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The PLA’s PCL-181 advanced vehicle-mounted howitzer weighs about 20 tonnes. Photo: Handout

China sends in 100 rocket launchers to fortify border with India

  • Both sides send more supplies to high-altitude areas as winter approaches and boundary talks falter
  • PLA has the edge but weather is the real enemy, analyst says
China has deployed more than 100 advanced long-range rocket launchers to its high-altitude borders with India, according to a source close to the Chinese military, as the two sides remain deadlocked over their protracted boundary disputes.
The source said the People’s Liberation Army was ramping up defences in preparation for the Himalayan winter and in response to the Indian Army’s deployment of three regiments with M777 ultra-light howitzers along the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.

“The PLA has deployed more than 100 PCL-181 light, truck-mounted howitzers along borders with India. The firing range of this Chinese-developed launcher is double that of the M777,” the source said.

“The latest development of the border talks reminded the PLA to remain vigilant even though winter is coming.”


India releases footage of troops at China-India border in July ahead of India-China military talks

India releases footage of troops at China-India border in July ahead of India-China military talks
In yet another round of border talks earlier this month, PLA military commanders failed to persuade their Indian counterparts to pull back more troops from the strategic area in the high-altitude Depsang Plains, Bloomberg reported on Monday.

With no resolution in sight and winter on the way, Chinese and Indian troops have been stockpiling supplies, as the region becomes inaccessible.

As part of those preparations, both sides have been fortifying their border defences with the short-range weapons in recent months.

Indian media outlets reported in September that the Indian Army had used helicopters to deploy the M777s to the front line, while other heavier artillery guns were transported in via roads built in the past few years.

And in China, state broadcaster CCTV reported in August that PCL-181s had been deployed at the border. The report said the 181 was only 20 tonnes so the PLA’s biggest military transport aircraft could carry at least two and other supplies to front lines in one flight.

China has also been equipping troops in high-altitude areas in the country’s west with long-range launchers.

In April, CCTV reported that another artillery brigade equipped with the more powerful PCL-191 vehicle-mounted howitzers, which have a longer range than the 181s, had been sent to an area 5,200 metres (17,000 feet) above sea level in Xinjiang.

The PCL-191 launcher can carry bigger rounds than ones loaded by the PCL-181, extending its firing range up to 500km (310 miles), according to Chinese military magazine, Modern Ships.

Macau-based military expert Antony Wong Tong said China had the advantage with both powerful short and long-range launchers in the border area.

China, India deadlocked over troops near key Himalayan pass

“In terms of weapons and equipment, the PLA has overwhelming superiority … but the most challenging enemy in the winter is not weapons, but the weather,” Wong said.

Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy, associate professor at Nalanda University, said the Indian military had also made contingency preparations for the winter deployment.

“India is mindful of numerical asymmetry with the PLA. So, rather than matching numbers, India’s focus has been tapping technology,” he said, adding that the Indian military has a huge experience in the winter conditions.


PLA forces conduct drill in Tibet: experts call it a warning to China’s neighbour India

PLA forces conduct drill in Tibet: experts call it a warning to China’s neighbour India

Beijing-based military expert Zhou Chenming said the PLA’s Western Theatre Command, which oversees the borders with India, had increased grain storage in frontline observation posts along the LAC for the winter.

“Enough food, water and other supplies to feed the troops for up to four months should be delivered to troops stations in the mountains as traffic will be cut from November,” Zhou said.

“The first priority of the PLA soldiers is to learn how to survive on their own during the winter.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: 100 rocket launchers sent to India border