China adds new Mengshi-based recon vehicle and armored ambulance to its arsenal

As reported by David Wang on October 13, 2023, significant developments within the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) came to the forefront as two new vehicle variants based on the versatile Mengshi platform were spotted. These two distinct additions, a 4x4 reconnaissance vehicle, and a 6x6 armored ambulance, have emerged within the PLA ranks, signaling China's ongoing commitment to enhancing its military capabilities while using a unified platform based on its Mengshi vehicle.
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China added two Mengshi-based vehicles to its arsenal, a 4x4 reconnaissance vehicle and a 6x6 armored ambulance (Picture source: Twitter)

The 4x4 reconnaissance variant is equipped with small cameras on each side, acting as a laser warning receiver. The vehicle also features two smoke grenade launchers on each lateral side. Positioned on the roof is a 360° camera, possibly mounted on a retractable mast, which allows for comprehensive panoramic surveillance. In addition, the presence of a rear door indicates that it could potentially be used as a personal armored vehicle, able to accommodate more than 5 or 6 people, which is the usual number of people in vehicles with two side doors.

The 6x6 armored ambulance, a vehicle already in service with the PLA Ground Forces (PLAGF) for several years, has gained renewed visibility, facilitating a closer analysis of its design and capabilities. It is constructed on a 6x6 Dongfeng Mengshi CTL-181A chassis. The ambulance features two armored flaps on the front windscreen, which are designed to provide protection while maintaining essential visibility through strategically placed slits, allowing it to be driven onto the battlefield with the possibility of closely following troops on the front line. Additionally, the vehicle is equipped with a spare wheel mounted on the roof.

A series of features shared by both the reconnaissance and ambulance variants include a winch positioned at the front, a protective grille designed for the front headlights, four rear-view mirrors, and a schnorkel-type exhaust system. These consistent attributes underscore the strategic unification of the Mengshi platform, offering a range of cost-effective solutions and enhancing various aspects of military operations.

The Mengshi was originally a family of Chinese 4×4 MRAP/off-road vehicles developed by Dongfeng Motor Group, which later incorporated a 6x6 variant known as CTL-181A. These vehicles offer excellent off-road capabilities and can operate in challenging terrains, including plateau areas at altitudes above 5,000 m, making it ideal for rapid deployment and mobile assault missions, particularly in border areas like the northern Himalayas.

By adopting the unified Mengshi platform, the Chinese Armed Forces gain cost-efficiency by reducing the need to design and manufacture entirely separate vehicles for various roles. This approach results in significant savings in research, development, production, and maintenance. Standardizing the platform streamlines logistics and maintenance processes, allowing for standardized spare parts, training, and support equipment, contributing to cost-effective fleet maintenance.

The versatility of a unified platform is a key advantage, enabling the Chinese army to adapt the same platform for various roles through equipment and configuration changes. This adaptability significantly enhances the military's rapid deployment capabilities, allowing for the deployment of various equipment types, such as reconnaissance vehicles, armored ambulances, self-propelled howitzers, multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), mortars, and more on a common chassis, as demonstrated in this previous article.

Standardizing platforms also promotes interoperability within the military, simplifying communication, command, and control systems, as personnel are already familiar with the base platform. Common training for soldiers and operators reduces the learning curve when transitioning between different vehicle types, making the military more efficient and capable.