• The PLA said the long-range fire force of the weapon hinted at its stronger combat capability
  • Chinese TV had shown footages of PCL-191 rockets landing in waters near Pingtan
  • A defense analysts said can hit the Taiwan air bases

China's recent live-fire drills around Taiwan to punish the island for hosting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saw the People's Liberation Army (PLA) flexing its military muscle. Now, the Chinese state has gone on record about the "strong combat capability" of a new long-range artillery used in the drills.

According to Chinese military mouthpiece PLA Daily and the Eastern Theater Command, the drills included the launch of a new "long-range, box-type rocket with precise hits on targets east of the Taiwan Strait." The long-range fire force of the weapon hinted at its stronger combat capability and the advancement made by the PLA in the latest round of armed forces reform, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported, citing the Chinese media.

The Chinese mouthpiece report said the quality of military hardware would "not only change the form and appearance of war but also the concept and cycle of preparing for armed combat."

However, neither the PLA Eastern Theater Command nor its mouthpiece identified the weapon. The PLA Daily report merely stated the artillery was first showcased in the 2021 International Army Games. But, footage by broadcaster CCTV showing PCL-191 rockets landing in waters near Pingtan, an island off Fujian province marked as the closest point to Taiwan, has prompted analysts to believe the PLA was talking about the PCL-191 rockets.

The PCL-191 rockets first found mention in the news when the Chinese troops used them to hit a target several kilometers away in a desert in the Western part of the country. During a test fire conducted in July, the PLA used the weapon in high-altitude, with observers stating the artillery could "hit any Indian military base along the Line of Actual Control."

According to the SCMP, the multiple launch rocket system can carry eight 370 mm rockets to hit targets up to 350 km (217 miles) away, or two 750 mm Fire Dragon 480 tactical ballistic missiles capable of flying up to 500 km (310 miles). Recently, images of an updated version of PCL-191 did rounds on social media, showing 10 rocket launchers of 300 mm in two five-pack containers instead of the eight 370 mm launchers in two four-packs.

Li Hongfeng, a professor at the PLA's Army Academy of Artillery and Air Defense, said long-range rockets cost less than tactical missiles and could be used to distract enemy defenses.

"Compared with the army's tactical missiles, long-range rocket launchers are more economical to use and have a higher cost-effectiveness ratio," Li wrote in a recent article for Globe magazine, affiliated with state news agency Xinhua, SCMP reported.

He said there is more flexibility in using long-range rocket launchers to effectively strike various targets at different ranges.

Military observer Wang Shichun too was quoted by South China Morning Post stating that the new type of rockets, which come at a third of the cost of missiles, could hit bases where most of the Taiwanese air force wings are located.

Chinese missile launchers.
Representation. REUTERS/David Gray