Type WA 021 / WAC 21

Manufacturer: NORINCO - China North Industries Group Corporation - CNGC  
Product type: Weapons & Weapon Systems  
Name: Towed howitzer  

The NORINCO (China North Industries Corporation) 155 mm gun-howitzer Type WA 021 (also referred to as the WAC 21) is very similar in many respects to the Austrian NORICUM GH N-45 gun-howitzer, to the extent that the carriage of the Type WA 021 can accommodate the ordnance of the NORICUM weapon.

The Type WA 021 is produced by the Heping Machinery Factory of NORINCO. It would appear that an interim 155 mm weapon known as the MF 45 was produced in China, probably as part of the development programme that led to the Type WA 021.

By the end of 1986, 10 Type WA 021s had been produced, two as prototypes and the remainder as preproduction examples.

The WA 021 was first seen in public during a defence equipment exhibition held in Beijing in 1986. The WA 021 system is based on a design supplied by the now defunct SRC International of Belgium headed by Dr Gerald Bull who also designed the GC 45. Details of this weapon are given in a separate entry.

The Type WA 021 was observed during the major military parade held in Beijing late in 1999 towed by a 6 × 6 truck. The PLA is understood to call this weapon the Type 88. Iran has taken delivery of a batch of 15 systems.

In 1991, officials of NORINCO stated that the WA 021 was in service with the People's Liberation Army (PLA). Recent material released by NORINCO has given the towed version of this 155 mm/45 calibre system the designation of the PLL0 Towed Gun Howitzer.

NORINCO has also developed and placed in production the PLZ45 155 mm 45 calibre self-propelled artillery system. This uses the same 155 mm/45 calibre ordnance as the WA 021 and details are given in a separate entry.

The first known export customer for the 155 mm 45 calibre PLZ45 was Kuwait, which placed an order for 27 systems and all of these have now been delivered to Kuwait together with associated fire control and support equipment. It is understood that these were followed by a second batch of 27 systems.

More recently China has developed, to the prototype stage, a new 155 mm/52 calibre self-propelled artillery system which has been referred to as the PLZ52.


The NORINCO Type WA 021 has an auto-frettaged barrel 45 calibres long, fitted with a multibaffle muzzle brake, which has an efficiency of 30 per cent. A screw-type breech mechanism opening to the right is employed and the chamber volume is 22.95 litres. The rifling employs 48 grooves with a twist of 1 in 20 calibres, and the grooves are understood to be three times deeper than the rifling depths found on comparable Western 155 mm designs.

The recoil system consists of the recuperator cylinder (top) and the recoil cylinder (below). The recoil mechanism can change the recoil distance with the variation of elevation angle so there is no need to dig a firing pit when the weapon fires at a high elevation.

The upper carriage includes the elevating mechanism, traversing mechanism, equilibrator and gear for traverse. The equilibrator is a pneumatic-hydraulic balancer. When the temperature changes and the unbalanced torque increases or decreases, the torque of the handwheel in the elevating mechanism will change. In this case the hydraulic pressure can be adjusted to obtain suitable torque of the handwheel in the elevating mechanism.

The all-welded steel carriage of the Type WA 021 is the split trail type and employs a screw jack firing platform under the carriage pivot. For travelling, the barrel is swung through 180 and held in a clamp on the left-hand trail leg. A walking beam suspension is used and pivoting dolly wheels are provided on each trail leg for ease of handling. A pneumatic flick rammer is located on the left-hand trail leg. Elevating and traversing systems are to the left of the barrel. Sighting equipment includes the M115 panoramic sight and the M137 telescopic sight.

Batteries of up to six WA 021s can be controlled by a fire-control system mounted on a command vehicle. The system includes a 16-bit fire-control computer, a command control console, a tape driver/printer, a company command relay display unit, gun display units, automatic observation equipment and a laser range-finder.

The Type WA 021 fires a complete family of NORINCO developed Extended-Range Full-Bore (ERFB) projectiles. These include ERFB HE, ERFB BB HE, ERFB BB WP, ERFB illuminating, ERFB smoke, ERFB BB illuminating, ERFB improved conventional munition and ERFB improved conventional munition BB. The improved carries 72 bomblets. These are of the High-Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) type and are designed to attack the vulnerable upper surfaces of armoured vehicles and are also highly effective against trucks and troops. The ERFB projectiles have welded nubs. Range with ERFB is 30,000 m and 39,000 m with ERFB BB. Dispersion at maximum range is stated to be 0.45 per cent longitudinal and 0.7 mil in traverse. Barrel service life is claimed to be 1,000 EFCs.

In 2004 it was disclosed that NORINCO had developed and is now marketing a new 155 mm ERFB HE projectile, which combines base bleed and rocket assist to enable ranges of 50 km to be achieved. The procurement of these new NORINCO 155 mm ERFB HE projectiles with rocket assist would enable the WA 021 (or the self-propelled PLZ45) weapon to be deployed more to the rear and therefore be well out of counterbattery fire. The main drawback of this type of artillery projectile is that there is a loss of accuracy as range increases.

The normal sustained rate of fire is 2 rds/min. This can be increased to between 4 and 5 rds/min for short periods.

According to NORINCO, maximum muzzle velocity when firing an ERFB projectile is 897 m/s and when firing an ERFB-BB projectile is 903 m/s.

NORINCO 155 mm laser-guided projectile

NORINCO is now marketing a 155 mm laser-guided artillery projectile that is similar in concept and appearance to the Russian KBP Instrument Design Bureau 152 mm Krasnapol laser-guided artillery projectile developed some years ago.

Details of this are provided in the entry for the Russian 152 mm self-propelled artillery system 2S19 (MSTA-S). This is now also marketed by Russia in a 155 mm calibre version, which has been exported.

Although fitted with a high-explosive warhead, NORINCO claims its 155 mm system can engage tanks, infantry combat vehicles and self-propelled artillery systems moving up to a maximum speed of 36 km/h.

In addition, this laser-guided artillery projectile can also be used to engage static targets with a higher level of accuracy. It also has a coastal defence application.

The projectiles can be fired from all types of 155 mm towed and self-propelled artillery weapons when fitted with the correct communications equipment. This links the firing platform with the tripod-mounted laser designator.

In a typical target engagement the target is first detected by the forward observer and information passed to the firing platform. The 155 mm laser-guided projectile is then fired and the initial part of the trajectory is carried out using a normal ballistic trajectory.

The forward observer illuminates the target using the tripod-mounted laser target designator that has a minimum range of 500 m and a maximum range of 5,000 m.

Synchronisation of information between the gun position and the forward observer equipped with the laser designator is critical to the efficient operation of the 155 mm laser homing artillery weapon system.

155 mm gun-howitzer with APU

The 155 mm gun-howitzer Type WA 021 is also available fitted with an APU. This enables the gun to move in to or out of the firing position as well as travel in the self-propelled mode for a short distance.

The APU can also be mounted on other towed artillery systems such as the NORINCO 130 and 152 mm types.

The APU consists of a four-cylinder diesel developing 110 hp. It is mounted on the forward part of the carriage giving the system a maximum road speed of 20 km/h. When fitted with the APU the complete system has a turning radius of 7 m and a maximum range without refuelling of 100 km. It can also be towed on roads up to a maximum speed of 90 km/h.

The four main wheels are hydraulically powered with the front wheels being used for differential steering.

In addition giving the system a self-propelled capability, the APU also assists in the automatic opening and closing of the trails, automatic lowering and raising the spades and automatic traversing of the 155 mm/45 calibre ordnance through 360. The version is also referred to as the 155 mm Auto-propulsion Gun Howitzer.

155 mm Auto-propulsion Gun Howitzer System

This consists of the self-propelled model integrated into a complete artillery battalion/regiment. These would have three batteries each with six weapons, plus battery/battalion command post vehicles, Type 704-1 locating radars, Type 702-D meteorological radars and reconnaissance vehicles based on a special version of the WZ 551 series of 6 × 6 armoured personnel carrier.

155 mm coastal defence system

For several years NORINCO marketed a coastal defence version of the WA 021. As far as it is known, there have been no sales of the coastal artillery version of the WA 021.

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Main weapon caliber (mm)

Type WA 021 / WAC 21 quantities:
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Type WA 021 / WAC 21