Major PLA military drill in Tibet, testing new tank, howitzer

China's first major military exercise in 2020 was unveiled as President Xi Jinping told the PLA’s top officers that armed forces must strengthen their sense of urgency and do everything they can to prepare for battle, Sutirtho Patranobis reports in The Hindustan Times.

Major military drill in Tibet testing new tank howitzer
Live firing of self-propelled howitzer during a PLA exercise in Tibet, July 2017 (Picture source: Youtube)

Northrop Grumman Successfully Completes Initial In-Water Testing of the AQS-24 Mine Hunting SonarChina’s People Liberation Army (PLA) has begun a major military exercise in the high-altitude border areas of Tibet, deploying latest weapons including the new Type 15 lightweight tank and anti-aircraft missiles to check combat readiness of its troops and the efficiency of its weaponry, state media reported. The PLA’s Tibet military command has “…deployed helicopters, armored vehicles, heavy artillery and anti-aircraft missiles across the region from Lhasa, capital of Tibet, with an elevation of 3,700 meters to border defense frontlines with elevations of more than 4,000 meters, said China Central Television (CCTV).

For China, it is the first major military exercise this year and was unveiled as President Xi Jinping, the head of the country’s military, told the PLA’s top officers that armed forces must strengthen their sense of urgency and do everything they can to prepare for battle.

The PLA, according to the national broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), for the first time, deployed two new weapons: the Type 15 lightweight tank and the 155-millimeter vehicle-mounted howitzer, both designed to operate at high altitude plateaus and for border defense. “The weapons were specifically designed with advantages for plateau regions and can play important roles in safeguarding border areas,” military experts told CCTV.

The Type 15, also named VT5 or ZTQ-15 in the Chinese army, is a lightweight battle tank designed and manufactured by the Chinese defense company NORINCO (China North Industries Corporation). The VT5 was unveiled to the public during the Zhuhai AirShow China in November 2016..

Concerning the new howitzer, this is what the military-today website had to say: “This artillery system is highly mobile and can self-deploy over long distances. It can be airlifted by most medium transport aircraft. It is light enough to be airlifted by a Y-9 or similar military transport aircraft, making it a more flexible option for a China’s growing rapid reaction units”.

Both weapons were first revealed to the public at the National Day military parade on October 1, 2019 in Beijing. “Their deployment in the Tibet Military Command will enhance PLA combat capability in plateau regions. Both weapons feature powerful engines, enabling them to maneuver efficiently in Tibet’s terrains,” a military expert who asked not to be named told the nationalistic tabloid, Global Times.

Last August, China had announced it had for the first time tested new weapons including “battlefield robots” and frontline tanks on a “snow-covered plateau” to be battle-ready for plateau warfare.

In 2017 – between June and August -- India and China were locked in a 73-day Himalayan military standoff near the Sikkim border in Doklam (Donglang in Chinese.) It was eventually resolved through negotiations. Most of the disputed boundary between India and China falls in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), whose international borders include Nepal and Bhutan. The India-China Line of Actual Control (LAC) covered 3,488 kilometers including the border along Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. Beijing claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of south Tibet.