New Delhi (NVI): A year after launching military aggression on the Ladakh border, China is deploying new advanced weapon systems, including long-range digital rocket launchers and armoured vehicles equipped with howitzers, in the mountainous region besides conducting military exercises close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India.
In actions which can be termed provocative, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Xinjiang Military Command, which is deployed in China’s high altitude western regions, has recently taken delivery of three new advanced weapons systems, including armoured vehicles and artillery pieces, according to Chinese media reports.
The reports said the PLA is upgrading its arsenal to “meet modern warfare demands”.
Along with induction of new weapon systems, the PLA has carried out heavy deployment of troops near the Ladakh border in their training areas from where they had transgressed into Indian areas last year.
The Chinese troops are holding exercises at locations from where they can reach the Indian front in a matter of few hours, according to official Indian government sources quoted by some media outlets.
The PLA is also building infrastructure in China’s depth areas, which are about 75-100 kms from Indian forward locations at some points.
The development comes amidst moves by the PLA to replace its “outdated artillery with digital, long-range heavy rocket artillery” which “greatly enhances all-weather combat capability” of the Chinese army in the border region, according to Chinese media reports.
“A batch of new self-propelled heavy rocket launchers, which are highly mobile, fast-reacting, highly accurate, very deadly and jamming-resistant, recently went into service at a unit deployed in a snow-covered region at an elevation of more than 5,200 meters,” said a report on CCTV, the official TV channel of China.
These artillery systems “will be deployed for missions like fast deployment, seizing and control of key regions, and group assault in many types of terrains, including high-altitude terrains and deserts as well as close to rivers and lakes, under all weather conditions,” said the report which showed some visuals too.
At least 10 of the PHL-03 long-range multiple rocket launchers were delivered at a commissioning ceremony, along with other eight vehicles believed to accompany the rocket launchers for command, support and communications purposes.
“With the delivery of the new weapons, the unit switched from fully manual operated towed artillery pieces to digital, self-propelled rocket launchers, which made the unit transform its role from tactical into campaign-level for long-range precision attack,” Captain You Zichen, Company Commander at the unit, was quoted as telling CCTV at the commissioning ceremony.
Following the delivery, the operators of the rocket launcher systems immediately started adaptation training and tested the weapons’ technical and tactical performance, CCTV reported.
Another new weapon system delivered to the Command is a four-wheeled self-propelled howitzer, whose test firing was conducted in the Karakorum Mountains at an altitude of 4,500 meters, the CCTV said.
A report by js7tv.cn, a video news website affiliated with the PLA, said, “Dozens of a new type of armoured assault vehicle recently entered service with a PLA Xinjiang Military Command unit deployed in a snowy plateau region at an elevation of more than 4,500 meters.”
The eight-wheeled armoured vehicles come in different variations, with some equipped with large calibre rifled guns, some with auto cannons, some with machine guns and some with howitzer systems, it said.
Earlier this year, the Command received delivery of the first batch of newly- developed Type 15 light tanks, which analysts said excel at rapid reaction combat in plateau regions, according to Global Times, the mouthpiece of Chinese government.
Other weapons and equipment, including the PLC-181 howitzer and third-generation Mengshi assault vehicles, are also found in official reports, eastday.com said.
“The commissioning of the new artillery system comes with the arrival of spring to Southwest China’s high-altitude border regions, as the harsh cold season withers away,” wrote the Global Times.
“Observers noted that previous border conflicts often started in this time of the year. Last year in early May, India started to purposefully cross the Line of Actual Control in Galwan Valley and attempted to unilaterally change the status quo, which eventually led to a months-long border standoff, including a fatal confrontation,” it added.
It was in May last year when India detected amassing of Chinese troops and their forward mobilisation at various places in the Eastern Ladakh sector of LAC, in an attempt to change the status quo of the de facto border which Beijing has been refusing to define over decades.
India immediately carried out the matching deployment and the eyeball-to-eyeball situation continues even after a year and several rounds of talks between the two countries at various levels, including NSAs, Foreign Ministers, Defence Ministers besides the military commanders.
Disengagement has been carried out in Pangong Lake area in February but China is refusing to pull back troops from other friction points – Depsang, Gogra Hills and Hot Springs – even as India continues to push it to do so to de-escalated tensions.