Chinese state-owned media has revealed that the People’s Liberation Army Ground Force’s (PLAGF’s) 72nd Group Army is now operating the new PCL-171 self-propelled howitzer(SPH).
The PCL-171 is an assault vehicle-mounted 122 mm self-propelled howitzer used by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Ground Force. No details were provided about when the 72nd Group Armyy began receiving PCL-171s, but the SPH type is believed to have been handed over to the 72nd Group Army in the second half of 2020. The PCL-171 was designed as an even more mobile and lightweight platform to complement the PCL-161, which is based on a larger truck chassis but also equipped with a 122 mm howitzer.
PCL-171 Self-propelled Howitzer (SPH)
The PCL-171 is based on Dongfeng Mengshi (Eastwind Warrior) 6X6 assault vehicle chassis, specifically the CTL181A variant. Dongfeng Mengshi is a family of 4×4 MRAP/off-road vehicles developed by Dongfeng Motor Group. Early generations of the vehicle are license-built Hummer H1, while later generations of the vehicles are of indigenous design. Dongfeng Mengshi generally follows the trend of American military requirements. For example, CSK-141 is the Chinese equivalent of an armor-plated reinforced Humvee, while CSK-181 is the Chinese equivalent of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
PCL-171 Reconnaissance Vehicle (Recon)
Each battery consists of 6 PCL-171 guns, command vehicles, ammunition vehicles, reconnaissance vehicles and other equipment. Some of the non-gun vehicles are based on Dongfeng Mengshi CTL181A 4×4 armoured vehicles, with at least two variants in service. The command vehicle has communications equipment mounted on the vehicle while the reconnaissance vehicle is fitted with a counter-battery radar system, including a radar antenna and an opto-electronic sight mounted on an elevating mast. The revelation means that the new SPH is now in service with at least two PLAGF group armies: the 72nd (the Eastern Theatre Command) and the 75th (the Southern Theatre Command).
The howitzer has a maximum firing range of 18- 22 km with conventional ammunition and up to 27 – 40 km with extended range ammunition. Each vehicle can carry 28 rounds of 122mm rounds, for a total of 168 rounds of rounds for a battery of 6 guns. After the gun enters its firing position, 2 front hydraulic jacks and 2 back hoes can be automatically lowered to increase stability. The PCL-171 features an automated fire-control system with automatic gun-laying, allowing all SPHs linked to the command vehicle to press a single button to automatically lay their gun onto the target. This functionality makes the system much quicker than towed howitzers using manual gun-laying.