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PL-66

152 mm towed gun-howitzer

PL-66 (Type 66) howitzer

The ageing PL-66 is still the mainstay of the China's towed howitzers

 
 
Country of origin China
Entered service 1966 (?)
Crew 10 men
Armament
Gun bore 152 mm
Barrel length 26 calibers
Projectile weight 43.56 kg
Maximum range of fire 17.4 - 22 km
Maximum rate of fire 5 - 6 rpm
Sustained rate of fire ?
Elevation range - 5 to + 45 degrees
Traverse range 58 degrees
Dimensions and weight
Weight 5.56 t
Length (in travelling order) 8.69 m
Length (in combat order) ?
Mobility
Towing vehicle 6x6 military truck
Road towing speed ?
Cross-country towing speed ?
Emplacement 3 minutes
Displacement 2 - 3 minutes

 

   The PL-66, also known as Type 66, is a Chinese 152 mm field howitzer. It is a license-produced version of the Soviet D-20 howitzer, that was created during the early 1950s and is one of the most prolific artillery systems ever. It is unknown if this howitzer is still in production. Though this artillery system is still widely used in China and was exported to some countries, including Iraq and Sri Lanka. This Cold War-era artillery piece is often overlooked when compared to modern artillery pieces. Though the PL-66 made a reputation as a solid, reliable, and devastating weapon.

   The PL-66 is easily recognizable for its short barrel assembly topped with a double baffle muzzle brake. It uses a splinter shield similar to that of China's Type 59 122 mm gun (license-produced copy of a Soviet D-74). Though splinter shields are rear sights in modern artillery. This gun-howitzer uses a semi-automatic sliding wedge breech that increases maximum rate of fire of 5-6 rounds per minute.

   The PL-66 has a 152 mm/L26 ordnance. This artillery system is capable of direct and indirect firing. It is compatible with all types of ammunition, developed for the Soviet D-20, including fragmentation, High-Explosive Fragmentation (HE-FRAG), High Explosive (HE), concrete-busting, and illumination rounds. China also developed a number indigenous projectiles for this howitzer, including rocket-assisted projectiles. The Soviet D-20 was even capable of launching nuclear rounds, however it is unknown if China uses any.  Maximum range of fire is 17.4 km with a standard HE-FRAG projectile and 22 km with indigenous rocket-assisted projectile. The HE round penetrates 250 mm steel plate at a range of 3 km. The PL-66 is also capable of launching 152 mm laser-guided projectiles, based on Russian Krasnopol technology. China obtained this technology from Russia in the late 1990s. This laser guided projectile is designed to defeat armored targets and has a range of up to 20 km.

   At the time of its introduction the PL-66 was already dated, as the original Soviet D-20 was adopted back in 1955. Surprisingly in the mid and late 1960s this Chinese artillery piece was still superior to towed Western 155 mm artillery pieces. Until the 1970 US army used 155 mm and 105 mm howitzers, that were dated back to 1940s.

   This artillery system is operated by a crew of 10 soldiers. In case of emergency it can be operated by a crew of 6, though with significantly reduced firing rate. Maximum rate of fire is 5-6 rounds per minute. It takes around 3 minutes to emplace this artillery piece from travelling order. It takes around 2-3 minutes to leave the firing position.

   This artillery piece is towed by a 6x6 military truck, which carries the whole gun crew, as well as ammunition. A Chinese Shaanxi SX2150 6x6 army truck is typically used for this role.

   The PL-66 artillery systems are deployed in batteries of 6 artillery pieces.

   The PL-66 was succeeded by a PLL-01 155 mm/L52 towed howitzer. It was a 155 mm, rather than 152 mm howitzer, compatible with standard NATO ammunition. In the early 1980s China obtained an Austrian 155 mm howitzer and technology and production rights, alongside with technology of long-range 155 mm ammunition. Deliveries of the PLL-01 to the China's army commenced in 1991. It represented a move of the China's army towards the Western standards in artillery. Though the PLL-01 was produced only in small numbers. The PL-66 remains the mainstay of the China's towed howitzers fleet.

 

Variants

 

   Improved production version of the PL-66, sometimes referred as the Type 66-I.

   Type 83 self-propelled howitzer. It was modeled after a Soviet 2S3 Akatsiya self-propelled howitzer, which utilized a modified ordnance of D-20. This Chinese artillery system uses an armored tracked chassis with a modified ordnance of the PL-66. A semi-automatic loader and fume extractor were added.

 

 
PL-66 (Type 66) howitzer

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PL-66 (Type 66) howitzer

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PL-66 (Type 66) howitzer

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PL-66 (Type 66) howitzer

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PL-66 (Type 66) howitzer

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PL-66 (Type 66) howitzer

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