Antos vz. 99 Light 60 mm Mortar

I really like mortars, which you may have gathered if you’re a regular reader. Today, we’re looking at something that doesn’t resemble the standard mortar that one usually pictures. It doesn’t have a bipod. It has a decidedly nonstandard sighting system. It has a composite barrel and a smaller baseplate. If anything, it resembles the Japanese Type 89, better known to the world by the colloquialism “knee mortar”. Today, we are considering the Antos vz. 99.

Most modern mortars, even the “light” 60 mm ones, are focused on squeezing the maximum possible range out of the weapon. This means longer barrels, and more weight. The 60 mm mortar is a platoon or company level weapon. However, it’s bulky and quite heavy. The M224 60 mm mortar requires a crew of three, and breaks down into three 7 kg loads. It can fire mortar rounds up to 3.45 km. Note that mortar rounds weigh about 2 kg apiece.

In traditional, large-scale operations, this really isn’t a problem. But it’s a bother for light infantry forces and smaller units. A commando mortar like the Antos is a lot easier for such a unit to handle. It can also provide more range, accuracy, and firepower than a 40 mm grenade launcher.

The Antos weighs about 5 kg ready to fire. It’s under a meter long. It fires 60 mm mortar rounds, which were the smallest mortar rounds deemed effective when light mortars last saw widespread use during World War 2. It’s about 10 cm shorter and 2 kg lighter than an AT4 rocket launcher, and it’s generally considered to only require a crew of one. So its easy to throw in a vehicle or distribute to a member of a platoon. Powerful enough to be useful, it’s also light and compact enough to not get left behind. Note that it does have significantly less range than the M224. The Antos can only reach out to 1.23 km, as opposed to the 3.4 km range of the M224. So it’s probably more reasonable to view it as a supplement, not a strict replacement. Though, given how easy it is to carry, I wonder if it might be ‘good enough’ to be the only light mortar, leaving the long range work to the 81 mm medium and 120 mm heavy mortars. Certainly something that would have to be tested. It might also be nice to compare it to the lighter LGI F1 spigot mortar, though the LGI fires a notably smaller round.

It would make an excellent replacement for the XM25. If you’ll recall, dear reader, I called out the XM25 for being too expensive, too heavy, and too ineffective. The Antos is significantly cheaper than the XM25, it’s a kilogram lighter than the XM25, and it’s significantly more effective. 60 mm mortar shells have worked for the US Army since World War 2. This is a lighter way to throw them.

8 thoughts on “Antos vz. 99 Light 60 mm Mortar

  1. Checkmate

    Would an old british 51mm not achieve the same result? Would the higher caliber mortar be at company level or another? Would something like the dial-a-strike IAI Jumper not make them obsolete as well?
    How would you see organisation at fireteam level? Who carries the LMG, who is the designated marksman, who is the grenadier (if there is one) the mortar man (again, if there is one) and the dude operating the CG/RPG-7 ? Who gets the laser rangerfinder and laser pointer?

    Reply
    1. Checkmate

      I’m sorry if the tone I used seemed accusatory. I’m just curious of how you see the force in detail and holistically.

    2. parvusimperator Post author

      No worries! Tone is hard to read over the internet, so I try to apply the principle of charity. Also, I didn’t think your question sounded accusatory. I was just busy when I might otherwise draft these.

    3. parvusimperator Post author

      Yep! The L9A1 would fill the role nicely. But the Antos is new, so it jolted me into writing about it. Interestingly, the L9A1 and the French LGI Mle F1 Spigot Mortar are both 51 mm. The Ontos is a bit bigger at 60. As I alluded to in the post, in general armed forces in WW2 did not like their 50ish mm light mortars, but the US Army loved their 60 mm mortars. Bigger shell, bigger boom, but it’s also more annoying to carry that ammo.

      Re: Jumper, I don’t think so. Perhaps I love mortars too much, but man-portable/team-portable indirect fire systems never go out of style. I’d love to know what the Jumper’s minimum range is. Also, what level of an asset is that? A light mortar is a nice platoon or company level asset (or lower if you like), which really helps availability. Also, note that the Israelis still love their mortars. The new turret for the Namer IFV variant includes a 60 mm mortar. The Merkavas also all include a mortar in the turret, which I think is really nice.

      As for squad/fireteam organization, that’s a mouthful. Just to keep terms consistent, I think of a fireteam as a 4-5 man subelement of a squad, and I really think it should be a lot more ad hoc than most people say, because of mission concerns and how often do you have squads/platoons showing up with by-the-book numbers? I’ve written some on the subject here, but I can’t guarantee it all dovetailing together nicely, because I do so love to argue. And of course it depends quite a bit on whether these forces are light infantry or have some kind of motorized transportation.

      If you asked me right now, I wouldn’t make explicit provision for the fireteam beyond “figure it out as needed”. For a 9 (give or take, dismounts only) man mechanized infantry squad, I’d expect the squad leader to have the laser rangefinder, I’d expect them to take one GPMG or one or two LMGs from their vehicle as needed and distribute them as best they see fit, and I might expect one man to have a DMR. I would probably include a few AT4s and a Javelin/SPIKE-MR launcher in the vehicle, again deploy as needed. I would replace the AT4s with a CG/RPG7 in a light infantry unit, because those are a little more versatile. And then the vehicle can carry an Antos and an underbarrel grenade launcher or two. The squad leader and his platoon leader can figure out how best to handle it given the circumstances. Though the Antos might be better kept as a platoon level asset; I’m not sure there. So maybe one squad has that instead of the UBGLs or some of the AT4s. Personally, below the platoon and squad equipment table, I think “figure it out” is best and easiest, and also what a platoon is going to do in the field. Fireteams don’t fight in a vacuum.

      It’s also easier to think of this at the platoon level for mechanized infantry given how few IFVs hold a full squad’s worth of dismounts (e.g. in the US Army, you have four Bradleys comprising a platoon, and that translates into three dismounted squads). I’d love to see how other nations organize; that stuff is often hard to find.

      I’d probably make considerably more changes to the org table for a light infantry unit, because there I can’t just let the vehicle hold whatever’s extra. In that case, Antos is almost certainly a platoon level asset, along with the Javelin. Figure Jav, Antos, pair of CG/RPG-7 for explosive assets in a light infantry platoon. Also probably the LMGs as squad machine guns in most cases, except for that weapons squad having a GPMG or two.

      P.S. You can also gather my American upbringing from the liberal deployment of Javelins, which correlates pretty closely to how the US Army does it, at least in the equipment tables. Funding is another constraint on the TO&E, of course.

    4. parvusimperator Post author

      Also I go back and forth on the LMGs for the mech inf. squad, but it’s probably easiest to let the situation dictate the choice. Or test, but I don’t have a good way to do that.

    1. Checkmate

      What I find most interesting is the “dial-a-strike” concept. I’ve tried to find more on it, but it seems a rather nebulous term that emerged in the 80’s from some studies done in the USMC.Very short time between the call and the support arriving. I would argue that the Jumper does that, but fails in that it does not have a laser seeker, only GNSS/INS guidance. If it did, it would make it even more effective (laser seekers are cheap, and you could rely on troops on the ground to illuminate targets, call for fire support and rely on the INS/GNSS to bring the projectile to a point where the seeker can see the illuminated target, without having to painstakingly button in precise coordinates). If the platoon or fireteam level troops have access to quick and precise fire support to say take out a MG nest or armored vehicle, that would do away with the need for light mortars.

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