In our recent discussion about the merits, or not, of lightweight artillery systems one lightweight system we ignored (mostly) was mortars.
As we know, in the British Army mortars are an infantry battalion weapon, not the Royal Artillery.
In almost every conflict they have proven to be devastatingly effective and Afghanistan is no different. Apart from lethality, their principal advantages are simplicity, portability, relatively small logistics overhead and absolute minimal reaction times.
The latter is particularly important and well practised by mortar teams and fire controllers.
Awesome, as the kids say, with stoppage drills as a bonus!
Absolute pinpoint accuracy is not high on the wishlist in general and some dispersion is obviously an advantage which is perhaps one of the reasons precision guided mortar rounds have not entered widespread service. One would assume the launch velocities and resultant forces on a mortar round (or is it bomb!) are much lower than conventional artillery and therefore less of an engineering challenge but they still remain largely unused.
At the height of the Cold War there were a number of attempts at millimetric radar guided mortar rounds for the anti tank role, the Royal Ordnance Merlin for example. This was launched from the in service L16 81mm mortar to a range of 4km and it would seek its own targets within a 300m metre square.
It never entered service because of cost and the massed tank Soviet hordes never appeared.
Another example was the Swedish 120mm STRIX
Despite using different guidance systems both were aimed at the anti armour mission where the larger diameter STRIX would have been able to achieve a much greater armour penetration than the 81mm Merlin.
Moving forward, GPS and laser guidance technology has taken over from the anti armour terminal IR and millimetric radar but still the demand for precision guidance in 81mm mortars has not been overwhelming.
I don’t think it is widely known that the UK now has a precision option for the 81mm L16 mortar.
A couple of years ago BAE teamed up with General Dynamics to develop the Roll Controlled Guided Mortar (RCGM) and this programme culminated in a successful demonstration in the USA where 16 live rounds were fired at targets between 980m and 4,000m.
In each firing, the round achieved a CEP of less than 5m.
By using the existing launch system, bombs and fuses, the RCGM is aiming for the budget conscious buyer.
Seems to be just waiting for the purchase order!
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