Saturday, May 28, 2022

China Arms Pakistan With ‘Nuclear-Capable’ Howitzers That Can ‘Devastate’ Indian Cities Close To Its Border?

China has been arming Pakistan’s military in a bid to challenge Indian military dominance in the region. Beijing has supplied cutting-edge equipment to Islamabad which many experts see as a strategy to keep New Delhi occupied and diverted.

Islamabad recently acquired the first batch of Chinese-made vehicle-mounted SH-15 howitzers to counter the Indian K-9 Vajra howitzers, reported Hindustan Times. This export from Beijing is expected to boost Pakistan’s firepower against India as the two neighbors remain vigilant against one another at the heavily militarized Line of Control (LoC).

Interestingly, after a successful deployment in Ladakh, the Indian Army is also set to acquire 200 more K9 Vajra (Thunder) howitzers, as previously reported by the EurAsian Times.

Pakistan’s army currently uses the M109A5, a tracked self-propelled howitzer made by the United States, although the country plans to upgrade its artillery force with new wheeled artillery weapons.

At the height of tensions with India in 2019, the Pakistan Army had signed a contract with China Northern Industries Corporation (NORINCO) to purchase SH-15 Howitzer artillery guns.

Pakistan had then announced that it intends to buy 236 of these artillery pieces with transfer-of-technology clauses and station them along the Line of Control.

According to an earlier report by the EurAsian Times – the Sh-15 Howitzer could be made nuclear-capable if Pakistan’s attempts to miniaturize its nuclear weapons are successful.

The SH-15 howitzer made an appearance at Pakistan’s 10th International Defence Exhibition and Seminar in Karachi. Only one picture of the artillery gun appeared which confirmed that Pakistan was in process of acquiring the Chinese artillery guns.

A leaked picture of the trials was published in Chinese magazines. Pakistan was believed to have ordered at least 52 SH-15, enough for three regiments of the artillery.

SH-15 is an ideal ‘shoot and scoot’ artillery weapon for the use of nuclear shells. Pakistan has been working on the miniaturization of nuclear weapons since 1984. The US nuclear artillery shell W-48 uses 10kg high-density alpha-plutonium with a sphere of barely 54mm.

Pakistan Acquires Sh-15 "Nuclear-Capable" Howitzer Artillery Guns From China

Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf had reportedly disclosed to a top US diplomat that Islamabad had created a minuscule nuclear warhead in the latter half of 2011. Such a warhead, if fitted in a 155 mm shell with a stated range of 53 km, could be devastating for cities close to the Pakistan border.

Though India and Pakistan had signed a ceasefire which has largely been followed by both sides, India accuses the Pakistani army of supporting militants wanting to infiltrate and incite violence in Jammu and Kashmir.

Beijing is also supplying Pakistan with NORINCO AR-1 300 mm multi-barrel rocket launchers. The overall contract value is estimated to be around $512 million, stated Hindustan Times.

This development comes shortly after Pakistan inducted the largest and most advanced stealth frigate acquired from China, named PNS Tughril as previously reported by the EurAsian Times.

It could be believed that the objective behind this shipment is to increase Pakistani army firepower along the western border, particularly to heat up the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir which could further lead to the current truce breaking down.

China has itself been embroiled in a border conflict with India along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) which is in its second winter now.

 

M777 howitzer - Wikipedia
India has also acquired American ultra-light M777 Howitzers – Wikipedia

Pakistan’s SH-15 and Indian K9 Vajra Howitzer

The SH15 is a Chinese-made wheeled self-propelled howitzer with a front-mounted armored cabin and a rear-mounted 155 mm gun-howitzer. Small weapons fire and artillery shell splinters are not a problem for this new howitzer. The front of the crew cab includes two massive bulletproof glasses and each side has two doors.

With conventional ammo, the SH15 has a maximum range of 20 kilometers and 53 kilometers with a rocket-assisted artillery projectile. A crew of five people may operate this artillery truck. The vehicle will have a maximum weight of 22 tons, according to military officials.

A computerized fire control system, as well as navigation, location, and targeting systems, are installed on the SH-15. The artillery command vehicle provides target information to the vehicle. For self-defense, a 12.7 mm heavy machine gun can be installed on the roof.

This artillery system is extremely mobile and can deploy across vast distances on its own. Most medium cargo planes can transport it. It is light enough to be transported by a Y-9 or comparable military transport aircraft, giving it a more versatile alternative for expanding rapid response teams.

The South-Korean K-9 Vajra, on the other hand, is also a mobile howitzer like the SH-15 but appears like a Tank and is considered one of the most powerful howitzers in the world today.

It has its own propulsion system for traveling towards its firing station and can shell enemy locations from afar. A K9 Vajra can shoot shells over 50 kilometers and weighs 50 tons.

K9 Vajra
K9 VAJRA 155mm/52 caliber Tracked Self-Propelled Howitzer flagged off by India’s CoAS

An automatic loading system loads the projectiles into the ammunition tray, and they are ready to fire. The K9 Thunder can shoot within 30 seconds while in standby mode, or 60 seconds while moving.

All-welded steel armor protects the K-9’s crew from 14.5 mm armor-piercing bullets, 152 mm shell fragments, and anti-personnel mines, as well as offering extensive nuclear, biological, and chemical protection.

The Multiple Rounds Simultaneous Impact (MRSI) mode allows the K9 to fire its ammunition (Multiple Rounds Simultaneous Impact). The K9 can fire three shells in less than 15 seconds in MRSI mode — one every 5 seconds — each with a distinct trajectory so that they all reach their target at the same time.

China’s Power Move Against India

The provision of conventional weapon systems, fighter aircraft, destroyers, and even the willingness to provide the DF-17 hypersonic missile to counter India’s most recent acquisition, the S-400 air defense system, are all part of Beijing’s long-term strategy to keep Rawalpindi GHQ in a state of perpetual confrontation with India, according to Hindustan Times.

This tactic has already paid off for the Chinese dictatorship, as it pushes India to maintain vigilance on its western border with a power that punches far above its weight in international fora, as well as in military and nuclear parity.

In order to keep Pakistan under its wing for strategic reasons and to gain access to the Arabian Sea, China has constantly supplied arms to Rawalpindi.

It frequently supports Pakistan in the UN over Kashmir and vetoes any attempt by the UN Security Council to label known pan-Islamic extremist groups or their leaders as terrorists.

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