India-China Row: Chinese PLA Gets New Artillery Systems As Border Conflict Simmers With India

While the Israel-Palestine conflict is escalating, tensions on the India-China border are also simmering. The Chinese PLA has reportedly received new artillery platforms that would be deployed in high-altitude regions opposite India’s Ladakh, a clear sign that the border tensions between nations could continue. 

State-owned Global Times reports the Xingjiang Military Command has received three new weapon systems, which could significantly increase PLA’s firepower in the rugged high altitude terrains of the Tibetan plateau and the Kunlun Mountains.

The new weapon systems are — PCL-161 and PCL-181 self-propelled howitzer systems and PHL-03 MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System).

The EurAsian Times has already reported on the deployment of PHL-03 MLRS, equipped with 300mm rockets. The system is capable of raining a lot of fire-power and destroying a large area within seconds from more than 100 kilometers away.

The PHL-03 is derived from the famous Russian BM-30 ‘Smerch’ MLRS system, having the same configuration as the original Russian counterpart with 12 launch tubes for 300 mm artillery rockets, along with a computerized fire control system (FCS) incorporating GPS/GLONASS/Beidou guidance systems—effectively making them work like guided missiles.

The PCL-161 and PCL-181 self-propelled howitzer systems can fire 122mm and 155mm artillery shells at hostile installations up to 40 kilometers using conventional shells, and up to 70 kilometers away using extended range ammunition, according to independent analysts.

The PCL-161 and PCL-181 are identical except for the rounds they use, featuring a semi-automatic loading system, where the operator places the shell on the loading arm and the loading arm loads the round into the breech. Its fire control system is also identical, featuring automatic calculation and gun-laying via the vehicle-mounted fire control computer.

The PCL-161 is capable of mounting direct fire in case of a close-range situation, increasing its defensive abilities. However, it is not known if the PCL-181 also features this capability.

An order of battle compiled from several sources comes up with the following units in Xinjiang Military District: three motorized infantry divisions (the 4th, 8th and 11th Motorized Infantry Divisions); the 6th Mechanized Infantry Division; a special operations brigade; the 2nd Artillery Brigade; a “high-powered artillery brigade; two infantry regiments (the 1st and 2nd Independent Regiments); the 13th Air Defense Brigade; an engineer regiment; the 3rd Aviation Brigade; an intelligence/reconnaissance brigade; and additional logistics units, reported HindustanTimes.

Additionally, two border defense regiments (12th and 13th Border Defense Regiments) have been deployed. A Rocket Force brigade (646 Brigade) near Korla, supposedly equipped with DF-26 ballistic missiles, is part of the build-up.

The new artillery and armored pieces, including new main battle tanks and light tanks, will replace the old ones deployed in the region.

Meanwhile, the Indian Army is yet to acquire such truck-mounted howitzers. In April, it issued a fresh Request for Information to acquire the Mounted Gun System (MGS) for its artillery units, which would supplement and improvise their shoot-and-scoot and rapid-fire capabilities.

A new RFI (request for information), which has been reviewed by The EurAsian Times, calls for vendors to supply 155/52-caliber mounted gun systems. It seeks “shoot and scoot” capability, where the guns fire at the enemy from one location and then relocate to another to avoid counter-battery fire and detection from enemy surveillance teams.