In August 2022, the 77th Artillery Brigade conducted the first live-fire exercise with the PCL-181 self-propelled howitzer to verify its tactical performance.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is increasingly modernizing its infantry units, especially artillery units. In August 2022, the 77th Artillery Brigade conducted the first live-fire exercise with the PCL-181 self-propelled howitzer to verify its tactical performance. The PCL-181 artillery systems are more digitized than their predecessors. Currently about 200 units have been deployed.

The PCL-181 is a Chinese truck-mounted,155 mm self-propelled howitzer used by the People’s Liberation Army Ground Force. The vehicle made its first public appearance during the 70th Chinese National Day Parade on October 1, 2019. It was designed to replace the 152 mm PL-66 towed gun-howitzer and the 130 mm Type 59-1 towed field guns used by the PLA and will complement the PLZ-05, and improve upon its functionality in many ways.

Overall, China’s approach to PCL-181 is similar to the French CAESAR system. It is compatible with all standard 155 mm NATO ammunition, as well as indigenous ammunition developed by NORINCO. The howitzer is capable of direct and indiret firing. Maximum range of fire could be up to 53 km with a rocket-assisted V-LAP projectile. In addition it can use indigenous precision-guided munitions with laser and satellite guidance, which are based on the Russian Krasnopol technology.

The gun has a 52-caliber barrel and is exactly the same as that of the PLZ-05 self-propelled howitzer. Each vehicle can carry 27 rounds of ammunition. The howitzer features semi-automatic ammo reload, where the operator places the shell on the loading arm and the loading arm loads the round into the breech. The PCL-181 is equipped with an automatic fire control system. Following the operator’s input of a target’s azimuth data, the vehicle-mounted computer can calculate the trajectory of the artillery, and automatically lay the gun.

Compared with the 155mm car howitzer such as Caesar of France, the advantage of the Chinese 155mm gun is that the direction of the shooting can reach 360°, and the range of shooting is much higher than other car howitzers, even if it is 30 degrees on the front and left, affected by the cab. It is still able to reach high and low shots of around 20 degrees to 70 degrees.

China’s PCL-181 uses Taian GM’s 6X6 off-road truck chassis, which has strong passing ability and off-road capability. The gun body part is located at the rear end of the truck. The truck part is equipped with fire control radar and Hydraulic type bombing device, the gun itself also has its own adjustment ability. As a result, the PCL-181 is highly adaptable for launching on many complex terrains. Due to its comparatively lighter weight of 25 tons, the PCL-181 can also be transported in a Shaanxi Y-9.

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