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The PLA Have A Mine Clearing Humvee

January 19, 2021
Via Chinese media.

Recent footage of PLA exercises in northeast China served as a reminder how cohesive and well-equipped the branch operates in a territorial theater. Considering the extent of its borders, the People’s Republic does have three regions where it must be ready to deploy for a potential ground war. These include the long and forbidding border shared with India; the almost inaccessible terrain on the frontiers of Myanmar and Vietnam as well as the economically vital southern provinces; and there’s the ever present contingency of intervening in the Korean peninsula for geopolitical reasons.

The exercises involving PLA ground units early this month took place over open terrain and brought together combat engineering and maneuver warfare. This was apparent in the news clip broadcast by Chinese state media that revealed an interesting vehicle deployed for the occasion. China’s Dongfeng Motors is known to mass-produce a copy of the AM General HMMWV rebranded as the “EQ2050.” Pictured above is a Dongfeng EQ2050 mounting a multiple rocket launcher on its bed. The size and length of the 16 tubes on the truck suggest a 130mm caliber, which was once widely used by the PLA’s artillery units. During the 1980s the PLA still kept 130mm rocket artillery systems carried on both wheeled and tracked vehicles.

The same video clip showed the Dongfeng firing a salvo of rockets at close range. It turns out the munitions are for clearing mines and obstacles with bursts of white phosphorous. Of course, the PLA and its related infantry branches does have other specialist vehicles for getting rid of enemy fortifications. What distinguishes this Dongfeng rocket launcher from the PLA’s other types of rocket artillery is its size: the PLA’s rocket artillery standardized the 122mm caliber for medium-range fires while the 300mm caliber and larger are for long-range strikes. Chinese 130mm rockets are known to have very limited range, by comparison, an accurized 122mm rocket can reach targets 45 kilometers away.

China’s military industrial enterprises do have an impressive selection of lightweight mobile rocket artillery but their prevailing caliber is the 107mm that was standardized more than a half century ago. The PLA’s elite airborne brigades, which is under the air force’s command structure, does keep its own portable rocket artillery in use–the ubiquitous 107mm for the Type 63 (again) that’s seen enduring success in Africa and the Middle East. There are also portable launchers such as the FHJ-02 meant for softening enemy fortifications.

The Dongfeng EQ2050 is a bestseller by any procurement metric. Aside from the PLA, whose branches maintain thousands of these trucks in various roles, the EQ2050 is deployed with Chinese peacekeepers in Africa and is export approved for countries with strong ties to China. But just like the original HMMWV this copycat truck does have its shortcomings and its lack of armor against fragments and projectiles endangers its occupants. No wonder this decade saw a vital shift in the PLA’s approach to protected mobility as the ground forces augmented their vehicle pool with larger armored trucks such as the Dongfeng CSK131.

Another Dongfeng armored truck is entering service in significant numbers to overcome the abundance of soft-skinned transports that puts Chinese soldiers at risk. The CSK181, also known by its export approved designation the EQ2091, is a multirole tactical 4×4 whose design emphasizes ballistic protection and firepower–its main armament is a remote weapon station on the roof equipped with either a heavy machine gun or an automatic grenade launcher. Variants of the CSK181 are multiplying, be it as self-propelled artillery or rear echelon logistics.

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