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Redesign to improve safety and lethality of 120-mm mortar system for US Army


March 20, 2014

A team at Benét Labs is redesigning the 120-mm mortar system currently in use by the US Army (Photo: 1st Lt. Cory Titus)

A team at Benét Labs is redesigning the 120-mm mortar system currently in use by the US Army (Photo: 1st Lt. Cory Titus)

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Mortars are one of the oldest forms of artillery, evolving from devices that fired stone projectiles a few hundred meters to become a mainstay of any modern army's arsenal. Benét Laboratories is continuing this evolution by tweaking the 120-mm mortar system currently used by the US Army to increase range, reduce weight, improve user safety and cut costs.

Located in upstate New York, Benét Laboratories is the US Army's primary design, development, engineering and production & field support facility for large caliber armament systems, including cannons, recoilless rifles and mortars. In an effort to retain a competitive edge on the battlefield, a team led by Wayland Barber, chief of the Mortars and Recoilless Rifle Branch at Benét Labs, has developed a number of upgrades to the 120-mm mortar system currently fielded by the US Army.

The redesign sees the fire control system (FCS), which is currently attached to the tube, moved to the mortar's bipod. Benét Labs says this will reduce the amount of stress and movement the FCS is subjected to during a fire mission and help improve accuracy.

The system will also feature a new baseplate that is designed to provide greater stability for extended range munitions. The baseplate is the part of the system that two soldiers stand on to set it firmly in the ground. A qualification test that was completed recently using the new baseplate saw 3,000 rounds fired without incident. The redesigned baseplate is also expected to provide savings for taxpayers, with Benét Labs saying that once it enters production, it will be almost 50 percent cheaper to produce than the current legacy baseplate.

The third and final element of the 120-mm system in line for a makeover is the cannon tube, which has been improved to withstand the higher tube pressure, heat, and muzzle velocity of extended range ammunition that is set to be developed.

"The current 120-mm mortar system has good range, is reliable, and the troops like it," says Bob Cooley, a Benét Labs Integrated Process Team leader. "But as good as that system is, [these] product improvements that we are currently working on may improve Soldiers' safety, increase range by up to 25 percent, and reduce the system's weight by nearly 16 percent."

Benét Labs is planning to put the redesigned 120-mm mortar system through its paces in full-quality testing in the 2015 fiscal year. Barber's team is also looking at providing design improvements to the current 60-mm and 81-mm mortar systems.

Source: US Army

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

Congratulation US with the innovation, its gets safer and cheaper to kill someone.

Ramon Verhoeven

Interesting how some people find this sort of thing interesting. Is an online journal about amazing technical devices and discoveries the place to post about things which kill people.

Then again I am the sort who posted negative comments to a video on youtube about a jet fighter. Viewing the fighter for what it is, a device whose sole purpose is to kill people.

I can see why the extended range is so important. This mortar may well take out the operators if the shell lands too close. This critter probably has a huge punch when it hits. Many years ago there was a 150mm mortar which was way too dangerous to keep in service. Jim Sadler

The only way a mortar round will land near the weapon itself would be if someone went out of their way to make that happen.

The only 150 mm mortar listed in Wiki was a Austro-Hungarian weapon of WW1. Russia & Israel make, use & sell 160 mm mortars. Russia & a few of it's customers still use a truly big 240 mm mortar that can shoot nuclear projectiles.

Finally, the great majority of mortars have smooth barrels, not rifled ones. The projectiles they use are called bombs instead of shells.


Safe 120-mm mortar, It's about time. I would hate to see someone get hurt using these things.

Jay Finke

Chill out, guys. From the "About" page linked at the bottom:

"Gizmag is a celebration of human endeavor, we aim to inspire, not ridicule.

We cover technology, not the politics or the money behind it."

If you don't want to read articles about weapons, then don't. Nobody's forcing you to click on the links. Like it or not, weapons are still technology.


You don't have to participate in war but someone has to. Some people simply cannot be reasoned with and when its you or them be thankful for military advancement.

You may not agree with every individual conflict our military gets involved in but weaponry has been a necessary part of human civilization since the beginning.


I agree Diachi. wars are great economy builders, and help thin out the population of Idiots and innocents, Other side effects are.. inventions that help the population grow. Round and Round we go, where it stops, nobody knows.

Jay Finke
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