(This was originally posted in The south china morning post by Kristin Huang)
The Chinese military has given two of its combat vehicles a major makeover to improve their ability to take on Indian troops in high-altitude warfare, according to a Chinese defence technology magazine.
On its official WeChat social media account on Saturday, the magazine said the track chassis on a number of howitzers and anti-tank missile carriers had been replaced with wheel bases to allow for quicker deployment over mountainous terrain.
“The change of chassis was no coincidence – it was specifically prepared for plateau warfare against the Indian army,” the Ordnance Industry Science Technology report said.
“The changes can help reduce the burden of logistics support, increase mobility, improve strike precision and give a significant power boost to the troops stationed in Tibet.
“These vehicles have been deployed to Tibet in recent years to meet the special combat needs of plateau warfare.”
The report came as China and India started another round of talks on the weekend to try to resolve a months-long stand-off along the disputed Himalayan border between the two countries. The two sides had “completed” the disengagement of forces from a lake that had become a key flashpoint, according to a joint statement.
Clashes in June left at least 20 Indian soldiers and four Chinese personnel dead.
The report identified the two vehicles as the PLC-161 122mm wheeled self-propelled howitzer and the HJ-10 anti-tank missile launcher.
They were refitted with the body of a general utility truck called the FAW MV3, a third-generation tactical transport system.
The report said that while the Indian military relied on imported vehicles, reducing flexibility, China was standardising its military hardware so that some parts could be interchanged to fit different environments.
Song Zhongping, a military commentator based in Hong Kong, said the advantage of the interchangeable chassis was that it could be developed for multiple weapons at a relatively low cost.
“The chassis can be regarded as a base to be equipped with various weapon systems such as recoilless rifles or anti-aircraft guns,” Song said.
“The troops in Tibet can have access to multiple weapons to suit different combat needs but not have to maintain many types of vehicles.
“Also, the one chassis requires the one kind of fuel supply and spare parts, so it reduces the logistics pressure.”
The changes are part of a vast military modernisation drive in China.
Last month, state media reported that China used a new all-terrain vehicle to get supplies to troops in Tibet.