Power projection – fire support
This wont be news to anyone in the army of course, but the new prince of the battlefield isn’t new at all. It is the 120mm mortar. Technology has moved along and suddenly an old piece of dumb technology has been transformed into high-tech, with PGM’s, GPS, electronic controls and tied into networked C3I systems.
It is not as lightweight, rugged and simple as it used to be, but it is much more effective and gives a level of organic fire-support capability to the infantry that they have never had before. It also has the potential to replace a number of current systems.
Why hump around rocket systems on the backs of infantrymen when the requirement is for being able to project force, that makes no sense at all. The rocket simply launches the explosive warhead, the infantryman doesn’t need to transport that as well. That projection or launching can best be done from a fire support base, just like artillery. Up until now, artillery was too expensive, heavy or cumbersome to be easily moved or tasked to cover infantry in the field often times. The mortar is now stepping into that gap in a much more effective way than it has previously.
The range of modern mortars has grown out to 5, or even 10 thousand metres. That means your troops need never be out from underneath your support umbrella, day or night. Like having airpower, this gives you overhead support, the high ground from which to fight. So, if you maintain always the principle of “Point and Cover”, the frontline infantry can patrol out into the field on Point, and the Covering element can set up with with a couple of mortar tubes from a secure location, ready to drop accurate and heavy fire onto any enemy location.
The Comms gear available now and in the future means that the actual terminal guidance of rounds can be in the hands of a frontline soldier. The fire control unit (firing post) of the standard antitank missile system doesn’t need to be mounted on the actual weapon, it can be remote, compact, light and easily man portable.
Even better, the weight of munition can be much higher than is possible to carry on the backs of your infantry. So all the range you will ever need is available without having to carry it, and likewise for the power of the warhead. All at a size, weight, cost and effectiveness that means it will be available as and when it is needed. The infantry can perform the classic, and basic, rifleman function without having to also assume the role of pack mule.
The queen of the battlefield has a complimentary companion, a prince, the mortar. Heavy artillery will always have its place, but a quicker and lighter version is now available to provide organic, immediate and effective firepower support.
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