August 15, 2008: Saudi Arabia has bought 54 Chinese PLZ-45
155/45 mm (the barrel is 45 calibers, or 6,975mm long) self-propelled
howitzers. This is a 33 ton, lightly armored, tracked vehicle. It has a crew of
five and carries 30 rounds of ammunition. On top of the turret, there is a
12.7mm machine-gun. The Saudis have bought enough PLZ-45s to equip two artillery battalions. In
addition to the guns, each battalion has 18 tracked ammunition carriers, three
battery command vehicles and three reconnaissance vehicles (all six of these
are modified Type 85 armored personnel carriers). Each battalion has two or
more armored recovery vehicles, an artillery spotting radar vehicle, a weather
radar vehicle and several maintenance vehicles. The PLZ-45 has a top speed of
50 kilometers an hour and a range of 450 kilometers on internal fuel.
The Saudis went with the Chinese
equipment because the Kuwaitis have been using the PLZ-45 since the late 1990s,
and were sufficiently pleased to have bought three battalions worth. The PLZ-45
was developed in the early 1990s for the export market. But the system has been
so successful that the Chinese Army is using it as well.
The PLZ-45 155mm howitzer can fire long
range (39 kilometers) shells, as well as the Russian Krasnopol (laser guided)
shell. China got the artillery technology from Austria in the 1980s.