On the modern, mechanized and digitized battlefield, self-propelled (SP) artillery is important and this fact is recognized by the respective armies of China and India. Self-propelled artillery is armored and mobile, two important considerations for surviving in an environment where cruise missiles, guided bombs and other artillery rockets or rounds might respond to a field gun that reveals its position and starts firing. China and India are both rising powers with a history of conflict and overlapping fields of ambition, so it is entirely possible that the merits of their choices in self-propelled artillery will be tested at some point in the future.
China’s main SP system is the Type 83 152 mm gun/howitzer. It can manage a speed of 35 mph on the road and 20 mph off it, with a range of 275 miles. The 152 mm gun has a range of almost 19,000 yards with its standard ammunition, but it can reach 33,000 yards with its rocket-propelled rounds. The Chinese have been building these SP systems since the early 1980s, and each comes with a 12.7 mm machine gun and an RPG to protect them from close attack. In addition, the Type 83 is of all-steel construction, making it tougher than most other vehicles of this type, which are often built in part with aluminum.
Backing up the Type 83 SP gun are a series of older systems based on the Soviet-made D-30 122 mm gun. While none of these are exact copies of a Soviet SP system, all are based on an old Soviet gun and use copies of Soviet-designed armored personnel carriers for carrier vehicles. The D-30 has a maximum range of almost 17,000 yards.
India’s SPs come from their twin military influences: the British Army and the Red Army. The big SP system of the Indian Army is the Soviet-made 2S1 Gvozika, which mounts the familiar D-30-based 122 mm gun, and can sustain a fire rate of 1 or 2 rounds per minute. The vehicle has a top road speed of 37 mph. The gun’s maximum range is 24,000 yards.
The light SP of the Indian Army is the British-made FV433 Abbot. Built around the British Army’s FV430 armored personnel carrier, the Abbot has a road speed of 30 mph and mounts a 105mm gun. The gun can fire at a blistering rate of 6 to 8 rounds per minute for a short time, but the range of those shots is a mere 19,000 yards.
While the Abbot is an excellent vehicle for supporting the troops and out-matches the ancient Chinese 122 mm systems, it is at the top where India loses out. Both countries have a heavy reliance on Soviet-made or -derived technology, and by that standard the Type 83 is a pretty good Soviet-style SP system. It out-ranges and out-hits its Indian counterparts, and in a better vehicle to boot. In a contest between lighter batteries of SPs, India would out-shoot and out-scoot the Chinese, but in that would only be until the Chinese big guns rumbled up.
Sources: globalsecurity.org/military/world/china/pla-inventory.htm; indianarmy.nic.in/; sinodefence.com/army/artillery/type83sp_152mm.asp