In April 2020, a remarkable debut was showcased on China’s state CCTV Channel 7, revealing an intricate report on China’s new defense industry developments. Among these revelations was the introduction of the innovative Chinese 155 mm self-propelled howitzer, known as the PCL-181. 

Although the PCL-181, previously named “Sau,” had made appearances, including participating in the parade during the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, the intricate details of this novel equipment from NORINCO remained concealed. This article delves into the fascinating features, capabilities, and potential of the PCL-181, shedding light on its journey from conception to adoption.

The Genesis of the PLC-181

  1. Early Beginnings
  2. The First Glimpse – 2015
  3. Detailed Insight – 2018
  4. Chinese Premiere – 2018

Work on the development of the PCL-181 began in the early 2010s, with the first glimpses of the wheel howitzer emerging on the internet in 2015. It wasn’t until 2018 that more detailed images surfaced, coinciding with its participation in the 12th International Aviation Hall of Chuhae. This marked the Chinese premiere of the 155 mm self-propelled howitzer, PLC-181.

The Power Behind the PCl-181

  1. Engineering Excellence
  2. Armament Arsenal
  3. Armored Protection
  4. Main Weaponry – 155 mm Cannon

Designed by NORINCO machine engineers, the PCL-181 stands out with its 155 mm self-propelled howitzer mounted on the PCL-181 wheel chassis. Officially incorporated into the Chinese forces in early 2019, this artillery piece is based on a Shaanxi chassis with a 6×6 wheel formula. The combat mass of the installation ranges from 22 to 27 tons, and it boasts a 400 hp power engine. 

The cabin accommodates a 6-person calculation crew and is both armored and armed with a 12.7-mm machine gun for self-defense. The centerpiece of the PCL-181 is its 155 mm cannon with a barrel length of 52 calibers, positioned at the rear of the chassis on a specialized platform.

Precision and Performance

  1. Optimal Range of Guidance
  2. Ammunition Capacity
  3. Diverse Ammunition Compatibility

The PCL-181 demonstrates its precision with a vertical guidance range of 0 to +67.5 degrees and a horizontal range of 25 degrees to the left and right of the machine’s axis. Its ammunition storage is located in the middle section, and its firing rate ranges from 4 to 6 shots per minute. 

The PCL-181’s sight range aligns with industry standards, but with the utilization of rockets from the ground gas generator, its maximum firing range surpasses 50,000 meters in height. The artillery system accommodates a variety of ammunition types, including sensitive laser ammunition and a satellite aiming system.

Global Reach and Export Potential

  1. Export Index: SH-15
  2. Entering International Markets
  3. Pakistan’s Interest

The PLC-181 is a domestic innovation and boasts strong export potential. It has already been assigned the export index SH-15 and is making inroads into international markets. Pakistan, a traditional partner of China, became the first buyer of the self-propelled 155 mm howitzers.

 Its introduction garnered significant attention during the international military exhibition of ideas in Karachi. The PCL-181 aligns with Pakistan’s strategy to modernize its artillery, and this collaboration reflects the growing global appeal of Chinese technical arms.

Unveiling a New Era in Artillery

  1. Sustaining Military Policies
  2. A Step Towards Modernization
  3. Pakistan’s Strategic Choice

The acquisition of 236 PCL-181 self-propelled howitzers by Pakistan in 2019 further solidified the significance of this innovation. The contract between Pakistan and NORINCO, signed in December 2019, underscored Pakistan’s commitment to enhancing its military capabilities. 

This substantial purchase included the howitzers and comprehensive technical support, maintenance measures, ammunition, spare parts, and technology transfer. With each PCL-181 costing nearly two million dollars, this strategic investment reflects Pakistan’s confidence in the capabilities of this advanced artillery system.


The introduction of the Chinese 155 mm self-propelled howitzer PCL-181 marks a significant advancement in military technology. From its initial development to its global export potential, the PCL-181 showcases China’s commitment to innovation and modernization. As it finds its place on the international stage, the PCL-181 redefines the landscape of artillery systems, serving as a testament to the prowess of Chinese defense industry engineering.

FAQs about the PLC-181

  1. Q: What is the significance of the PLC-181’s debut on China’s state CCTV Channel 7?
    • A: The debut showcased China’s new defense industry developments, including the innovative Chinese 155 mm self-propelled howitzer PLC-181.
  1. Q: What is the main feature that sets the PLC-181 apart?
    • A: The PLC-181 features a 155 mm cannon with a barrel length of 52 calibers, positioned at the rear of the chassis on a specialized platform.
  1. Q: Which country became the first buyer of the PLC-181 self-propelled howitzers?
    • A: Pakistan became the first buyer of the PLC-181 self-propelled howitzers, reflecting the strong export potential of this innovation.
  1. Q: How does the PLC-181’s firing range compare to other artillery systems?
    • A: The PLC-181’s firing range surpasses 50,000 meters in height with the use of rockets from the ground gas generator, making it a formidable contender in its class.
  1. Q: What does the acquisition of the PLC-181 signify for Pakistan’s military strategy?
    • A: Pakistan’s acquisition of the PLC-181 demonstrates its commitment to modernizing its artillery capabilities and reflects its strategic partnership with China in defense technology.