Illustration depicting an XM395 Accelerated Precision Mortar Initiative round closing in on a target (Image: U.S. Army)
Mortars have existed for hundreds of years, proving extremely useful in World War I where the high angle of flight of the shells made them an ideal weapon for the muddy trenches of the Western Front. The weapon’s simplicity coupled with the ease with which it can be transported and operated means mortars are still in common use today but, although methods of calculating azimuth and elevation angles for targeting have improved, their greatest weakness still remains their lack of accuracy. Mortars are now moving into the 21st Century with U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan set to receive a first-of-its-kind, GPS-guided 120mm mortar munition that can pinpoint targets at ranges of up to 6,300 m (20,669 ft).