The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) recently held live-fire drills in a high-elevation region in the Himalayas, where some of the PLA’s latest weapons, including a new 122-millimeter caliber wheeled howitzer and the vehicle-mounted version of the HJ-10 anti-tank missile system, made their first public appearances.
Compared with their heavier counterparts, these two new weapons are characterized by high mobility, which will come in handy – particularly in plateau regions, analysts said on Tuesday.
A combined arms brigade attached to the PLA Tibet Military Command recently conducted a series of live-fire artillery exercises in the middle section of the Himalayas, which has an elevation of about 4,600 meters, China Central Television reported on Tuesday.
The drills featured anti-aircraft shooting and precision artillery strikes on hostile headquarters, missile installations and communication hubs using long-range rocket launcher systems. This was followed by live-fire coverage of hostile positions, bunkers and camps with howitzers, according to the report.
In addition to the new camouflage the soldiers wore, military observers also noticed the public debut of two new weapons: a 122-millimeter caliber wheeled howitzer and the vehicle-mounted version of the HJ-10 anti-tank missile system.
The new howitzer, the designation of which is not revealed in the report, looks very similar to and uses similar technologies as the PCL-181 155-millimeter caliber wheeled howitzer, which made its public debut at China’s National Day military parade in 2019. However, this version has a shorter barrel and four wheels instead of the PCL-181’s six wheels, Shanghai-based news website eastday.com reported on Tuesday.
This means the new 122-millimeter caliber wheeled howitzer can shoot in all directions and can be deployed rapidly, a significant advantage over its 122- millimeter caliber predecessor, the PCL-09, the report said.
Beijing-based military expert Wei Dongxu told the Global Times on Tuesday that compared with the 155-millimeter caliber PCL-181, the new 122-millimeter caliber howitzer is more mobile and better-suited for air transport via tactical cargo planes like the Y-9.
At the cost of range and firepower, the new howitzer’s smaller and lighter ammunition is easier to transport and reload, Wei said.
Another newly revealed weapon is the vehicle-mounted version of the HJ-10 anti-tank missile system. Compared with the original version that uses tracks and is loaded with four missiles, this new version uses four wheels and is loaded with two missiles, eastday.com reported.
Wei said this configuration can greatly reduce its weight, making the system more mobile and easier to maintain.
The HJ-10 can not only destroy armored ground targets within 10 kilometers, but it can also attack small water surface targets and low-speed aircraft like helicopters, reports said.
In plateau warfare, wheeled vehicles can often enjoy an advantage over vehicles that use tracks, which are heavy and are affected by lower levels of oxygen, analysts said.