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China unified 6x6 platform enhances PLA's latest rocketry arsenal.

| 2023

According to Jesus Roman on September 24, 2023, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) recently conducted a live fire exercise to showcase its newly adopted 122mm PCL-171 self-propelled howitzer. The exercise also featured the PHL-11 122mm Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) and the TL-4 Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) vehicle. Observers have noted the commonality in the chassis of these vehicles, with each one mounted on a 6x6 Dongfeng Mengshi CTL-181A chassis.
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The Dongfeng Mengshi is the basis of several Chinese truck-mounted weapons (Picture source: Twitter and Chinese social media)

The basis for these three vehicles comes from the CTL181/CTL181A series, which comprises light-protected military trucks built on the CSK-181 chassis, part of the Warrior (or Menghshi) family of vehicles developed and manufactured by China's manufacturer Dongfeng Motor Group Co., Ltd. These trucks possess 6x6 all-wheel-drive capabilities, making them suitable for various terrains and military applications.

The CTL181/CTL181A series includes several variants designed for specific purposes, such as an anti-tank missile launcher, a 120mm mortar truck, a 122mm multiple rocket launcher system (MLRS), a bridge erecting variant, a UAV launch vehicle, and an anti-aircraft missile launch vehicle. These vehicles contribute to China's military capabilities in various combat and support roles.

The PCL-171 self-propelled howitzer shares its lineage with the SH-2 model initially proposed for export by the China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO). The SH-2, equipped with a 122mm PL-96 howitzer (an improved clone of the Soviet D30), was introduced internationally in 2007. This versatile weapon has a range of 22 kilometers, extendable to 27 kilometers with rocket-assisted ammunition.

Mounted on the 6x6 CTL-181A chassis, a derivative of the Dongfeng Mengshi 4x4 vehicle, the SH-2 offers enhanced mobility with a top speed of 90 km/h and off-road capabilities. It features an armored cabin to protect the crew from small arms fire and shell splinters, with steerable front and rear axles for maneuverability. The PCL-171 can swiftly transition from travel to firing mode, with two hydraulic stabilizers at the rear allowing for a "shoot-and-scoot" capability, reducing the risk of counter-battery fire.

China's interest in the SH-2 led to its standardization as the PCL-171 for the PLA, using a fully automated fire control system for streamlined target acquisition and engagement. However, it has a firing arc limited to the left side of the platform and requires resupply vehicles for sustained fire missions.

The PCL-171 weighs approximately 10 to 11 tons, measuring 7 meters in length, 2.38 meters in width, and 2.13 meters in height. Its turbocharged 6-cylinder YC6DV1 diesel engine, generating 295 horsepower, enables a top speed of 120 km/h on roads and a range of 700 kilometers. This mobility allows for rapid deployment, and the vehicle is airdrop-capable by the Shaanxi Y-9 tactical transport aircraft, carrying up to two PCL-171 units.

Reportedly, the PLA has deployed around 120 PCL-171 self-propelled howitzers since their introduction in 2020, organized into batteries consisting of six PCL-171 mobile howitzers, a command vehicle, a reconnaissance vehicle, and ammunition resupply vehicles.

The PHL-11 122 mm MLRS, also known as the SR-7 when mounted on a CTL181A 6x6 chassis (while the base variant uses a 6x6 Shaanxi SX2190KA truck chassis), can be equipped with either one pod of twenty 122 mm rockets or six 220 mm rockets, offering a maximum firing range of 50 km for the 122 mm rockets and an extended range of 70 km for the 220 mm rockets.

The TL-4 man-portable Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM), mounted on a vehicle for this exercise, was unveiled at the AirShow China 2018. Developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the TL-4 provides infantry units with a new generation of anti-tank capabilities. The missile system can be ready to fire in just 9 seconds and has a range of 100 to 6,000 m against both static and moving targets. It is a fire-and-forget system, capable of hitting its target without further guidance after launch, and can also be mounted on light vehicles or helicopters, enhancing its versatility on the battlefield.


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