Artillery: Chinese-Truck Mounted Artillery


April 6, 2024: Norinco, a Chinese weapons export company with $83 billion in annual sales, introduced a new SH15 truck mounted 155mm artillery system. The unmanned 14-ton automated turret is mounted on the back of a 6x6 truck. The complete system weighs 31 tons. The turret contains 27 155mm shells and a system that can provide different combinations of propellant charges depending on how far the shell is to be fired. When the vehicle halts to fire, two stabilizer mechanisms are lowered in the rear of the truck while the two man crew enters data into the fire control system about where the target is and how many shells will be fired. The gun fires, then the stabilizer mechanism is retracted, and the truck can drive away to avoid any return, or counterbattery, fire. The autoloader mechanism can be quickly reloaded from resupply trucks.

The SH15 is an upgrade of the older PLC-181 which has been used by the Chinese military since 2019. Currently 620 PLC-181 systems are in service with the Chinese army. The 30-ton SH15 is for export and the Chinese army will continue using the PLC-181, which is lighter, at 25 tons. The PLC-181 can fire four to six rounds a minute at ranges of 40 kilometers. Using a rocket boosted 155mm shell the range is 72 kilometers. So far, the Sh15 has been exported to Pakistan, which received 320 vehicles, Ethiopia, which received 32 and Myanmar (Burma) which is awaiting delivery of 150 vehicles.

PLC-181 is similar to the French Caesar artillery systems that was sent to Ukraine by NATO. There Ukraine found that this novel truck-mounted 155mm howitzer was more effective than towed or conventional self-propelled artillery systems that ran on tracks, like a tank. That led Ukraine to purchase more Caesar systems from the French manufacturer. The French had already increased production of Caesar systems to six a month and are preparing to increase that to eight a month. The manufacturer has also made several improvements and upgrades. These are often based on feedback from Ukrainian users. The changes include adapting Caesar for use on different types of trucks and upgrades to the fire control system that allow the use of different types of 155mm shells, including some that can hit targets fifty kilometers away accurately. This required upgrades to the fire control system to increase effectiveness of regular missions and as well as the accuracy of long-range missions. A semi-automatic loading system increases the rate of fire and requires less physical effort from the crew.

Ukraine found that their first Caesar systems were the key to developing a more effective counterbattery, aka destroying enemy artillery. NATO was able to help with that because NATO also supplied very effective counterbattery radars that are used to calculate where enemy shells and rockets were coming from. This enabled the Ukrainians to fire back quickly, often while the Russian artillery was being moved to avoid counterbattery fire. Ukraine did this by developing a better fire control system that was much quicker to react using multiple well-dispersed individual guns and artillery rocket launchers, as well as their own UAVs that specialized in detecting targets, especially enemy artillery systems that were not firing. The Russians have nothing as effective as this and neither does NATO.




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