The Chinese Army has followed the global shift and embraced the concept of a lighter, more mobile ground force. This is showcased by the adoption of such battlefield elements as the PCL-09, a 6x6 wheeled, self-propelled, artillery-carrying vehicle capable of delivering various warhead types at range. The system is believed to have appeared in or around 2009 and was publicly showcased in 2010 military exercises. The Chinese Army fields about six PCL-09 trucks per battery with these being assigned several accompanying support vehicles (radar director, Command Post, etc..).
The PCL-09 is offered for export by the Chinese as the CS/SH-1.
The vehicle component of the system is the Shaanxi 6x6 military truck which sports a dual-axle rear wheeled set and a steerable, single-axle frontal wheeled set. A central tire inflation system gives the driver the capability of managing air pressure to each tire unit depending on terrain. The driving cab is located in its usual place at the front of the truck with good vision all-around. The cab sits atop a turbocharged diesel-fueled unit used for drive power. Over the rear of the truck sits the 122mm howitzer which can be trained to fire in the desired direction. The complete crew complement of truck and weapon is five personnel. Armor protection is light, making the driver compartment and gunnery crew extremely vulnerable to all battlefield dangers.
The main weapon of the PCL-09 is the 122mm PL-96 (or Type 96) series field howitzer. It maintains its recoil mechanism and slotted muzzle brake as well as its semi-automatic breech loading device. The weapon is a locally-made/developed version of the ages-old Soviet-era D-30 system (detailed elsewhere on this site) which went on to see widespread service with Soviet forces and its allies during the Cold War period (1947-1991).
Like other weapons of this kind, the PCL-09 is used as a ranged solution capable of supplying ground forces with fire support. The mobile nature of the vehicle allows the weapon to be relocated, fired, and relocated once again in short order. Prior to firing, support legs at the center of the chassis are lowered into the earth to help absorb the inherently violent recoil of such a weapon. The firing crew has access to a slew of basic and specialist projectile types including High-Explosive, FRAGmentation (HE-FRAG), anti-infantry, smoke, white phosphorous, incendiary, precision-guided and nuclear/biological. Reachable ranges of the gun are out to 18 kilometers though, like other weapons of this class, Rocket-Assisted Projectiles (RAPs) are available which increase engagement ranges out to 27 kilometers. Approximately forty ready-to-fire projectiles are carried aboard the truck itself with additional supplies come from accompanying ammunition carrier vehicles.
The firing action is assisted by both a semi-automatic reloading mechanism as well as a digital Fire Control System (FCS). Setup of the vehicle and weapon system is under a minute with six rounds being fired within three minutes. The crew can then "button up" the vehicle for relocation and repeat the firing process somewhere else once more. This sort of mobility certainly frustrates enemy spotters, giving the PCL-09 a strong defense against a responding air attack at its position.