported that the range of vertical guidance of the gun is from 0 to +67,5 degrees, horizontally the gun is pointing 25 degrees to the left and right of the axis of the machine. In the middle of the self-propelled artillery mount is a transportable ammunition. The gun is equipped with a rammer, the maximum rate of installation is 4-6 rounds per minute.
The firing range directly depends on the use of propellant charges. At the same time, judging by the length of the gun’s barrel, the firing range of the PLC-181 self-propelled guns is unlikely to differ from most such artillery systems and, using conventional high-explosive fragmentation ordnance, is at the level of 30 thousand meters. At the same time, according to the assurances of the Chinese side, using active rockets with a bottom gas generator, the maximum firing range of the installation exceeds 50 thousand meters. Together with the gun can be used the entire range of 155 mm ammunition, which are also manufactured by Norinco Corporation. Including adjustable ammunition with a laser and satellite targeting system. It is also possible to use Russian guided projectiles "Krasnopol", export versions of which are available in caliber 155 mm.
It is worth noting that the new Chinese howitzer is armed with an artillery mount with a barrel length of 52 caliber. According to this indicator, it corresponds to all modern analogues that are presented on the market. For example, a South African-made G6-52 wheeled self-propelled howitzer or a German PzH 2000 self-propelled gun on a tracked chassis, which is still one of the best in its class. The newest Russian self-propelled guns 2S35 “Coalition-SV” also acts in the same weight category. The “Coalition” option on the wheeled chassis of a KamAZ vehicle with an 8x8 wheel arrangement is currently under development, this modification is known under the designation “Coalition-SV-KSh” and already exists in metal.
Export potential of self-propelled guns PLC-181
The new Chinese wheeled self-propelled gun PLC-181 has good export potential. The novelty has already received the SH-15 export index and is actively promoting itself in international markets. It is known that the first buyer of a 155-mm self-propelled howitzer was Pakistan, which acquired a very large batch of artillery mounts. It is worth noting that Pakistan is China’s traditional partner in the purchase and joint production of weapons. There is an obvious parallel. Since Russia is one of the main suppliers of weapons to India, Pakistan is forced to look for alternative procurement options, primarily by working with Beijing, which is increasingly competing in the international arms market with Russian equipment, especially in the markets of developing countries.
It is worth noting that Pakistan is consistent in the purchase of Chinese self-propelled guns. Back in 2013-14, the country acquired 36 Chinese-made SH-1 wheeled howitzers. This 155-mm howitzer, also developed by Norinco, was also supplied to the Myanmar army. The show in Pakistan of the new Chinese self-propelled guns SH-15 took place at the end of 2018. The foreign debut took place in November and took place as part of the IDEAS International Military Exhibition, which was held in Karachi. The new Chinese-made artillery system immediately interested the Pakistani military. At the same time, Pakistan became the first foreign country in which a new Chinese howitzer was shown.
There is nothing unusual in this development of events. Over the past few years, the Pakistani military leadership has pursued a policy of strengthening the artillery component of its armed forces. First of all, due to the acquisition of modern mobile artillery systems for the ground forces. Currently, the Pakistani army’s self-propelled artillery is represented mainly by American 155-mm self-propelled artillery self-propelled artillery on a tracked chassis, we are talking about 200 self-propelled guns M109A2 and 115 self-propelled guns M109A5. At the same time, it is obvious that the modernization of artillery of the Pakistani army is currently being carried out through the purchase of new highly mobile wheeled artillery systems. Moreover, China is the main supplier of such equipment, which is gradually gaining popularity around the world.
As it became known at the end of December 2019, Pakistan purchased 236 new SH-15 self-propelled howitzers in China on an automobile chassis with a 6x6 wheel arrangement. On December 24, 2019, the Indian website News Nation announced the signing of a contract between Pakistan and the Norinco military-industrial corporation. It is alleged that the contract for the supply of an export version of the 155-mm howitzer PLC-181 was signed last summer. At the same time, the transaction value amounted to 512 million US dollars. The signed agreement provides, in addition to the transfer of howitzers themselves, a package of technical support and maintenance measures, the supply of artillery ammunition adapted for the Pakistani army, the supply of spare parts, as well as the transfer of necessary technologies. Given the additional options, it can be assumed that each self-propelled gun cost the Pakistani military about two million dollars.