Self Propelled Gun/Rocket Launcher


Viktor Jav

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You're assuming that the 2 artillery types will be used in the same area. So that requires a number of additional assumptions.
This is a rather flawed observation on here. Logistics and supply lines are not wholly constrained by locations and geography, even if the 2 artillery systems were employed on the opposing sides of China it will still put a strain on the factories manufacturing them largely due to fluctuations of demand of munitions that will most certainly happen.

1. China will actually get into a high intensity land war where it will be firing artillery shells. That is highly unlikely to happen.
Even if it does not, there is still the matter of daily expenses and maintenance of the guns and munitions. With both systems being in place for nearly 30 years side by side there is bound to be a certain cost incurred. Nor does the lack of prospect of a high intensity war makes standardizing equipment to save money in the long run and improve effectiveness irrelevant.

2. That the resources used to standardise on 155mm shells is worth it. Given that air superiority is a requirement to win a high intensity land war against a peer opponent, China needs to devote more resources to air superiority first rather than standardising on 155mm.
Air superiority has been very much overhyped. It is something that is good to have, but in war (especially one against a peer opponent) it is nearly impossible to establish for any significant period of time. The even the most optimistic calculations would see that one side merely denying the other any form of air superiority. Nor can it be established everywhere at once. In this situation standardized artillery is most invaluable. And I not saying that China must switch to the 155mm, as they could have easily adapted any technology they gained from the GC-45 into the existing 152mm caliber.

Note that the US Army has almost 1000 M109 155mm Paladin SPGs, whereas the Chinese Army has less than 400 SPGs
It is actually 400 PLZ-04, plus an untold number of PLL-09s (and various other 122mm caliber spgs) and the Type 83 152mm SPGs that are still in service with second priority units. All in all China's SPG numbers are definitely not "less then 400 SPGs" I can understand the justification of the 122mm calibers. But again there is no real reason to have have the 152mm caliber in towed and spg form alongside the 155mm. And again I will reiterate this point : China could have just as easily made the PLZ-04 in a 152mm form but consciously choose not to do so.

3. That the different shell calibres will be used in the same area. More likely will be mechanised offensive divisions with 155mm SPGs and then non-mechanised defensive divisions with 152mm towed artillery
Again refer to my post regarding point 1 and 2 above, this is the exact logistical strain that I am talking about. Why must the SPGs and towed howitzers use 2 completely different different type of ammunition that has no justification other than to deny its use in the other system ?

4. Despite what you think, creating specialised tooling is actually expensive and only justified when you have sufficient volume.
China already took the trouble to built a production line for the PLZ-04 and has so far already built 400+ of those things and an untold number of munitions of guided and specialized form . So the volume is already there. Plus they are also offering a 155mm for export. And they have just recently built a wheeled variant of the PLZ-04 so they have made very effort for the 155mm to be a signifcant part of their artillery caliber. Nor are they making any newer 152mm towed howitzers. So those production lines are just lying idle.
So there is that justification.
And again I will say this, in the long run standardizing production of the systems will save more money than just plodding along with these 2 systems.
 
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Viktor Jav

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Just regarding this, it is more accurate to say the PLA has about 400 PLZ05/A 155mm SPGs. However they have large numbers of SPGs in the 122mm calibre across a variety of other tracked, wheeled and truck based platforms.

In terms of artillery calibres, they've been standardizing to a combination of 155mm and 122mm with all of their new SPGs.


I'm not sure as to what the rationale for continuing to operate Type 66s are, but I suspect it likely has to do with cost, which I imagine on some level probably makes continuing to operate 152mm ammunition a logical one. Over time, and with more money, I expect full standardization to 155mm and 122mm.
(Not to mention the PLA still operates a good number of 152mm PLZ83 SPGs too)
78 units, which more likely translates into a prototype run. It can be reasonably assumed that all production stopped as soon as they got their hands on the 155mm caliber.
 

Bltizo

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78 units, which more likely translates into a prototype run. It can be reasonably assumed that all production stopped as soon as they got their hands on the 155mm caliber.
I am not sure where Wikipedia got that from, however the actual production run of PLZ83 should be orders higher than that.
I.e. PLZ83s today should still outnumber the PLZ05s in service.

The relevant thread in CDF was incredulous when Jane's defense quoted a similar number of PLZ83s in service a few years back.
 

Viktor Jav

Senior Member
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I am not sure where Wikipedia got that from, however the actual production run of PLZ83 should be orders higher than that.
I.e. PLZ83s today should still outnumber the PLZ05s in service.

The relevant thread in CDF was incredulous when Jane's defense quoted a similar number of PLZ83s in service a few years back.
Well to be fair, even if the numbers are not 78 units as most accessible sources would state. The sheer lack of photos and videos highlighting their use, and that those does shows them in the hands of second priority units shows that these aren't very prominent in the PLA arsenal. Another vague sources makes the claim of 300 plus units in existence though, if that number holds true it would make the choice of the 155mm for the PLZ-04 an even more bewildering one.
 
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AndrewS

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@Viktor Jav

I think they've already run the calculation, and found that standardising on 155mm will not save them money. Particularly since a land war is unlikely, and other systems are more important.

I still think it comes down to insufficient benefit versus the upfront investment in equipping for 155mm, and having to write off the existing inventory of artillery pieces and shells.
This is all sunk costs that would have to be replaced.
We're looking at 6000 towed artillery pieces (at $1M each?) plus millions of artillery shells which have been stockpiled over the past decades.
I wouldn't be surprised if there are 10 million artillery shells, but I haven't seen or found any estimate for this.

Sure, if the Chinese Army did plan on getting into offensive manoeuvre land wars like the USA all the time, then it would be worth standardising on 155m for a single battlefront.
But that's not the case, and Army funding is limited in comparison to the funds allocated to the Air Force, Navy and Rocket Force.

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FriedRiceNSpice

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We're looking at 6000 towed artillery pieces (at $1M each?) plus millions of artillery shells which have been stockpiled over the past decades.
1M USD for a towed gun?!?! Even including a vehicle for towing and storing ammunition, seems quite pricey for a simple field gun!
 

Viktor Jav

Senior Member
Registered Member
@Viktor Jav

I think they've already run the calculation, and found that standardising on 155mm will not save them money. Particularly since a land war is unlikely, and other systems are more important.

I still think it comes down to insufficient benefit versus the upfront investment in equipping for 155mm, and having to write off the existing inventory of artillery pieces and shells.
This is all sunk costs that would have to be replaced.
We're looking at 6000 towed artillery pieces (at $1M each?) plus millions of artillery shells which have been stockpiled over the past decades.
I wouldn't be surprised if there are 10 million artillery shells, but I haven't seen or found any estimate for this.

Sure, if the Chinese Army did plan on getting into offensive manoeuvre land wars like the USA all the time, then it would be worth standardising on 155m for a single battlefront.
But that's not the case, and Army funding is limited in comparison to the funds allocated to the Air Force, Navy and Rocket Force.
In the short run sure, but in the long run it is definately going to bite them back in the rear.

Also they could have just made the PLZ-05 and the PCL-181 in 152mm form instead of just of the 155mm, which they did not and instead when ahead and build several hundred of them apiece. That should have been the more logical choice to begin with seeing as they had substantial amounts of 152mm guns and munitions already in existence. This is the most gregarious example of this oversight that insofar you have yet to give satisfactory answer to and which forms the main contention of my post. A gradual transition of say 50 to 100 guns per year is a reasonable expectation that would have taken just 5 years to give the PLAN a substantial towed howitzer strength without breaking the proverbial piggybank.

No matter how one cut it, someone in the army procurement department had cocked up and cocked up hard in this. And instead of coming clean and trying to cut the losses by simply letting go of either one caliber which can be done by simply allowing them to expend all existing munitions and then reboring them for the different caliber (152 to 155 as an example), they are doubling down instead to try and justify earlier expenditure, the classic example of the sunken cost fallacy indeed.
 
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Bltizo

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Well to be fair, even if the numbers are not 78 units as most accessible sources would state. The sheer lack of photos and videos highlighting their use, and that those does shows them in the hands of second priority units shows that these aren't very prominent in the PLA arsenal. Another vague sources makes the claim of 300 plus units in existence though, if that number holds true it would make the choice of the 155mm for the PLZ-04 an even more bewildering one.
I'm not so sure about the "sheer lack of photos" -- the relevant CDF thread has quite a lot of photos of them in service.

I wouldn't be surprised if PLZ83s still greatly outnumbered the PLZ05s in service. (Btw, the PLA's modern 155mmm SPH is PLZ05, not PLZ04).


I'm not sure why they chose to migrate to 155mm for their new generation of main howitzer either, but point is that the older weapons like PLZ83 and PL66 are 152mm and there are still a lot of them in service despite significant introduction of 155mm weapons like PLZ05s and new PCL181s
 

Viktor Jav

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I'm not so sure about the "sheer lack of photos" -- the relevant CDF thread has quite a lot of photos of them in service.

I wouldn't be surprised if PLZ83s still greatly outnumbered the PLZ05s in service. (Btw, the PLA's modern 155mmm SPH is PLZ05, not PLZ04).


I'm not sure why they chose to migrate to 155mm for their new generation of main howitzer either, but point is that the older weapons like PLZ83 and PL66 are 152mm and there are still a lot of them in service despite significant introduction of 155mm weapons like PLZ05s and new PCL181s
While that might be possible. having alot of them does not reasonably explain the desire to keep both calibres in existence like what the PLAN is doing now. Referring back 1 post above, the only possible explanation would be an oversight by those responsible for procurement.

It is one thing to keep the guns in service to just to use up existing stocks of munitions and another entirely to introduce new ammunition types for them.
 

Bltizo

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While that might be possible. having alot of them does not reasonably explain the desire to keep both calibres in existence like what the PLAN is doing now. Referring back 1 post above, the only possible explanation would be an oversight by those responsible for procurement.
I'm not sure if it's out of a "desire" to keep both in existence, rather the cost of replacing all of their older 152mm guns with new 155mms in a fashion we would consider quick.

For all we know it might end up taking them some 30 years to fully switch from 152mm to 155mm from when the first PLZ05 was introduced, in which case it would definitely make sense to allow the remaining 152mm guns to be capable of firing somewhat more modern shells.



The decision to procure new artillery in 155mm rather than 152mm would have been a conscious decision, not something made on a whim. I.e.: I think it is reasonable to assume some kind of benefit or preferable capability could be derived from moving to 155mm vs 152mm.
The question we need to ask instead then becomes one of "why is the shift from 152mm to fully being 155mm taking relatively long". And for that, I think the answer becomes a combination of cost and priority in terms of overall PLA funding.
 

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