Discover China's mysterious PLZ-05B 155mm self-propelled howitzer

On October 20, 2023, cvetko35 shared a recent sighting in an undisclosed Chinese town that has shed light on what could be China's potential new addition to its artillery arsenal – the PLZ-05B 155mm self-propelled howitzer. While official information remains elusive, a careful examination of available images and information reveals intriguing details and potential advancements in China's capabilities.
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The most striking aspect of the new PLZ-05B 155mm self-propelled howitzer is its redesigned turret. (Picture source: Twitter)

Compared to its predecessor, the PLZ-05, the PLZ-05B showcases substantial changes in both the chassis and turret, with a likely overhaul of numerous subsystems. It's worth noting that some experts suggest that the "PLZ-05B" designation could be provisional, and the self-propelled howitzer might adopt a different name in the future, similar to the Chinese Type 19 Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV).

The PLZ-05B retains the same caliber and barrel length as its predecessor, the PLZ-05 155mm self-propelled howitzer. However, the most striking aspect of the PLZ-05B is its redesigned turret. For most sources, this turret appears to be manned, emphasizing a blend of manual operation and high reliance on automation and information technology.

The enlarged turret design has raised speculation among a minority of observers that the PLZ-05B might feature an unmanned turret, similar to the Russian 2S35 Koalitsiya-SV self-propelled howitzer. While this enhances crew survivability, it results in a larger turret, which is a minor drawback for a rear-based self-propelled howitzer primarily used for long-range fire support. An unmanned turret integrates an automatic loading system and ammunition storage within the turret, ensuring crew isolation and enhanced safety.

For the majority of sources, the PLZ-05B turret signifies significant advances in automation, with an expected high rate of fire enabled by an automatic loading system, akin to the 2S35's impressive 16 rounds per minute. This enhancement promises increased firepower and reliability to compete with the most modern 155mm self-propelled howitzers. The presence of reversing shock absorbers on top of the 155mm gun has also been observed.

On top of the turret, a laser warning receiver is visible, enhancing the PLZ-05B's situational awareness and protection. Additionally, the removal of the fume extractor from the 155mm gun has sparked questions, as previous images showed the presence of such equipment. A rear-view camera is suggested to be part of the PLZ-05B's equipment, aiding in vehicle maneuverability and safety during operations.

At the rear of the turret, an extension is visible, likely used for storage, with vented sides, possibly to save weight. The assembly also appears to protect what could be two generators.

The PLZ-05B's rear hull reveals two manually operated doors. While the precise function of these doors is not confirmed, it is speculated that one serves as a crew access door, while the other may be intended for ammunition reloading, although the specifics of the arrangement may have evolved over time.

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The engine of the PLZ-05B seems to be located on the right front of the hull, and the driver seems to have episcopes positioned on top of its hatch. (Picture source: Twitter)

Crucially, the chassis used in the PLZ-05B differs significantly from its predecessor, the PLZ-05. The PLZ-05B features a chassis with seven road wheels, a notable upgrade from the PLZ-05's six. This increase implies a greater weight, potentially necessitating a larger engine and offering an enhanced ammunition carriage capacity.

This development is significant, particularly given the limited space for ammunition storage in the PLZ-05. The PLZ-05B is expected to carry close to 60 rounds, a substantial improvement over the PLZ-05's 30-round capacity.

Some sources suggest that the PLZ-05B might be based on a lengthened ZTQ-15/Type 15 light tank chassis, equipped with enhanced fire control systems (FCS) and other electronic components. The engine placement is towards the right front of the vehicle, indicated by the position of the three engine grills and the exhaust on the side. The muzzle brake, fixed to the front of the hull, appears to have a circular shape with at least two openings on the sides and is positioned just behind the fume extractor when supporting the gun.

The adoption of a lower slope protection design for the chassis provides improved protection for the PLZ-05B, capable of defending against 12.7mm armor-piercing projectiles. Additional spaced armor on the sides increases protection against 30mm armor-piercing shells and 40mm rocket attacks. Relocating the engine heat dissipation louvers to the upper right position of the cockpit improves protection against fragmentation and light weapons. The front turret armor is also expected to defend against 12.7mm armor-piercing projectiles.

Accompanying the PLZ-05B is an Ammo Resupply Vehicle (ARV), which appears similar in design but lacks a gun, suggesting it serves as a logistics support vehicle similar to the American M992 FAASV resupply vehicle, which uses a similar layout.

Pictures of the PLZ-05B in transport suggest it may be in the process of being moved, possibly for testing or further evaluation. There is speculation that the PLZ-05B has already entered production, possibly in the form of a small batch of prototypes used for testing before it officially enters active service.

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The PLZ-05B is accompanied by an Ammo Resupply Vehicle (ARV) which appears similar in design but lacks a gun, a layout shared with the American M992 FAASV resupply vehicle. (Picture source: Twitter)