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