Chinese 155 mm PLC-181 wheeled self-propelled howitzer shows export success

 01. 03. 2024      Category: Ground forces

Chinese self-propelled guns with the designation PLC-181 (Pào Chē Liúdànpào, Gun Vehicle Howitzer) had been shown to the public in 2019. The system had participated in the parade dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China.

In all likelihood, work on the creation of a new self-propelled gun began in China in the early 2010s. In any case, the first photos of the PLC-181 wheeled howitzer of acceptable quality only appeared on the Internet in 2015. And it wasn't possible to examine the new product in detail until 2018, when the first images of the facility moving to take part in the 12th International Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai hit the net. It was the full Chinese premiere of the new 155mm self-propelled howitzer.

Picture: PLC-181 wheeled self-propelled howitzer | Chinese Ministry of Defence
Picture: PLC-181 wheeled self-propelled howitzer | Chinese Ministry of Defence

Developed by engineers at NORINCO Engineering Corporation, the 155mm self-propelled howitzer on the PLC-181 wheeled chassis was officially adopted by the PLA in early 2019. The self-propelled guns are based on the Taian GM's chassis with a 6x6 wheel arrangement. The combat weight of the installation is 25 tonnes, which allows for it to be transported in the Shaanxi Y-9 aircraft. The engine power is 400 hp. In front of the wheeled self-propelled guns is a four-door cab with a cable-free configuration. The cabin is armored and protects the design of the installation from small arms fire, shell fragments and mines. On the roof of the cabin above the hatch, a large 12.7 mm machine gun designed for self-defense can be installed. The vehicle is to be manned by 6 people, including the driver.

The main armament of the self-propelled guns is a 155mm cannon with a barrel length of 52 calibres. The gun is located at the rear of the chassis on a special platform. It is reported that the vertical guidance range of the gun is 20 to 70 degrees, traverse is 360 degrees. In the middle of the self-propelled artillery mount is a transportable ammunition unit. The gun is fitted with a rammer, and the maximum rate of fire is 4 to 6 rounds per minute.

The firing range depends directly on the use of propellant charges. At the same time, judging by the length of the barrel of the gun, the firing range of PLC-181 self-propelled guns is unlikely to differ from most of these artillery systems and is at the level of 30 thousand metres using conventional high-explosive fragmentation ammunition. At the same time, according to assurances from the Chinese side, using active fuzes with a background gas generator, the maximum firing range of the system exceeds 50 thousand metres. The gun can be used with the full range of 155 mm ammunition, also manufactured by Norinco Corporation. Includes adjustable ammunition with a laser and satellite guidance system. It is also possible to use Russian 'Krasnopol' guided projectiles, export versions of which are available in 155mm calibre.

It should be noted that the new Chinese howitzer is armed with a 52-calibre artillery mount. According to this indicator, it matches all the modern analogues on the market. For example, a G6-52 wheeled self-propelled howitzer made in South Africa or a German PzH 2000 self-propelled gun on a tracked chassis, which is still one of the best in its class. The new Russian 2S35 'Coalition-SV' self-propelled guns also operate in the same weight category.

China's PLC-181 wheeled self-propelled gun has good export potential. It has already been awarded the SH-15 export designation and is being actively promoted on international markets. We know that the first buyer of a 155mm self-propelled howitzer was Pakistan, which acquired a very large batch of artillery systems. It should be noted that Pakistan is China's traditional partner in the purchase and joint production of weapons. There is an obvious parallel. Given that Russia is/was one of the main suppliers of weapons to India, Pakistan is obliged to look for other supply options, firstly in collaboration with Beijing, which is increasingly competing on the international arms market, particularly in developing country markets. Over 600 units serve in the Chinese Army, about 300 in Pakistan, 32 in Ethiopia and 150 in Myanmar.

It is worth noting that Pakistan regularly buys Chinese self-propelled guns. In 2013–14, the country acquired 36 Chinese-made SH-1 wheeled howitzers. This 155mm howitzer, also developed by Norinco, was also supplied to the Myanmar army. The new Chinese SH-15 self-propelled guns were presented in Pakistan at the end of 2018. The overseas debut took place in November at the IDEAS international military exhibition in Karachi. The new Chinese-made artillery system immediately attracted the interest of the Pakistani military. At the same time, Pakistan became the first foreign country in which a new Chinese howitzer was shown.

There is nothing unusual about this development. In recent years, Pakistan's military leadership has pursued a policy of strengthening the artillery component of its armed forces. Firstly, through the acquisition of modern mobile artillery systems for the ground forces. At present, the Pakistani army's self-propelled artillery is mainly represented by American 155mm self-propelled artillery on tracked chassis, 200 M109A2 self-propelled guns and 115 M109A5 self-propelled guns. At the same time, it is clear that the Pakistani army's artillery is currently being modernised through the purchase of new, highly mobile wheeled artillery systems. What's more, China is the main supplier of this equipment, which is gradually gaining in popularity around the world. 

As it became known at the end of December 2019, Pakistan purchased 236 new SH-15 self-propelled howitzers from China on an automobile chassis with a 6x6 wheel arrangement. On 24 December 2019, the Indian website News Nation reported that a contract had been signed between Pakistan and the military-industrial company Norinco. It is alleged that the contract for the supply of an export version of the 155mm howitzer PLC-181 was signed last summer. At the time, the value of the transaction was US$512 million. In addition to the transfer of the howitzers themselves, the agreement signed provides for a package of technical support and maintenance measures, the supply of artillery ammunition adapted to the Pakistani army, the supply of spare parts and the transfer of the necessary technologies. Taking into account the additional options, it can be assumed that each self-propelled weapon cost the Pakistani army around two million dollars.


  • Mass: 25 t
  • Length: 6.5 m 
  • Width: 2.66 m
  • Height: <3.6 m
  • Crew: 6
  • Main armament: PLL-01 155 mm/52 howitzer gun
  • Elevation: 20° to 70°
  • Traverse: 360°
  • Rate of fire: 4–6 rounds/min 
  • Effective firing range: 20 km 
  • Maximum firing range: 53 km 
  • Engine: diesel, 400 hp
  • Drive: 6×6
  • Maximum speed: 90 km/h

 Author: Peter Bass