As India and China border conflict remains unresolved after the deadly June 15 clash in Galwan Valley, both nations continue to host thousands of troops and heavy artillery in the freezing temperatures of the Himalayas at the Ladakh border.
Now, to add fuel to the fire which could trigger a further escalation of the conflict, China is likely to deploy its new lightweight self-propelled howitzer (SPH) assault vehicles in the region.
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China Central Television (CCTV) has broadcast footage of the new 122mm SPH which will complement the truck-based howitzer in the People’s Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF).
The visuals show a live-fire drill held at an undisclosed location with the new SPH. It has a semiautomatic loading system and storage frames for ammunition. It is equipped with a 122 millimeter gun on its roof.
The new SPH was commissioned “during the second half” of 2020, the CCTV report said. It is also referred to as PCL-171 and is mounted on Dongfeng Mengshi 6×6 CTL181A vehicle.
Li Qiuyu, a company commander of the brigade, reportedly said that compared with the towed howitzers previously used by the PLA, this new assault vehicle-based howitzer is more mobile and has a stronger capability to surmount obstacles on the battlefield, so it can be deployed on all kinds of complicated terrains.
The gun can be calibrated with only one push of a button, and it can also be semi-automatically reloaded, Li said, adding, “This can greatly reduce the number of operators needed and shorten the preparation time for firing.”
Compared with these two truck-based howitzers, which already have higher mobility than towed howitzers or self-propelled howitzers with caterpillar tracks, the assault vehicle-based one has higher mobility, as it can run off-road and function in challenging terrains where other howitzers cannot, like in hills, swamps, and even forests, said the state-owned Global Times quoting an expert.
Suitable For High-Altitude Terrains
Earlier in June, the Chinese media reported that the PLA has deployed PCL-181 155mm vehicle-mounted howitzers in the rough terrains of the Himalayas, near the site of the India-China conflict. Analysts said that the new howitzer was suitable for high-altitude terrains due to its high arc of shells and lightweight that makes it easier to navigate. It is capable of moving at 100km/h (62 miles per hour) carrying about 27 shells.
As reported earlier by EurAsian Times, a battalion attached to the PLA Tibet Military Command received the delivery of a batch of assault vehicles.
While the assault vehicles are capable of running on rough roads in high altitudes, the third-generation Dongfeng Mengshi can be installed with heavy machine guns and rocket launchers, giving the troops greater firepower and high mobility, military experts told Global Times.
Like other Chinese defense equipment, the designs of Dongfeng Mengshi are also a copy of the American Hummvee and are equivalent to the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
India and China have been at loggerheads since May and the troops from both sides were involved in a deadly skirmish in the Galwan Valley along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh on June 15. The two armies fought for hours with rods and clubs, with as many as 20 Indian soldiers losing their lives.
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