Artillery: 120mm Mortar In A Box


October 9, 2017: A Finnish company has developed a novel design for a mobile 120mm mortar; mounting the mortar, fire control gear and a hundred rounds of ammunition in a standard 20 foot shipping container. A three man crew operates the mortar from the container, which weighs about ten tons loaded with the mortar, ammo and fire control equipment. The containerized mortar has been tested operating from the back of a truck, a ship or simply placed on the ground. Firing from the container the mortar can hit targets up to 10 kilometers away and fire up to ten shells a minute.

A key technology for making this work is new recoil reduction systems developed in Israel. Thus Israel has produced lightweight 120mm mortars that can be mounted in the back of a hummer type vehicle. The innovative recoil system reduces the recoil enough to allow it to be fired from lighter (under six ton) vehicles. The soft recoil system reduces the force of the recoil over 90 percent. The rate of fire is also reduced a bit (from 20 to 16 rounds a minute) but with the use of GPS guided shells this is less of a factor.

The Israelis also developed a computer controlled turntable that receives target electronically from forward observers and quickly positioned the 120mm tube to put the shells on the target within minutes of a request. The system fires 20 rounds in two minutes and uses a GPS assisted fire control system to provide accuracy comparable to any other artillery system.

The 120mm shells are also about half the weight of 155mm ones but are often preferred over 155mm howitzers because the mortar is lighter, faster firing, more mobile and, with the right ammunition, just as destructive as the larger howitzer. New GPS guided shells will destroy most armored vehicles. The mortar fired regular 120mm shells 8.2 kilometers, or rocket assisted ones 13 kilometers. This was not as far as a 155mm howitzer can reach, but was adequate to reach targets for the smaller (battalion and brigade) units that used 120mm mortars as their artillery. Air power and rockets were available to handle longer range targets.

With all this new tech the concept of mounting a 120mm mortar in a shipping container is no longer seen as odd and not worth the effort.