China rapidly expanded high-altitude weapon systems after Doklam standoff, says report

Soldiers of the two countries are eyeball-to-eyeball at four locations along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh.

In this file photo, an Indian Army truck crosses Chang la pass near Pangong Lake in Ladakh region, in India.

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has expanded its specialised high-altitude arsenal of weapons since the 2017 Doklam standoff with India to prepare for future conflicts, a state media report said.

“Since the Doklam standoff with India in 2017, the Chinese military has expanded its arsenal with weapons like the Type 15 tank, Z-20 helicopter and GJ-2 drone that should give China the advantage in high-altitude conflicts should they arise,” the nationalistic tabloid Global Times reported, quoting anonymous military experts.

The listing of new weapons, which could be specifically used against Indian troops by the Communist Party of China (CPC)-controlled news outlet comes in the backdrop of new tensions at the border.

Soldiers of the two countries are eyeball-to-eyeball at four locations along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh.

Another group of border troops had clashed at Naku La in Sikkim last month as well.

Several rounds of talks between local military commanders have failed to end the standoff that began with a violent confrontation between rival patrols on May 5-6 near Pangong Tso that left scores of soldiers from both sides injured.

China’s state-run media has described the latest tensions as the worst since the 2017 Doklam (Donglang in Chinese) standoff that lasted 73 days.

The Global Times report didn’t mention whether the new tanks and helicopters have already been deployed at the border but indicated that they could be swiftly operationalised.

The report said that both the Type 15 tank and the PCL-181 howitzer - China’s most advanced vehicle-mounted howitzer, as per the report - were displayed in the high-elevation plateau region of Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region in a China Central Television report on military exercises in January.

The Type 15 tank is the world’s only modern lightweight tank in service, Chinese military magazine Weapon had earlier reported, noting it is equipped with a 105-millimetre gun and advanced sensors that can “devastate enemy light armoured vehicles in regions not suitable for heavy main battle tank deployment”.

“At Airshow China 2018, the Chinese Air Force unveiled the GJ-2 armed reconnaissance drone, which has a higher ceiling and can carry more payload than the previous GJ-1. Reports said it can be used to patrol the long border in high-altitude areas like Tibet.”

The analysts said that the “...specially designed weapons have boosted the Chinese military’s combat capabilities in high-altitude regions, enabling it to better safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

For its first military exercise for 2020, which was held in January, the PLA’s Tibet military command had “...deployed helicopters, armoured vehicles, heavy artillery and anti-aircraft missiles across the region from Lhasa, capital of Tibet, with an elevation of 3,700 meters to border defense frontlines with elevations of more than 4,000 meters,” China Central Television had reported.

Most of the disputed boundary between India and China falls in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), whose international borders include Nepal and Bhutan.


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