Artillery: Decades Of Chinese Mortar/Howitzers


May 4, 2023: China recently put its new PLZ-10 SPM (self-propelled mortar), a new version of its existing 120mm mortar/howitzer weapon on display, hoping for export sales. PLZ-10 is mounted on a tracked vehicle, the 14 ton Type 89 IFV (Infantry Fighting Vehicle) which normally carries a turret armed with a 25mm autocannon or a 12.7mm heavy machine-gun. As an IFV, the vehicle has a crew of two and carries 13 troops. As an SPM the vehicle is modified to carry a larger turret with the 120mm rifled-gun/mortar barrel. The new SPM version carries 36 rounds of ammunition, including short-range (1,200 meters) anti-tank shells and longer range (13.5 kilometers) high-explosive shells. There is also a 12.7mm machine-gun mounted adjacent to a hatch near the turret. Top road speed is 66 kilometers (41 miles) an hour and max road range on internal fuel is 500 kilometers.

Seven years earlier China introduced the truck mounted SH9 that used the same weapon as the PLZ-10 but was carried, along with its four man crew and about a dozen rounds of ammunition, in a 4x4 military truck. As the SH9, the vehicle weighs five tons and has two spades in the rear that are lowered to stabilize the vehicle for firing. The SH9 has a top road speed of 120 kilometers (81 miles) an hour and max road range on internal fuel is 600 kilometers.

The original Chinese mortar/howitzer was the PLL-05, which entered service in 2001. The weapon is carried on the WZ551 wheeled 6x6 armored personnel carrier chassis. This amphibious vehicle weighs 16.5 tons and has a four-man crew. Top speed is 80 kilometers (50 miles) an hour. The 120mm weapon is mounted in a new steel all-welded turret similar to the one on the Russian 2S23. The turret has a 360-degree traverse. The barrel is rifled, and has no fume extractor or muzzle brake. It can be used for direct or indirect fire, using three types of ammunition: mortar shell (fragmentation), high explosive, and shaped-charge anti-tank. The mortar shell has a range of 8,500 meters and rate of fire 10 rounds per minute. The high explosive round shell can reach 9,500 meters with a rate of fire of 6-8 rounds per minute. The anti-tank round has an effective range of 1,500 meters and a rate of fire of 4-6 rounds per minute. The vehicle carries 36 rounds of ammunition, and can be loaded manually or automatically. The PLL-05 is still in production with over 500 already in service, mainly with Chinese forces.




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