Israel Deploys New Mortar

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The IDF recently deployed the Keshet 120 mm Autonomous Self Propelled Recoil Mortar System (manufactured by Soltam Systems Limited) that the head of the Army Headquarters Weapons Department, Lieutenant Colonel Eren Garnet, explained would enable a battalion commander to fire artillery autonomously. "The battalion commander should be able to guide the fire in the unit he commands as opposed to requiring outside assistance."

The Keshet can be integrated on any M1064 Tracked Vehicle and is currently in serial delivery to the US Army, the IDF and other customers. The autonomous mortar system is capable of a maximum range of 7KM (with NATO std unassisted bombs) and can fire all types of 120mm smooth bore ammo. Its rate of fire burst is 16 per minute (intense burst, 4 rounds). The total weight is 750kg, elevation (deg) 40-85 and traverse (deg) 360.

According to Valentec Systems Inc., the Keshet offers commanders of infantry and armor unique enhanced operational capabilities. Indeed, improvements in inertial navigation systems and a sophisticated target acquisition system further enhance the accuracy of mortar ammunition delivery.

IDF Lieutenant Colonel Tal Aharon notes that the "Keshet weapons system is, without a doubt, the most advanced weapons system of the Infantry Corps."

Other Mortars Compared:

The XM1204 Non-Line-of-Sight Mortar (NLOS-M) is a turreted, self-propelled mortar vehicle with a four man crew. The NLOS-M is currently in development for the U.S. Army and is a component of the Future Combat System.

The Non-Line-of-Sight Mortar (NLOS-M) offers unparalleled responsiveness and lethality (http://www.boeing.com/defense-space/ic/fcs/bia/050923_resupply_rfi.pdf) to the Unit of Action (UA) commander. The mortar provides fires in close support of tactical maneuvers that include destructive fires and special purpose fires. While working as part of an NLOS-M battery, the Non-Line-of-Sight mortar-firing Precision Guided Mortar Munitions deliver lethal fires to destroy targets and provide area suppression in support of UA companies and platoons.

The command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) network enables the FCS NLOS-M)fire control system to conduct semi- to autonomous computation of technical fire direction, automatic gun lay, preparation of the ammunition for firing and mortar round firing. Vastly improved handling, loading and firing systems will be another centerpiece of the NLOS-M. The mortar platoon will also retain a dismounted 81mm mortar capability for complex terrain.

According to Chinese Defense Today, the YW-381 self-propelled 120mm mortar system is mounted inside the troop compartment of a YW-531 APC and is capable of an indirect fire range of 7,700m. The 13.2t mortar is mounted (or fixed) on the APC floor, and cannot move in traverse. As such, the mortar tube elevation range is limited to 45-80 degrees. Auxiliary weapon include a Type 59 12.7 anti-aircraft machine gun mounted on the APC's roof.

The Russian Tulpan is based on the GMZ tracked minelaying vehicle carrying an externally mounted M-240 240 mm breech-loading mortar on the hull rear. The M-1975 mortar (130kg per projectile) is capable of a 9,650m range, but an extended range munition could possibly raise the range to 20,000 m. The Tulpan is limited to a firing frequency of one round per minute. However, the Tulpan can also fire laser-guided, armor-piercing, chemical and nuclear rounds.

Enemy Forces notes that the 240-mm mortar is lowered into the firing position under remote-control and when in position can be elevated from +45 to +80 with a traverse of 8 left and right. The sighting system is located on the right side of the mortar.

-- Aharon Etengoff

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