Ethiopia buys Chinese SH-15 (PCL-181) artillery as regional tension persists

The 32 Chinese-made SH-15 (PCL-181) self-propelled howitzers are arriving to late to participate in the Tigrayan conflict.

As the brutal war in Tigray winds down, the Ethiopian Army continues to reinforce it’s capabilities to be better prepared for the next conflict, likely with Egypt or Sudan.

Ethiopia has purchased at least 32 Chinese-made SH-15 (PCL-181) self-propelled howitzers.

The PCL-181 is a Chinese truck-mounted, 155 mm self-propelled howitzer used by the People’s Liberation Army Ground Force.

The 32 Chinese-made SH-15 (PCL-181) self-propelled howitzers are arriving to late to participate in the Tigrayan conflict.

This artillery system is highly mobile and can self-deploy over long distances. It is light enough to be airlifted by most medium transport aircraft including C-295, C-130, and Y-9 or similar military transport aircraft, making it a more flexible option for a country’s rapid reaction units.

Unit price of the SH-15 is around $2.1 million judging from the Pakistani export order.

The truck-mounted SH-15 (PCL-181) artillery system is fitted with a 155 mm gun-howitzer. Most likely it is a modified ordnance of an AH-2 155 mm/L52 howitzer. It is compatible with all standard 155 mm NATO ammunition, as well as indigenous ammunition developed by NORINCO. So this howitzer can use a wide variety of different ammunition. This artillery system is capable of direct and indirect firing. Maximum range of fire could be up to 53 km with a rocket-assisted V-LAP projectile.

The 32 Chinese-made SH-15 (PCL-181) self-propelled howitzers may have likely been purchased for the Tigrayan conflict however, they are arriving to late to participate. They will now provide critical fire support capabilities to the Ethiopian forces in case of another conflict.

Souring relations between Khartoum, Cairo, and Addis Ababa over a disputed border region continues to be a source of potential conflict.

The three countries have also been at loggerheads over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), in a regional dispute that involves Egypt.

On the other hand, Ethiopia which was gearing up for a major confrontation with Egypt -Africa’s major military power over the GERD dam project, now has to contend with Sudan’s assault on its territory.

In the most recent escalation, Ethiopian Air Force (EAF) in July last year scrambled multiple fighter jets in response to an incursion by Sudanese ground troops in the border region.

Sudan and Ethiopia forces had clashed at the disputed al-Fashaga border after the attack that killed seven soldiers.

Sudan said that it fired heavy artillery and recaptured several of its territories that were being held by the Ethiopian army. “Sudan’s army fired long-distance artillery” said Assefa Ashege, a senior security official in Ethiopia’s Amhara region.

The unrest is caused by a quarrel over al-Fashaqa, where the northwest of Ethiopia’s Amhara region meets Sudan’s Gedaref state which has been settled by Ethiopian farmers for decades.

In 2021, Sudanese authorities confiscated a large shipment of arms arriving from neighboring Ethiopia, in Khartoum International Airport.

The shipment of 72 boxes reportedly contained weapons and night-vision binoculars.

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