16 Comments
  1. Ken says

    Not quite the howitzer, but this is a highly effective and mobile system that can bridge the gap and provide needed cover fire in some tight places. 120mm is large and the Russians have been using since WW2. We have been mostly 60mm and 81mm, with a few 120mm systems. But they were in APC’s or stand alones, now you have the mobility that was needed.

  2. Observer says

    I was tangentially involved with the tests that resulted in the specifications for our 120mm low recoil SRAM. Think it was in 96 or 97 when they were trying to get some use from the obsolete M-113s, there was the idea of turning them into 120mm mortar carriers, so a group of us got “volunteered” to strip out the M-113, install the base plate and mortar, all the while never having touched a 120mm before. Luckily it was all rather straightforward. After setting it up, off the vehicle went to the firing range. We weren’t invited, and by then we were all tired, sweaty and greasy, so it was just as well.

    A friend of mine who was invited told me about the results later. The mortar shot well and accurately, but when the time came to drive back, the M-113 left both its’ tracks behind. :P The shock of firing apparently caused the tracks to misalign and it shed immediately upon movement.

  3. S O says

    M113s are commonly used as 120 mm mortar carriers all over the world, albeit 360° traverse mounts are rare with this calibre on M113.

    Spear is pointless, for several reasons
    (1) unnecessarily small platform vehicle
    (too little capacity for crew, crew’s possessions and ammunition. Additional vehicles for this require additional personnel and add to clumsiness of the unit)

    (2) poor range
    (7 km is nothing remarkable for 120 mm; 11 km is something to show off.

    (3) Minimum elevation is a joke
    (almost no elevation range on the demo vehicle apparently)

    (4) still no all-round 360° traverse
    (poor responsiveness, cannot shoot without breaking a fine net camo)

    (5) 2 man crew
    That’s not a strength, but a weakness. You cannot provide support 24/7 with a 2 man crew. So you need more anyway. They proudly claim a small crew, but this is really only admitting that you need a second vehicle with additional crew members because this vehicle and crew are too small.

    (6) They outright lie when they claim Spear can provide the firepower that you expect from artillery units.

  4. Ace Rimmer says

    Although the concept looks great, along with some banal advertising that tried its best to be slick, and failed. The beauty of the mortar is its mechanical simplicity and ruggedness. The Spear system turns it into a complex piece of equipment.

    What’s deceptive on the video is the amount of rounds that can be carried on an armoured Humvee, it doesn’t look many! Also with a two man crew per vehicle, who secures the area? I’m with S O on this one, its a one trick pony for shoot and scoot ops. I’d go for a tried and tested, towed 120 mm mortar with support vehicles and a well trained crew any day.

  5. Chris says

    SO, Ace – I look at it a little differently – it doesn’t need to be in a small 4×4; in my collection of designs I would choose to fit it in the wheeled and tracked APC type vehicles, and be sure to allow the mortar to fold low enough for roof hatches to cover. As for rounds, I spent a short while looking at PGMM 120mm systems and those rounds were just short of a metre long, and weighed best part of 20kg. That’s something like 54 rds/tonne, which is interesting because 54rds would fit on a standard pallet in an egg-crate support. Therefore you would assume there needs to be space and access to get a standard pallet of 1t weight into the vehicle too. So as far as I can see a typical APC would still only have room for 3 personnel once mortar and one pallet of munitions were aboard.

    The reason to fit inside an APC? Simple. Hide in a crowd. I’d always liked CVR(T) Striker because it was probably the most potent of the vehicle family and yet without detailed observation it looked like Spartan APC. In a hoard (not sure this was ever tried or considered as deployment) Striker elements in a larger set of Spartan vehicles would give opposition forces a headache – determining which of the many approaching vehicles is immediately dangerous would be taxing, and opening up on as many APCs as possible would reveal enemy positions that the Strikers not yet damaged would retaliate against. Sometimes its useful to have weapons that look big & dangerous as deterrents, sometimes its good to have weapons that can deploy without raising alarm. In my very simple very civilian opinion.

  6. Observer says

    The UAE does operate a 120mm mortar off an RG31 chassis.

    http://www.army-guide.com/eng/product4037.html

    Doesn’t look too bad. 58 rounds in ammo, 3 man crew

  7. MSR says

    I look at this and see a first world version of a third world ‘technical’. Slap a Toyota badge on front and hang a guy wearing a shemagh off the back as you drive at high speed through your local hell hole and the thing will fit right in.

  8. monkey says

    @MSR
    I think you got it in one , its a poor mans (third world Army) artillery support, buy the standalone unit and mount it in on whatever you run as wheels or tracks be it an Toyota Pick up or 110″ Land rover , you can dash the few you can afford at speed to were ever the ‘rebels’ are challenging your beneficent rule as the ‘freely’ elected Leader (as will be their son and theirs thereafter) .
    I would still go Russian or Chinese towed though , cheaper and plenty of ammo available from your friendly local gun runner “just $2000 per tonne of AK’s to you my friend’ :-)

  9. SlightlyAgricultural says

    If we’re playing fantasy weapons, what about this system as a “mission module” for the Foxhound (I seem to remember slick adverts for those too, once upon a time). I don’t know if the chassis could take the claimed 10t recoil load, but if they can get a hummer to work…

    Does beg the question what you’d do with it though? You’d need another Foxhound just to carry blokes and kit, but then where do the bombs come from? Unless you want yet another mission module that takes 2 blokes and a stack of 120mm rounds on the back.

    Or you pair 1x Foxhound mortar variant (I’m coining it as ‘Longdog’ :P) with a Coyote; that would give you the extra bodies and an HMG/GMG & GPMG for force protection as well as some pallets of 120mm. Happy Days…apart from the fact that you’re using 7 blokes and two vehicles just to put a single (very expensive) 120mm barrel into action. Admittedly a very highly and somewhat self-sustaining one…

    Not sure how much it really offers over the venerable 81mm though. I guess with the whizz-bang firing computer it could be in and out of action as quickly as you can skid to a halt and bung a round in it / latch the tailgates and jump in. I could see that being seriously impressively fast. You could aso shove the same system on FRES UV variant if it arrives and have commonality between Mech and Armoured Inf, with 81mm as the (nominally) man-packable Light Inf option.

    Oh dear, think I got a bit carried away with the “what ifs”. Might need to go have a sit down…

  10. monkey says

    TECHNICAL DATA FOR TYPICAL ER 120mm MORTAR ROUND
    Weight: 14,6 Kg
    Total Length (with fuse): 699 mm
    BALLISTIC DATA
    Maximum Range (full charge): 8.000 m
    Muzzle velocity (full charge): 369 m/s
    PACKAGING
    1 bomb per fibre container
    2 fibre containers are put in a wooden box with:
    Volume: 0,058 m3 (0.72mx0.2mx0.4m)
    Gross Weight: 46 kg for two fibre containers

    Say transport of 48 wooden boxes = 96 rounds gives a foot print of 2m sq stacked 2 high and a weight of 2.2 tonnes .That’s the back of a Foxhound resupply full up.However that’s also the best part of a tonne of HE that can be delivered over 200 sq km by 4 men and two vehicles(the mortar carrier probably has another 12 ready use). Not a bad backup and a lot of bang onto the bad guys whilst your combat patrol keeps their heads down and locked into position whilst their ticket to a 100 virgins arrives :-)

  11. Monty says

    I think the idea of a 120mm mortar is a very good one and I’d like to see the British Army adopt such a weapon. That said, I think the Patria Nemo system mounted on an AMV 8×8 chassis makes a lot more sense:

    – 10 km range
    – 10 rounds per minute RoF
    – 50-60 rounds carried on board
    – <30 seconds to acquire target and get rounds away
    – Fully automated remote turret
    – 2-3 crew
    – Excellent protection (on a par with the new FRES SV)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1qBLjzCueQ

    http://www.patria.fi/5b20e7004e56b899956f9524918fae45/Nemo_2008_6s.pdf

    The trusty L118 105mm light gun has a range of 17,000 m, which is a huge step up, so I don't think any 120mm mortar is a substitute for proper artillery. However, mounting a low recoil mortar on a suitable mobile platform is much easier than mounting a large field gun on a similar chassis. As the video makes clear, the crucial advantage of systems the Elbit and Patria Nemo is that they are extremely mobile so can redeploy very quickly to keep pace with an advance or evolving battlefield situation.

    I can't help thinking that a mobile battery of 120mm mortars (mounted in something like a Boxer, VBCI or Stryker) would have made quite a difference in Afghanistan.

  12. SlightlyAgricultural says

    Just watched the video (no media at work) and saw they mocked up fitting it to a Coyote already (something for the SF crowd?) and a 110 Landie. Bit sceptical about that, as the recoil looked pretty sizeable on the Humvee demonstrator and would likely shag something like a landie pretty sharpish – been issues as-is with the WMIK chassis cracking as full load for a big exercise is just to much for them, and those are already reinforced!

    There’s also the fact that whatever platform you use, there needs to be room for a full radio and ECM suite as it’s too risky to deploy without it (especially given recent legal developments). Which if you’ve seen the fits for the likes of Jackal or Panther eats up a huge amount of space. Never mind the sodding great ironing board of antennas. So trying to cram it into a tiny 4×4 is just a non-starter.

    I have to admit that 8×8 makes a lot of sense; more protected than a patrol vehicle, but a lot cheaper than a tracked platform. And you can drive it about without tearing up the roads and annoying the locals. As someone said before, 7km range is a bit short though. 81mm is 5650m if memory serves and 105mm is 17Km+, so it really does need to be ~10Km to find its own space in the middle ground.

    The other danger is being neither one nor the other; you end up with a platform not burly enough to keep up with the heavy armour but still heavy enough to need an A400m all to itself when you could airlift 2+ of a lighter PPV instead for that next Mali the Army is desperately hoping for… but that’s FRES UV in a nutshell isn’t it.

    I do like the idea of a VBCI mortar carrier though…plenty of space for one of our ballistic computer terminals (to talk to whatever runs the mortar), those radio/ECM fits and monitors for ISTAR/Combat Management feeds. And a RWS to give it some self defence.
    In current operations indirect fire has mostly been confined to basing in the FOBs and PBs; if you’re out of range of those fixed points you’re out of luck. Having a mobile organic asset like a mortar carrier following you around sounds rather attractive. Add in guided mortar rounds and you could be achieving CAS-like effects much cheaper and without having to wait around for the Kevin (as RT likes to put it).

    Probably want a crew of 4 though;
    Driver
    Vehicle Commander – so RWS can be operated without interfering with driving/mortars if necessary. And all that command lark.
    Mortar Controller – On the radio and computers, dedicated to pointing the mortar where it needs to go.
    Loader/Sprog/Gun Bunny/Wagon Bitch – Feeds the mortar, hits it with a spanner if it goes wrong. Humps the bombs during resupply and makes the brews.

    As someone else also mentioned, bigger crews makes for a better quality of life when it comes to stagging on and all the other boring niff, naff and trivia.

    So the weapons systems, ammunition and platforms are all readily available and in use with our allies. Which means it would be sensible and possible to do. So it will positively never happen because;

    A: We’re broke
    B: The Gunners and Inf would probably fight over who gets the new toy.
    C: That would be too easy.

  13. Observer says

    Monty, the difference in a light gun and a mortar is that one has a high trajectory, though I suppose you can elevate a 105mm to lob rounds very high. This means that a mortar can hit those hard to reach places like rooftops and behind fortifications. They both have similar but slightly different jobs, so directly comparing a direct fire piece to an indirect fire piece is a bit of “apples to oranges”.

    SA, if they are fitting it to a Humvee or a light strike, chances are high that there will be a hydraulic jack fitted beneath the vehicle which they deploy to take the shock of firing.

    Hardly a new concept, it’s been around since 2006. Possible to fit to Light Strikes, but not practical. Practical platforms would be the UAE RG31 Agrab or the Warthog/Bronco 120mm carrier.

  14. S O says

    ” in my collection of designs I would choose to fit it in the wheeled and tracked APC type vehicles, and be sure to allow the mortar to fold low enough for roof hatches to cover.”

    That wouldn’t be SPEAR any more, though. Or rather nothing special about SPEAR would be particularly relevant.

    Simply go with CARDOM; you get automatic (re)laying, 360° traverse, programmable MRSI (thanks to the laying) and the rate of fire can be the 16 rpm maximum that a well-trained crew can achieve (in daylight).

    SPEAR and SRAMS try to mitigate recoil (and SRAMS adds an unnecessary and not particularly fast autoloader) – this matters only on light (small) vehicles.

  15. Observer says

    SO, the “autoloader” isn’t for “autoloading”, it’s so that you don’t have to climb all the way up there to drop a round down the spout. :) The Spear uses a short barrel, the SRAM uses an ammo relay mechanism. Both are there for one purpose. So that the loader does not have to climb ladders with a 10+kg HE load in one hand.

    But you are right in the design target, small, light vehicles. The larger vehicles can do breech loading under armour, the smaller ones can’t.

  16. Chris says

    Did someone comment that they’d prefer a wheeled SP gun? OK I found this which is exactly that: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3a/Le%C5%A1any,_vojensk%C3%A9_muzeum,_samohybn%C3%A1_houfnice_Ondava.JPG Slightly bigger footprint than a Hilux.

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