While defense budgets continue to shrink in other parts of the world, the demand for new weapon systems continues to grow across much of the Asia-Pacific region. Today, Gordon Arthur looks at the regional market for artillery systems and assesses who is locally able to build what. This article was originally published in the March-April 2014 issue of Defense Review Asia.
We shall begin our regional survey by looking at indigenous capabilities. There are currently four countries self-sufficient in artillery system production - China, Japan, Singapore and South Korea, and we shall look at their offerings in turn.
As the world's largest armed force, and one that continues to rise at a stunning rate - for the coming year China announced a 12.2% hike in its defence budget to US $132 billion - the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is enamoured with SPH systems. In total, China owns 6,000+ towed artillery pieces and 1,700 SPHs. The PLA has traditionally operated Soviet 122mm, 130mm and 152mm artillery calibres, although its newest SPH is notable for being of 155mm calibre. This signals that China is switching over to 155mm for future designs. The system in question is the 35-tonne PLZ05 (Type 05) from NORINCO, which features an U52 gun. It can fire laser-guided munitions based on the Russian Krasnopol design, with the WS-35 round reputedly having a 1OOkm range.
Also new for the PLA is the 22.5-ton PLZ07 (Type 07) 122mm SPH introduced by NORINCO in 2007. China has also brought the PLL05 120mm mortar howitzer into service, this being based on a WZ551 6x6 chassis; it was first noticed deployed in 2008. China also has systems available for export, primarily through the state-owned firm NORINCO. China has sold PLZ45 155mm SPHs to Algeria, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, this type being a forerunner to the PLA's own PLZ05.
As part of its post-Cold War reorganisation, Japan is drastically reducing the number of main battle tanks (MBD and artillery pieces in the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force (JGSDF) inventory. The National Defence Program Guidelines (NDPG) released in 2010 reduced the number of MBTs and artillery pieces from 600 units to 400 each (drastically down from mandated levels of 900 in 2004). However, according to the latest NDPG of late 2013, MBT and artillery numbers will be pruned even further to 300 respectively. The JGSDF's artillery force current y relies on the Type g9 155mm SPH (54 units built from 1999- 2005), M11OA2 203mm SPH (91 units licencebuilt) and FH-70 155mm towed howitzer (479 licence-built from 1983-2001). The Type 99 from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries boasts an U52 gun offering a 40km range. The JGSDF also possesses 45 examples of the American-designed M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), these having been assembled locally by IHI Aerospace.
Singapore has inducted two artillery systems built by ST Kinetics (STK) and developed in conjunction with the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) - the Pegasus 155mm towed howitzer and Primus 155mm SPH, though neither has achieved exports. Both feature an U39 gun. The compact SSPH 1 Primus weighs 28 tonnes and it entered service in 2004. The 5,500kg Pegasus, meanwhile, can be airlifted by CH-47 helicopter and about 18 units are in service. The Pegasus has a limited self-propelled capacity via a Lombardini 9LD625-2 engine. STK is developing a new 28-tonne 155mm Advanced Mobile Gun System (AMGS) based on an 8x8 chassis, which would provide improved strategic mobility.
Artillery is essential for South Korea, which is confronted by the threat of massed North Korean artillery strikes capable of raining down 500,000 rounds per hour on the capital Seoul. Samsung Techwin is well known for its 46.3-tonne K9 155mm SPH, which is also being built under license in Turkey as the T-155 Firtina according to a 2001 contract. The Republic of Korea Army (ROKA) will eventually require 1,000+ Kgs, and several hundred are already in service. Armed with an 155mm/52 calibre gun, the first K9 deliveries occurred in 1999; and matched with K10 Ammunition Resupply Vehicles, the K9 supplements about 1,040 in-service Samsung Techwin K55 SPHs, a licence-built version of the M1ogA2.
Truck-mounted systems hold an understandable attraction to Asian militaries since they are cheaper to operate than tracked systems, plus their on-road mobility is greater. Modern systems can conduct shoot-and-scoot missions as easily as heavier tracked vehicles. South Korea is pursuing truck mounted systems in a major way as it seeks to enhance hundreds of older towed artillery pieces in a cost-effective way. Samsung Techwin generated the EV0-105, and the ROKA expects to induct 800 examples. The EV0-150 mounts an M101A1/ KH178 howitzer upon a KM500 6x6 truck chassis, while the fire control system is adapted from that of the K9. The weapon can fire less than one minute after the truck comes to a halt, and it can move off within 30 seconds of its final round. First deliveries are expected in 2017, and Samsung Techwin is promoting EV0-105 around the region. (end of excerpt)
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