Type 70-I

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Today, I’ll be talking about the Type 70-I, also known by its factory code name, WZ302, or PLZ-70. China has a large number of self-propelled guns that are for both domestic and foreign use, and this example is one of the early projects leading up to some of the larger pieces, like the modern day PLZ-05. So, this vehicle, to be very simple, is a Type 63-I APC chassis with a Chinese 122mm Type 54-I howitzer, itself a licensed copy of the Soviet 122 mm M-30 howitzer. This gun is currently in game already on the SU-122. With that being said, it is my opinion that this should be a lower tiered vehicle, but it could be given a faster reload to offset the lack of armor, since the rear cabin is open as opposed to the slightly cramped internals of a T-34 chassis. But, I’ll leave that up to you, the reader.

History

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A field exercise with 122mm Type 54 howitzers.

Although the People’s Liberation Army had plenty of artillery in the 1960s, almost all of it was towed. It was around the turn of the decade to 1970 that the PLA started to experiment with self-propelled artillery vehicles. These would be more useful since they could get to the battlefield on their own and begin doing what they do best in a much shorter time than it would take for a towed artillery piece. The howitzer the PLA had in mind was the Type 54-I, which was a 122 mm howitzer that had been licensed from the Soviets, and by the late 1960s was hardly scarce. The USSR not only supplied a license, but also allowed China to manufacture the entire range of ammunition it could fire as well, and as such, mass production began.

For the new vehicle, the Chinese opted for another piece of equipment that was being mass produced, the Type 63 APC. This APC had been developed in the early 1960s and was the People’s Republic of China’s first vehicle built without the assistance of the USSR. It was already being used in a number of roles, and could at least protect the crew inside from machine gun fire.

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The original Type 63 APC.

In creating the new vehicle, a gun shield was installed with about 12 mm of armor protection. The rear of the vehicle was open, with a compartment for the gun crew, as well as ammunition, but it was possible to put an awning over this area on the later WZ302B. The gun elevated -2.5° to 80° and could traverse 45° on each side, with a maximum fire rate of 5-6 rounds per minute. Later on, some vehicles had 2 banks of smoke grenade launchers installed, located side by side on the stern.

Before starting development on the vehicle, now named Type 70, also known by its industrial name WZ302, it was acknowledged this would be a stopgap vehicle, something to fill the role of a self-propelled artillery piece before something better could be developed. In 1970, a prototype was finally completed, and delivered to some troops in small batches. It didn’t go well. The Type 63, already underpowered and slow, was now even more strained under the weight of the howitzer, its ammunition, and extra crew members, about 2 tons. It should be noted this happened amidst the Cultural Revolution, which added to the vehicle’s troubling development. During training with the Type 70, it was noted to have had very poor maneuverability, it would often break down after a few tens of kilometers, and inside it wasn’t too pleasant either. Cramped, lots of noise, and rather hot, the interior for the crew inside was not the greatest environment to work in. Needless to say, the designers went back to work on the vehicle. Further development was delayed until 1973, when the Type 63-I came out, which was an improvement in elongating the chassis, and increasing the number of road wheels to 5, and in 1979, three prototypes with this new chassis were produced as the Type 70-I.

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The Type 70-I in use.

After a series of testing phases, including a 5,000 kilometer driving test, the Type 70-I was officially approved for service with the People’s Liberation Army. By 1981, it equipped PLA artillery units. But it was not produced in large numbers, only around 200 are thought to have seen completion before production ended. The vehicle has been completely removed from service, and can mostly be remembered as China’s first attempt at a self-propelled artillery vehicle, and not a bad attempt at that.

Specifications

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  • Crew: 6-7
  • Weight: 15.3 t
  • Length: 5.6 m
  • Width: 3.07 m
  • Height: 2.69 m
  • Main gun: 122 mm Type 54-I
  • Maximum firing range: 11.8 km
  • Ammunition stowed: 40 rounds
  • Maximum fire rate: 5 - 6 RPM (12 - 10 seconds per shell respectively)
  • Elevation: -2.5° to 80°
  • Traverse: 45°
  • Engine: 6150L Diesel, 260 hp
  • Maximum speed on road: 56 km/h
  • Maximum range: 450 km
  • Gradient: 60%
  • Side slope: 30%
  • Vertical step: 0.6 m
  • Trench: 2 m
  • Fording: 1 m

Sources

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  • Dougherty, Martin J. Chinese Tanks & AFVs 1950-Present. Amber Book Ltd., 2019., pp. 104-105 (Page shown below)
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Pictures

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1 Like

This has been on my wishlist for China for a long time. Would give them a nice SPG for the lower tiers. +1

1 Like

+1, suitable for br 2.0 as a fast HE lobber