Following in line with Soviet-era armored doctrine, the Chinese Army has always put a premium on amphibious assault-minded vehicles and this is proven by such types as the PLZ-89 Self-Propelled Artillery (SPA) vehicle series. This 20-ton development, debuting in 1999, carries a 122mm main gun in a fully-enclosed turret and an operating crew of five. It was adopted by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China as a direct successor to the aging lines of Type 70 and Type 85 122mm-armed systems. The PLZ-89 is also known under the designation of "Type 89" and serves both Chinese Army and Marine services in the hundreds.
The 122mm gun fires various shell types out to 18 kilometers when using standard charges. Rocket-assisted projectiles can reach as far out as 21 kilometers. The gun can achieve a rare-of-fire up to eight rounds-per-minute and is digitally-controlled through a modern interface. Beyond this armament fit is a single 12.7mm Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) fitted to the roof to serve in the air space denial role.
Drive power is from a single 12V150L 12-cylinder liquid-cooled, diesel-fueled engine outputting 450 horsepower. Road speeds can reach 60 kmh and driving ranges are out to 500 kilometers. A torsion bar suspension system provides better off-road capability.
It is the fully amphibious nature (some preparation is required) of the PLZ-89 that makes it a unique component of any Chinese amphibious assault operation. This quality allows the vehicle to be launched close-to-shore and make its way to the beach to begin assailing key enemy defensive positions more inland in support of advancing, fast-moving marine elements. The turret offers a full 360-degree rotation as well as limited elevation but adds tactical flexibility. The crew is given an NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) protection suite as well as an automated fire suppression system should an onboard fire threaten the crew and ammunition stock. Smoke grenade dischargers help to shield the vehicle from enemy eyes.
Armor protection for crew and systems alike is only up to small arms fire and artillery spray. As such, the vehicle is not intended for direct frontline combat and instead serves a behind-the-frontlines role.