60mm Mortar

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Mortars are the infantry commander’s “hip pocket” artillery. Light infantry companies have a pair of 60mm mortars assigned, to provide quick suppressive fires and smoke.

The M224 60mm mortar has been in service since the early 1980’s, replacing the older, heavier and shorter range M2 60mm mortar of WWII vintage.  It is in service with both the Army and the Marines, as well as several allied nations.

Here’s a video of the mortar squad of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines firing a mission with their mortar during the Battle of Fallujah. Notice how close to the action they are. The max range of the 60mm mortar is just over two miles.  Also, notice that all five rounds are fired before the first round impacts.


Other mortars in use with the US include 81mm mortars (at battalion level in light companies) and the 120mm mortar, used in mechanized, Stryker, and armored battalions.

13 thoughts on “60mm Mortar”

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  2. A cousin humped the older 60mm in Vietnam with the Marines. He carried the entire thing. I think the Army divided theirs, and his situation may have been abnormal. I don’t know. I picked up the baseplate of one and remember thinking I wouldn’t wwant to hump just that, much less the whole thing.

    I think US forces don’t have enough of the things. The Soviets used them in quite large bore diameters, larger than 240mm as I recall. I think the Israelis use 240mm models. Making large bore organic hip pocket arty available to Battalion and below is a good thing. it allows DivArty to concentrate on the areas where you are advancing, rather than using them mainly as a defensive tool. The cast iron casing of the mortar bomb also provides better shrapnel effects as well. The high pressure arty requires steel casings for the sheels to stand the stress of the higher pressure launch in cannon. Cast Iron is too brittle for that.

  3. US mortar shells use steel casings. Only the Soviet/Chinese use cast iron casings.

    I’m pretty sure the old 60mm was normally a two man lift. And today’s 60mm is a two man job, part of a three man team. There’s one guy to carry the tube, one to carry the main baseplate (there’s a second baseplate for handheld fire) and the team leader carries the sights. Plus everybody gets to carry a round or two of ammo.

    When I was a lightfighter, the plan was for the company to drop the mortars at the final ORP,and as we passed by, we’d drop off our ammo with the guns. After the mission, we’d pick up any remaining ammo.

  4. In recent months I’ve seen reports on new precision guided 120 mm and 81 mm mortars. Do you think precision 60 mm mortars will be here anytime this decade? Would that even be useful?

  5. I got an email just today talking about a 60mm PGM. It was very vague about a timeline. But yeah, a PGM 60mm would be VERY useful to engage snipers, mg positions, RPG teams and the like.

  6. DefenseTech had an article a few weeks ago about APMI (Accelerated Precision Mortar Initiative) which is supposed to bring GPS 120mm PGM to Afghanistan later this year. And elsewhere I’ve read about FCMortar (Flight Controlled Mortar) and PUMA (Precision Urban Mortar Attack) which would be a 81mm GPS+laser guided PGM. Ah, quick google found this — http://www.ndiapicatinny.com/downloads/2009/mc/PUMA.ppt — an NDIA presentation from last year. The presentation has a notional timeline of about 2014 for “transition to acquisition”. Which, given how things typically work, is probably optimistic by some # of years.

    Still, if they get it to work with 81mm it would seem like 60 mm wouldn’t be that much harder — especially since you can expect the electronics package to shrink over time with Moore’s Law.

    This might be my video game fantasy, but it would seem like a small team with portable precision mortar and mini-UAV with a laser designator could be pretty useful.

    It does seem the precision revolution keeps steadily working it’s way down the size scale. Soon all artillery and mortar shells will have precision variants. Then maybe 40mm grenades. And eventually, who knows, large caliber guided bullets, as crazy as that sounds.

  7. Well, they’re working on a 25mm smart grenade launcher.

    And I posted something about the 120mm mortar a week or two ago.

  8. Good point. Although I don’t think the smart grenade can maneuver. So it’s not guided. The one I’ve read about has an internal spin-counter. So it knows how far it has traveled and can detonate at the 52 m mark or something like that. Which is very useful in the usage scenario of detonating 1 meter past a wall, or corner, or inside a window.

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