The Humble 60mm Mortar

A while ago I talked about how the XM-25 was a stupid, useless waste of money. More recently, I expressed my disdain for it’s stillborn parent project, the XM-29. But that is not to say I don’t think that all infantry needs are rifles and machine guns. No, enemies in defilade or behind cover are a classic problem, and I like the classic, time-tested, cheap solution that is the mortar. Today, we’re going to be talking about the smallest of the common modern mortars, the 60mm.

The US Military has been using 60mm mortars since the Second World War, and really liked the concept. So we Americans have stuck with them, and they’re excellent light weapons for the platoon or company. Depending on charge and model, they’re good for a maximum range of four kilometers. Unlike the XM-25, mortars and mortar shells are both cheap. They also actually work. Let’s look at some examples.

The current American standard mortar is the M224A1. Fully assembled, it weighs just under 38 lbs, but it can be broken down into its components (namely baseplate, bipod, sighting unit, and mortar tube) to be carried by the mortar team. Nominally, the M224A1 is operated by a crew of three men. The M224A1 can also be operated ‘commando style’ by a single man. Here, a smaller baseplate is used, and the bipod is omitted. The soldier supports the tube with his hands for aiming. Perfect for light infantry. The M224A1 can be gravity-fired, or may use an optional manual trigger. The M224A1 has a one meter long barrel.

The M6 mortar family from Hirtenberger is the British standard mortar, when they’re not being criminally stupid and removing them from equipment tables. The M6 comes in three different barrel lengths: 640 mm, 895 mm, and one meter. Bipods and baseplates are standard across all models. Again, smaller baseplates are available for ‘commando style’ operation.

Since 60 mm mortars are pretty common, shells are available from a wide variety of manufacturers. The same sorts of warheads are available in all of the catalogs though: HE, combined effect antipersonnell/antimateriel, white phosphorous smoke, red phosphorous smoke, illumination, and IR illumination. Nothing too sophisticated here. Inert training rounds are available as well, and mortars are cheap enough that you can afford to practice with them.

Mortars are a proven solution to the problem of cover on the battlefield. They work. They’re cheap. Get some for your army today!

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