HIGH ANGLE HELL: The Infantry Mortar

10,000 Square Meters: Say Bye-Bye

A mortar, by simple definition, is a weapon consists of a tube into which a mortar shell is dropped. The shell lands on a firing pin, setting off a detonation which propels the shell out with a high ballistic trajectory. Modern mortars consists of a simple lightweight tube, supported by a bipod and resting on a fairly large base plate. Modern mortars (up to and including those that are 81mm or 3 inches in diameter) are portable, and can be used as artillery. Early on, mortar rounds had two major uses: illumination (to provide battlefield illumination at night), or obscuration (create smoke to conceal troop movements). But lately, a third type of round, high explosive, has risen to prominence.

Take the M971 120mm cargo round. Developed by the Swiss company RUAG (in conjunction with Israel Military Industries), and equipped with 32 M87 dual-purpose sub-munitions -- each of which will penetrate 105mm of steel armor and release 1,200 preformatted fragments -- one M971 is capable of lethally saturating a 100m x 100m area (10,000 square meters). With that kind of coverage, the old cliché "You can run but you can't hide" sounds downright factual. In another innovation to reduce the occurrence of dud munitions, each of the M87 sub-munitions is equipped with a double action self-destruct fuse.

The Flying Mine

Another mortar round developed by RUAG is the 60mm MAPAM (Mortar Anti Personnel Anti Material). Essentially a 1.8kg flying claymore mine, the 60mm MAPAM is packed with a whopping 2,500 steel balls arranged radially around the round's explosive filler. Upon detonation, the MAPAM uniformly disperses these balls, providing better coverage of the impact area and making more efficient use of the round's explosive energy. As described by RUAG, this explosive is ideal for light skinned enemy vehicles, parked aircraft and troops in the open.

The United States is developing a very similar round, dubbed the XM984 Extended Range Mortar Cartridge (ERMC). The ERMC is a rocket-assisted projectile that will have an effective range of over 12km. Compared to a conventional M934 bomb fired with a maximum range of 7,200 meters, that's over 50 percent improvement. The reason? The incorporation of an advanced high strength lightweight composite and a nose-mounted rocket motor that cuts in at a pre-determined point during the bomb's trajectory.

The 4-second rocket booster is built into the nose of the round and fires automatically 12 seconds after launch. Once over the target area, the ERMC releases 54 M80 mortar grenades that will cover an area 233% larger than that of a conventional 120mm HE round. It can also deliver a variety of payloads, including cost-effective anti-materiel / antipersonnel sub-munitions, enhanced screening and multi-spectral smoke, white and IR illumination, countermeasures, sensors, and other potential non-lethal munitions to ranges.

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