(This was originally posted in The South China Morning Post by Liu Zhen)
China has equipped its border troops facing India with a modified truck-mounted rocket, state media reported. The digital version of the PHL-03 long-range multiple rocket launchers were filmed mass deployed to an artillery battalion of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Xinjiang Military Command, CCTV said at the weekend.
This unit is stationed on the plateau area, at 5,200-metre (17,000-feet) altitude, where the PLA was involved in a deadly clash with Indian troops in June. “This rocket is the main assault equipment of artillery troops, which can be used for speedy deployment and seizing and controlling key regions,” the report said. “With its help, the PLA troops will be able to fight in the difficult terrain of plateau, desert and others in all-weather conditions.”
This self-propelled heavy rocket launcher has 12 tubes of 300mm (12-inch) calibre barrels, with a standard 800kg (1,760-pound) rocket each to cover a large area with concentrated firepower from a distance. It has firing range up to 130km (80 miles), and its eight-wheeled truck has a top speed of 60km/h. The design enables the rocket launcher to be highly mobile and flexible, taking just three minutes to transition from travelling to combat ready, and one minute from standby to emergency mode, CCTV reported.
he updated version has fully automated computerised fire control systems with China’s BeiDou satellite positioning system fitted to the rocket launchers to allow saturated bombardment as well as precise pointed strikes. One vehicle carrying launchers could carry out separate strikes on multiple targets at the same time, according to the CCTV report.
“To switch from towed artillery to wheeled self-propelled artillery, and from fully manual operation to digital operation, was quite a challenge, but also a step forward,” the reported quoted Captain You Zichen, a company commander in the battalion, as saying.
The commissioning of new weapons came as the harsh weather on the Indian border began to ease and allow military activity. Last year’s border conflicts started in early May. It was the worst conflict and most heavily armed confrontation between the two Asian neighbours for decades. Some two dozen lives were lost and the stand-off lasted until winter.
To give the frontline troops in the Himalayas an advantage over Indian troops, the PLA updated its equipment, including employing the latest Type 15 lightweight tanks, most powerful 155-millimeter wheeled howitzer PCL-181,drones modified for high-plateau conditions. Aside from weaponry, new equipment included an exoskeleton suit, a bedside oxygen generator, solar-powered module houses, auto-pumped fresh water and hotpot delivered by drone.