Mortars are awesome, and a bigger mortar means more range and explosive power per shell. But a bigger mortar is a lot harder for troops to carry. The biggest commonly in use today are the 120 mm mortars like the Soltam K6. This weighs 319 lbs, and breaks down into the following components:
- M298 cannon assembly (110 lbs)
- M190 bipod assembly (70 pounds)
- M9 baseplate (136 pounds)
That’s not going to be easy for infantry to haul. And it’s pretty natural, especially for motorized or mechanized infantry, to want to put mortars in a carrier vehicle. Let’s look at a couple American options. The basic idea here is pretty straightforward: take an APC, fit a retractable roof, and mount the mortar in the back. Surprisingly simple for units in the US Army inventory.
Our first example is the M1064. It’s based on the classic M113 APC. While the M113, even with the A3 improvements, is pretty vulnerable to modern battlefield threats these days, in the artillery role it’s perfectly adequate. The mortar is the 120mm M121, an American licensed copy of the K6. The M1064 also has a ring mount for a machine gun, and usually has an M2 mounted. Ammunition capacity is 69 mortar shells and 600 rounds for the M2.
The Israelis operate a similar system to the M1064, the Keshet. The key difference is that it’s equipped with the CARDOM mortar system, which automates the aiming of the mortar using a computerized fire control system. I would expect the number of stowed shells carried to be similar to the M1064.
Next we have the M1129, based on the Stryker APC. Again, there’s a retractable roof exposing a 120 mm M121 mortar. Some versions are also equipped with an additional, smaller mortar for dismounted use. This may be a 60mm or an 81mm mortar. If the M1129 is only equipped with a 120mm mortar, it will carry 60 120mm mortar shells. If a dismountable mortar is also carried, the supply of 120mm shells is reduced to 48. If a 60mm mortar is carried, 77 shells for it will be carried as well. On the other hand, if an 81mm mortar is carried, a supply of 35 shells will be provided for it. Note that if a dismount mortar is provided, this mortar cannot replace the 120mm for mounted use, and the vehicle crew is sufficient to use only one of the two provided mortars.
Here’s a handy chart of ammo capacities. The designations M1129-60 and M1129-81 are my own, used here for convenience. What dismount mortar, if any, is carried on an M1129 is based on its tasking in the organization table (i.e. whether it belongs to a rifle company, rifle battalion, or RSTA1 squadron) and is not indicated in its designation.
In terms of deployment, each company in a Striker Brigade Combat Team has two M1129-60s and each battalion has four M1129-81s as an organic component. An RSTA squadron gets six M1129s. A mechanized infantry battalion will get 6 M1064s. In the future, an AMPV-based mortar carrier will replace the M1064.
- Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition. They’re organized in the cavalry model (hence “squadron” instead of “battalion”). One RSTA squadron functions as the recon element for a brigade. ↩