The new M252A1 81mm mortar is 12 pounds lighter than its predecessor, the M252.
"The new lightweight system reduces the load for dismounted battalion mortar platoons, while retaining the same durability, rates of fire, and range of the legacy system," Lt. Col. Will McDonough, Product Manager Guided Precision Munitions and Mortar Systems, known as GPM2S, said in a recent Army press release.
The Army began delivering the first 81mm M252A1 systems to units at Fort Bragg, N.C. earlier this month. The goal is to replace all current M525 systems in 2016, Army officials maintain.
The Army began fielding the lightweight M224A1 60mm mortar in 2010.
Overall, the new 81mm system has dropped from 91 pounds down to 79 pounds. Greiner's team was able to reduce the mortar system weight by using new materials.
“We used lighter materials, such as aluminum and titanium in the elevation and traverse mechanism that lower and lift the bipod, and traverse it left and right, and nylon Kevlar for some of the internal gear parts,” he said.
The M252A1 consists of the M253 cannon or tube, the M177A1 bipod, the M3A2 baseplate, and the M67A1 sight unit. The bipod now weighs 22.5 pounds, compared to 27 pounds. The baseplate has been reduced from 29 pounds to 23 pounds, and the cannon dropped from 35 pounds down to 30.5 pounds.
The new 81mm bipod will now be in the "A" shaped bipod frame, similar to the bipod on the 60mm and the 120mm systems.
"The 'A' shaped bipod frame keeps training consistent so the user doesn't have to learn something unique for one system. So once someone gets familiar with one they can easily transition to another system," Greiner said.
The M252A1 requires less maintenance because its internal gears do not have to be lubricated by grease and oil. The nylon Kevlar is reinforced with composites and protective coatings infused with lubricants that eliminate the need for external lubrication.