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Chinese Truck-Mounted Howitzer Already Export Success

China has fielded a new truck-mounted howitzer. The 155-mm PLC-181 was first displayed in 2018 and is believed to have entered service by early 2019. It won its first export order in late 2018, with Pakistan purchasing a significant number. The system is marketed abroad as the SH-15. The gun has a rate of fire of 4-6 rounds per minute and a range of 12 miles using standard rounds. It can fire rocket-assisted munitions up to 33 miles. The system is air-transportable on Y-9 cargo aircraft.

The PLC-181 is equipped with an automatic fire-control system, which increases the speed of aiming. Hydraulic spades are fitted for stabilization and the suspension can be locked to enhance accuracy. The howitzer can enter a firing position, fire six shells and change positions in less than three minutes. A semi-automatic loading system is provided. The cab can be equipped with a 12.7-mm machine gun for self-defense. The PLC-181's modest weight makes it suitable for high-altitude and mountainous operations.

Turkish Aerostats Deployed On Syrian Border

In July, Turkey deployed an indigenous aerostat surveillance system on its border with Syria. The Karagoz family of aerostats was developed by Aselsan for persistent surveillance, intelligence-gathering and communication-relay missions. The family includes aerostats of various sizes and envelope designs. Several indigenous sensor systems, including the ATMACA and Common Aperture Targeting System, are available. The Karagoz aerostats can be deployed for up to seven days at a time without maintenance.

Development of the Karagoz family began in 2008. The ground station supports real-time viewing and recording of sensor data as well as variable network communication capability. Integrated 3D task mapping is provided. Data can be transferred to the ground station through wired or wireless links. The Karagoz-L variant, the largest in the family, can monitor an area of 3 square miles from an altitude of 1,640 feet. The aerostats are said to be invulnerable to small-arms fire.

Former Commercial Vessel Joins New Zealand Navy

New Zealand has acquired a former Norwegian commercial ship to update its hydrographic and diving support capabilities. The Manawanui was purchased in 2018 and entered service in June 2019 after completing modifications and upgrades. The former MV Edda Fonn replaced the hydrographic ship Resolution and diving support vessel Manawanui, which had been retired in 2012 and 2018, respectively. The ship is equipped with a moon pool for diving operations and a diving bell with space for three divers.

The Manawanui has a flight deck mounted forward that can accommodate New Zealand's SH-2 and NH90 helicopters. A large crane on the cargo deck can lift objects from depths down to 3,280 feet. It can also be used to transfer supplies to or from other vessels. The Manawanui is typically equipped with a Seaeye Cougar-XT UUV, which is deployed from an underwater platform. A starboard door supports the deployment of uncrewed platforms. Two .50-caliber machine guns are carried for self-defense.

U.S. Navy Eyes New Laser Weapon
Additional new records this month include the U.S. HELIOS naval laser weapon system; Finnish GTP 4 x 4 multirole vehicle; and South Korea's in-development ASR-II-class submarine rescue ship.

Naval updates include the Bluefin family of uncrewed underwater vehicles; French Le Triomphant-class ballistic missile submarines; China's Yuan Zheng 64- and Yuan Zheng 66-class diesel boats; and Mexican Altair-class oceanographic ships.

Ground vehicle updates include the venerable M109 self-propelled howitzer; Pakistan's Al Khalid and Al Zarrar tanks; the Turkish Altay tank; and the Austrian SK-105 self-propelled anti-tank gun.

Finally, the North Korean KN-02 and Pakistani Hatf-4 short-range ballistic missile records have been brought up to date, along with the Joint Biological Agent Identification and Diagnostic System (JBAIDS) and the Aflatoxin and Botulinum toxin records.

U.S. Navy Charts Path Forward
The latest order of battle information for the U.S. Navy is now available, including run downs on major procurement programs, such as the FFG(X) future frigate program and MQ-25 Stingray uncrewed aerial tanker.

The Al-Qaida terrorist group record has also been made current.

Friction in the Eastern Med
Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and other powers are facing off in the eastern Mediterranean over disputed maritime boundaries and the promise of large energy reserves to those that can claim then. Weapons Editor Brody Ladd has the story in "Showdown in the Eastern Med."

Iran and Syria reached an agreement in July involving the dispatch of domestically produced Iranian air defense systems to fill a major weakness in Syrian defenses. Nations Editor Kevin Ivey reviews the situation in "Strengthening Syrian Air Defenses."

On Aug. 4, a massive explosion at the port in Beirut killed at least 200 people and injured thousands more. The blast was the result of a warehouse full of ammonium nitrate. Andy Oppenheimer looks at the chemical compound and its risks in "Deadly Beirut Blast Reveals Chemical Dangers."