Press commentary: Rheinmetall mortar systems and ammunition
Effective indirect fire for the infantry
The mortar is still widely considered to be the "artillery of the little man". And in fact it is above all the infantry that continues to count on it as a quickly available, effective, versatile form of fire support. Operational experience worldwide shows that dismounted combat troops and special operations forces require an independent, highly effective, indirect fire capability, even at times when joint fire support is available. In addition to its currently fielded 120mm mortar family, the German Bundeswehr therefore recently decided to reinforce its inventory with a 60mm mortar family, giving it a new lightweight indirect fire capability. Other armies count on 81mm mortar families. As a longstanding partner of armed forces around the globe, Rheinmetall supplies a wide array of mortar systems and ammunition.
The 120mm ammunition family – an entirely new development
Starting from scratch, Rheinmetall has redesigned its entire family of 120mm mortar ammunition. Besides insensitive high explosive (IHE), smoke/obscurant and illumination rounds, this innovative 120mm mortar ammunition family encompasses a newly developed propelling charge system. It is characterized by long range (up to eight kilometres) and extremely high precision.
The IHE round is optimized for use against semi-hard targets. Compared with its predecessor, the new shell produces significantly greater shrapnel effects, and – with the right fuse – is capable of penetrating reinforced concrete in accordance with STANAG 4536. The insensitive characteristics of the IHE round conform to STANAG 4170 criteria.
The smoke/obscurant round is optimized with regard to payload. It produces a highly effective multispectral smoke screen. Each smoke/obscurant round contains four smoke pods, whose design is based on the DM1560 in the already fielded 155mm smoke/obscurant round DM125. The smoke/obscurant used here is identical and therefore verified nontoxic. In addition, it provides equally effective concealment in the visual and infrared spectrums.
The infrared illumination round enables excellent illumination of the battlefield in the IR spectrum from 0.7 and 1.2μm, with a minimal signature in the visual spectrum for a period of 45 second at a descent velocity of <6m/s. The propelling charge system of the 120mm mortar ammunition family is based on Nitrochemie El propellant powder. It features excellent characteristics with regard to temperature stability, energy content, storage, and system compatibility. The powder thus contributes materially to the ammunition’s high precision throughout the entire temperature range.
The 60mm and 81mm mortar ammunition family
Rheinmetall’s 60mm mortar ammunition family encompasses service and practice ammunition, including IHE, multispectral smoke/obscurant and illumination rounds (visual and infrared). The IHE variant is optimized for insensitivity, meeting or exceeding STANAG 4439 specifications. For its part, the optimized 60mm IHE pre-formed fragments (PFF) round produces destructive force comparable to 81mm ammunition, even the round and the weapon both weigh less.
The new 60mm ammunition can be fired from lightweight commando-type mortars as well as from standard and long-range systems. With standard mortar, the maximum effective range is close to 4,000 metres; with a long-range system, this increases to nearly 4,500 metres. Fired from a lightweight special forces mortar, these rounds attain a maximum range of over 2,000 metres. Moreover, the new 60mm mortar ammunition family is compatible with all standard weapon systems in this calibre.
Identical in every variant, the propelling charge consists of the same El powder from Rheinmetall Nitrochemie used in the 120mm ammunition family assuring outstanding accuracy at all operating temperatures.
It goes almost without saying that Rheinmetall continues to stock a complete range of modern ammunition for the still widely used 81mm mortar, qualified and fielded in recent years by a NATO customer. It features insensitive ammunition characteristics that exceed the criteria in NATO STANAG 4439. Nontoxic, the smoke/obscurant variant assures excellent concealment in both the visible and IR spectrum. The illumination round reliably lights up the battlefield in the visible spectrum. If required, IR illumination and high-explosive PFF rounds are also available.
Mortar Weapon System MWS 81
Rheinmetall developed its new Mortar Weapon System MWS 81 on behalf of the Norwegian armed forces. It incorporates a carriage with integrated hydraulic recoil buffers, a customer-specific fire control unit, an operator interface and a base plate. The carriage weighs approximately 618 kilos; together with the base plate, the total weight of the system comes to 988 kilos.
The system is designed to be mounted on the CV90 infantry fighting vehicle. Target data can be entered via command and information systems, via various sensors, or manually. At the touch of a button, the mortar swings toward the target, with an aligning accuracy of under five mils. The carriage for the Norwegian programme was designed for the British L16A2 81mm mortar, but can be adapted for use with 120mm mortars.
Advanced, precise, effective and versatile, Rheinmetall’s family of mortar ammunition – a potential game-changer on the modern battlefield – makes the Group a powerful partner of the world’s armed forces. A high-tech enterprise dedicated to the twin imperatives of mobility and security, Rheinmetall is committed to supplying the men and women who make up our armed forces with the best-possible systems and equipment.
Zu Gleich, issue 2/2016 as of December 2016, by Dr. Jan-Phillipp Weisswange, Rheinmetall AG