Images released on a Chinese Defence blog last week showed the Chinese People's Liberation Army's new PHZ-11 122mm Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) on tracked chassis

by Peter Suciu

Images released on a Chinese Defence blog last week showed the Chinese People's Liberation Army's new PHZ-11 122mm Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) on tracked chassis. It is reportedly now in service with the 62nd Heavy Combined-Arms Brigade, LX14, 76th Group Army, Western Theatre Command.

The MLRS is mounted on the same tracked chassis as the PLZ-05 155mm self-propelled howitzer and PGZ-09 self-propelled anti-aircraft gun. The design of the PHZ-11 has been compared to the American-made M-270 with an armoured cabin at the front of the vehicle and a launcher station at the rear. It is operated by a crew of three that includes a driver, gunner and commander – all of whom are seated, and protected from enemy fire in the enclosed cab at the front of vehicle. It is fitted with two pods of 20 launchers that are arranged in four rows of five tubes each mounted on a power-operated turntable.

The PHZ-11 is just one MLRS in use with the PLA. Another new and far more powerful rocket launcher system was seen last October during China's National Day parade. It was reported to be capable of firing eight 370mm rockets a distance of 350km or two 750mm ballistic missiles some 500km.

Dubbed by the media as the "Type PCL191," it was reported to be a modular launcher based on the AR3 system that was developed by China for the export market. What was notable about the weapon system was that during the parade it appeared with almost complete anonymity in contrast to having the names of such hardware emblazoned on the side.

The Chinese PLA also employs the SR-4, which is the latest development of the Type 81, a clone of the Soviet BM-21 Grad. It has been in service with the Chinese military since 2013 and has also been exported to such clients as Thailand. It is equipped with two pods with 20 tubes each and fires 122mm artillery rounds. Unlike the PHZ-11, the SR-4 is mounted on a wheeled chassis. 

MLRS remain effect weapon platforms as these are used as "shoot-and-scoot" type attacks, where the launcher can fire and then change position quickly to avoid counter-battery fire. These need only a few minutes to be ready to fire and change position quickly.

While MLRS vehicles are now deployed around the world, the concept dates back to the Soviet Red Army's Katyusha, which was little more than a rocket platform mounted on the chassis of a work truck. The decision to begin production of the BM-13 was made just a day before the German invasion in June 1941. The new weapon remained a top-secret until it was employed in battle in July 1941 against the Germans at the Belorussian city of Orsha. From 1942 the Katyusha rocket platform was mounted on American Studebaker trucks provide as part of the lend-lease program.

On the balcony of Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York City, George Washington takes the oath of office to become the first elected President of the United States.

Today the American MLRS 270, which is manufactured by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, is in operation with the U.S. Army as well as in the militaries of numerous NATO partners including Germany, France and the UK, as well as by Israel, Japan and South Korea.