Artillery: Mobile Ballistic Missile Pods

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June 10, 2020: In late 2019, China showed off a new long-range (350 kilometers) ballistic missile, with eight of them carried in sealed containers on an 8x8 45 ton truck. Called the PCL191, it is an upgraded version of the older AR3 truck-mounted missile system built for export as the AR3. Since 2010 China has developed longer range guided rockets for the export customers. The latest of these is the AR3, which can handle a number of different size rockets that are stored and fired from pods designed to operate from the same AR3 8x8 heavy truck. This “export market first” approach enables several competing firms to develop similar systems, make them pay for themselves via exports and then provide the Chinese military with the best of these systems, usually with a number of updates. This is what happened as the export AR3 evolved into the Chinese Army PCL191.

The PCL191 version carries eight circular containers each containing a 370mm ballistic missile with a 350 kilometer range, a half ton warhead and a more precise guidance system. The storage/firing containers are in two pods, each with four containers. The pods are easily removed and replaced by a reloading vehicle equipped for this task.

Reload vehicles can remove empty pods and install loaded ones in about twenty minutes. The PCL191 has a crew of three that can halt and fire a missile at a specific target within five minutes. One current use of systems like PCL191 is to support an invasion of Taiwan by quickly firing these difficult to intercept missiles at airfields and naval bases in Taiwan while evading attack by Taiwanese ballistic missiles. Taiwan is 180 kilometers off the China coast. China has long aimed over a thousand larger, non-mobile ballistic missiles at Taiwan. These missiles are vulnerable to return fire from Taiwan, which is what makes the PCL191 so important. The PCL191 would keep moving, launching missiles and reloading until the battle was over, or they ran out of missile reloads.

The mobility of the PCL191 vehicle makes it easy to move a large quantity of ballistic missiles to any part of China (Vietnam, North Korea, Russia or India) to deal with an emergency.

 


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