United States US Army News
|U.S. Army soldiers mortar crews have started receiving new lightweight 60 mm mortar.|
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. (July 20, 2011) -- U.S. Army soldiers mortar crews have started receiving new lightweight 60mm mortar systems that are approximately 20 percent lighter than previous versions. The Program Executive Office for Ammunition fielded the Army’s first M224A1 60mm Lightweight Company Mortar Systems to 1st Special Forces Group in Fort Lewis, Wash., last month.
The new lightweight 60mm mortar system. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army Photo)
Eventually all former legacy M224 systems will be replaced with the new lightweight systems.
“At the beginning of operations in Afghanistan the average load for a 60mm assistant gunner was 122 pounds,” said Peter Burke, PEO Ammunition’s deputy product manager for Guided Precision Munitions and Mortar Systems.
“Our program goal was to reduce the weight of mortar systems as much as we could to take some of the weight off of his back.
“These Soldiers are carrying all this weight around and are still expected to fight at the end of the day, so anything we can do lighten their load we’ve got to do,” said Burke.
Mortar systems are an indirect firing capability used to defeat enemy troops, materiel, bunkers and other infantry-type targets. The M224A1 fires the complete family of 60mm ammunition, such as high explosive, smoke, illumination, infrared illumination and practice cartridges.
The 60mm’s first major redesign since the 1970s has reduced the overall weight by 20 percent or 9.3 lbs.
“This new 60mm delivers improved portability while maintaining the existing rate of fire, range and tube life of the former system,” Burke said. “The Soldier is still carrying the same capability, it just weighs less.”
The M224A1 consists of the following components: M225A1 cannon (tube), M170A1 bipod assembly, M7A1 baseplate, M8 auxiliary baseplate and the M67 sight unit.
A mortar crew of three members distributes the mortar load with a different member carrying each item.
A team from PEO Ammunition and the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, was able to shave off the weight through a combination of using different materials and reducing the number of components.
The cannon tube on the new system is made from “Inconel,” a nickel-based material, as opposed to steel.
Inconel is just as strong as steel but significantly lighter. It also has better wear characteristics and has the potential for a longer service life, although additional testing and evaluation is required before the service life can be extended passed the current round limit.