Picatinny's many contributions have ensured the on-going development and continued incremental improvement of all mortar systems.
A mortar system is made up of a cannon (gun tube), a baseplate, the bipod or recoil support and a sign/aiming unit as well as its family of ammunition. A variety of special function rounds of ammunition have been designed and developed by Picatinny engineers to illuminate targets, obscure surroundings (offensively or defensively), destroy light armor and inflict causalities. Ammunition is typically dropped, base end first, into the cannon muzzle; a firing pin at the bottom of the gun tube initiates the primer which then ignites the propellant. The expanding gas from the burning propellant propels the round.
The U.S. Army currently uses three mortar systems; the 120mm M120/M121, the I-81mm M252 and the 60mm M224. Each includes the weapon, the fire control systems and the ammunition. The 120mm system also includes the M121 carrier-mounted system as well as the M120 ground emplaced system transported by a trailer.
Examples of Mortar Systems Being Developed and/or Fielded by Picatinny
The 120mm Mortar System provides close in and continuous indirect fire support to maneuver forces. It is capable of rapid response, which is critical since a mortar platoon must move frequently to avoid counterfire. This mortar, used by mechanized infantry, armor and cavalry units, increases range, lethality, illumination and smoke screening effectiveness over the mortar it replaces. The 120mm mortar system fielded two versions: the M121, mounted in the M1064A3 and the M120 towed on the M1100 Trailer. Both use the M298 Cannon Tube. Picatinny is currently working on advancements to the 120mm such as replacing the optical sight and current ballistic computer with the Mortar Fire Control System (MFCS) which would reduce the time for "first round fired" from the present eight minutes to less than one minute without the crew having to leave the vehicle; and, reducing the weight of the M120 thereby eventually eliminating the M1100 trailer.
The mission of the I-81 M252 Mortar System is to provide long-range indirect fire support to light infantry forces, air assault and/or airborne battalions. Missions supported by the I-81 mm range from offensive and defensive to retrograde, reconnaissance and security. Picatinny upgrades to the system will include MFCS, weight reduction and upgraded systems munitions that will make the illumination virtually invisible to the naked eye.
The wartime mission of the 60mm M224 Lightweight Company Mortar System is to provide long-range fire support to the company. It is ideally situated to support airborne, air assault, mountain, ranger, Special Operation Forces and light infantry units. Missions supported at this level are movement to contact, attack, raid, ambush, reconnaissance/security, defend and retrograde. The 60mm mortar system like the 80mm system, will integrate lightweight material and an IR illuminating round in future designs to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of both of these systems.
The 120mm Extended Range Mortar Cartridge (ERMC), designated XM984, provides the maneuver battalion with an overmatching lethality against a variety of targets. It is patterned after the artillery Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munition (DPICM) rounds and employs in-flight assist. Extended range capability of 12km is provided by use of the high-performance, advanced, post-launch tractor type rocket assist propulsion unit. Its lethality is almost twice that of the 120mm High Explosive round. The combination of greater lethality to greater range will assure maneuver domination and will free longer-range weapons to attack deeper targets. The XM984 also enhances the mortar system by increasing lethality at great efficiency, lightening system weight and reducing operation personnel. This results in a reduction of the logistic burden and operation cost. The XM984 complements Precision Guided Mortar Munitions (PGMM) capabilities of M120 and M121 mortar systems and future infantry vehicles.
The Mortar Fire Control System (MFCS) being developed at Picatinny under the current modernization effort will bring mortars into the digitized battlefield. It will also substantially enhance the survivability, responsiveness and lethality of mortars. The onboard position and aiming determination devise will permit "shoot and scoot' tactics that reduce the probability of detection and counterbattery fire. The position determination and inertial pointing capabilities is more accurate than currently available and also reduces the time of fire from several minutes to less than a minute. This provides more responsive support to the maneuver elements and allows mortars to become a full player in the fire support architecture.
Mortar Training Devices have been developed and type classified for currently fielded systems. They provide realistic mortar crew, Forward Observer and Fire Control Direction Center personnel training at limited and full range firing. Embedded software within the MFCS will direct and score training routines using the crew's actual weapon. Individual and unit performance can be measured and displayed allowing immediate correction.
The Family of Lightweight Hand Grenades program is designed to leverage technology from other programs to reduce the weight of a variety of hand grenades and increase fuze reliability. Picatinny provides design engineering and project management support for specific grenades including concussion grenades, obscuration grenades and signaling grenades.