180420 60mmIn modern warfare and conflict situations, lower echelon infantry cannot always rely on fire support from artillery units. This is where 60 mm mortars can come in handy for both defensive and offensive support, and they should be attached to each infantry unit of Company size. This type of weapon, owing to the advantages it offers, has been increasingly used on the battlefield these days.  

 

 

Many armed forces, however, don’t have 60-mm mortars in their weapons inventories, and this is not right. This weapon can indeed become a force multiplier for a tactical unit by providing it with the capability to conduct accurate indirect fire to short ranges. Maneuverability, agility and light weight are the advantages the 60-mm mortar can provide to make a small combat unit ready for action in all kinds of battlefield situations and scenarios.

 

For a mortar squad to be effective, it is important to establish adequate communication and coordination between infantry units and mortar-gun crews, mortar platoon commanders and the mortar spotter who would direct mortar fire onto targets using intelligence from forward observers. It is also important to train a few soldiers from each infantry platoon to observe and identify targets, adjust fire and expertly handle mapping and terrain data, and this training should be handled preferably by expert artillery and mortar gunners. This would eliminate the need to attach intelligence squads to infantry platoons and thus would to save human resources of artillery observation units. The aim should be to ensure a synergy between mortar-gun crews, platoon commanders and mortar spotters to ensure that enemy targets are dealt with quickly and to best effect.  

 

There is, however, one unfavorable circumstance that needs to be handled. Unfortunately, as the battle progresses and its intensity increases, unit commanders, at the tactical level, cannot see how they can employ 60-mm mortars carried by the Infantry Company. They perhaps fail to understand that the key mission for these mortars is to provide fire support to a unit in battle and to ensure a saving of combat resources during sporadic exchanges of gunfire.  

 

From theory to practice

 

USA. During the Vietnam War, the US Army found out that 81-mm M29 mortar units were not maneuverable enough on the battlefield, because the weapon they carried was too heavy, had relatively short range and almost always required to be used from fixed emplacements. This led it to be replaced by the lighter weight 60-mm M-19 mortar.

 

The M-19 itself was replaced by the longer-range Watervliet Arsenal M224 series mortar that was developed in 1970 and commissioned by the US Army in 1978.  

 

For maximum operational efficiency, a crew of three or four is recommended for this weapon, including the mortar-gun crew leader, gunner, assistant gunner, and ammunition man. The M224 is designed to be transported in Platoon’s vehicles in order to lighten the mortar crew’s load and to ensure that the weapon and its ammunition remain intact while in transit. In the battlefield conditions where transport is unavailable, the mortar would be dismounted and carried to the firing position by its crew.

 

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The M224 mortar can fire a variety of ammunition types, including standard practice and training rounds, smoke and illumination projectiles, and high-explosive munitions.

 

The M224 mortar saw service in the Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq. A total of 2,300 units were produced over its production lifespan.  

 

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M224 60mm Lightweight Company Mortar System

 

In 2012, an improved M224A1 version began to be fielded by the US Army and Marines Corps. This mortar is sufficiently stable to be fired without a bipod, and the fuzing for the mortar ammunition provides time-commanded air burst and impact fuzing options.

 

Austria. Hirtenberger Defense Systems (HDS) is a leading developer, manufacturer and supplier of mortars for mounted infantry and commando units. The HDS M6C-210 mortar system was specifically designed for commando forces operating in challenging terrains (mountains, jungles, deserts as well as urban environments). A compact, highly mobile, easy-maintenance and easy-handling weapon system, the M6C-210 mortar is fitted out with a dual-mode sight enabling it to be fired from a horizontal position. Operated by a crew of one or two, it can fire all of the most widely used 60mm mortar rounds. The M6C-210 had won renown for its service during the war in Afghanistan. It is operational with the armed forces of Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Chile, and Greece.

 

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Israel. The Soltam company is producing the 60-mm mortar system C08, which comes in two versions, the Standard and Commando. The two differ from each other by way of the mass, barrel length, type of the sight used, and the number of personnel required to operate them. The Standard variant uses an image intensification sight, while the Commando employs an iron sight. The Commando weighs 17 kg ready to fire, and can deliver 1.54 kg rounds out to 2,500 m. The crew is set at 2-3 persons for the Standard and 1-2 persons for the Commando.

 

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The HDS 60mm Commando Mortar M6C

 

Different physical and performance characteristics of the two mortar systems imply they have different combat capabilities (maneuverability and the amount of firepower delivered) and are applied differently to various battlefield situations. Besides, the Standard mortar is suitable for integration onto the Merkava MK4 tank. The 60-mm mortar systems produced by Soltam are ranked by experts to be the best of their kind.

 

Russian Federation. In 1981, a team of engineers led by V. Korolev, S. Zuyev and N. Ivanov developed a silenced mortar featuring a 365-mm barrel, a 340-mm diameter baseplate, and a ball-type attachment assembly for the barrel. The weapon doesn’t require a sight to be aimed onto a target, and can be traversed and elevated using the assembly attaching the barrel to the baseplate. The mortar fires muzzle-loaded rounds developed specifically for this application.

 

A highly mobile weapon, it is capable of shoot-and-scoot tactics. Its specifications have been kept under wraps, but it may be fairly presumed that they are much the same as those found with foreign-developed counterparts.                       

 

 Ukraine. Zavod Mayak PJSC, Kyiv, has developed its 60-mm M60 Camertone mortar system in response to the needs of the Ukrainian government forces deployed down range in the Donbas conflict area. A light, highly mobile and maneuverable weapon, the M60 was showed off for the first time during a display at the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute in March 2016.

 

The M60 Camertone mortar was developed specifically for Paratroop and Infantry use. The weapon is intended to be fired against enemy personnel and vehicles sheltered in trenches and behind shields. In its version optimized for infantry use, it weighs 19 kg, has an effective range of 3,700 m and a maximum range of 5,500 m. The version for Paratroop use has an effective range of 1,000 m, and a maximum rate of fire of 25 rpm. It employs the EMS-1 electronic sight developed domestically by Precision Artillery Systems. The sight helps the gunner do his work faster and with greater accuracy. The M60 requires a crew of one or two personnel to be operated. Specifically for this application, a new 60-mm HE round with a 30-m kill radius has been developed.

 

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60-mm M60 Camertone mortar system is developed by PJSC Zavod Mayak

 

The M60 Camertone mortar, when compared to other weapons of its class, is considered by experts to be superior in range and rate of fire, as well as in terms of the human resources required for its operation.

 

Ukraine’s Military did not have in its inventory anything similar to the 60-mm Camertone mortar at the time the weapon was being developed. In December 2017, it was formally accepted for use by Special Operations Forces and later subjected to user evaluation in the Donbas conflict area.

 

The 60-mm mortar is one of the most effective, minimum essential weapon system that would be able to suppress hostile fire should the Russia-back insurgent forces resort to provocative or offensive actions in defiance of the Minsk accords. The provision of M60 Cemertone mortars for Ukrainian tactical units deployed down range would be a force multiplier and would enhance their ability to face up to the enemy.

 

 Denis PONOMARENKO,

exclusively for UDR  

 

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