Are mortars still used as weapons?

What seems like a couple of centuries ago, when I was in the army, one of the weapons I enjoyed training with was the medium portable mortar. It was just like setting off fireworks. :slight_smile:

It was effective in breaching fortified buildings, walled cities or troops in deep trenches and likewise, could fire out of such places due to its high trajectory. Often used in siege conditions.

Actually, I guess the first surface-to-surface missile was the WWII Bazooka. It was just a long tube held on the shoulder. Another soldier inserted the round in the back. It was primarily for disabling tanks, as it had a very flat trajectory.

My question is, now that portable missiles are so prevalent, does the Army still have any use for mortars. Any military Dopers know about this?

Oh my, yes. Mortars are used in most every decent army in the world.

Small rocket weapons don’t serve the same purpose; they’re generally line-pf-sight or close to it, and serve the purpose of destroying specific types of target; bazookas and their precedessor, the panzerfaust, were armor penetration weapons, used to destroy tanks or bunkers.

A mortar is an indirect fire weapon, used to affect an area. They give you the advantage of being able to shoot at things you cannot see. Plus, mortar rounds are lighter than rockets, generally speaking, so they’re more economical. A small mortar gives a light unit, such as an infantry company, their own portable artillery support.

I believe the current stock U.S. light mortar is the M224, which is a relatively recent model - early 80s or so.

Looks like you are correct.

There’s also the M252 and the somewhat larger M120/M121.

Thanks, RickJay, interesting update. I’m glad to learn they have not been abandoned, as they seemed to be very versatile and useful, light for their firepower.

'Course, would be nicer if no weapons were ever needed, but, ah, well…

Two of my former students rode into Baghdad on mortar carriers.

Just how much muzzle blast/noise/flash does a mortar make when it fires a typical high explosive shot.

Just curious.

Very little, I am told. They aren’t whisper-quiet, but they have nothing like the blast of regular artillery.

You’re standing right next to it when you drop the round in; the flashnoise can’t be too intense. From my experience, the noise (at least for a US 81mm) is sort of a WHUMP with a slight TWANG mixed in. No need for earplugs, but too loud to talk over. MUCH quienter than a pistol or rile shot…

As you drop the round you turn away to shield your face, but even that’s not 100% necessary.

My son humped a 61mm mortar in the Marines for a couple years, including Iraq, until he made squad leader. Minimum three man crew to carry the base, tube, tripod and ammo. They used it often to great effect in the Iraq war, just as has been said: to hit enemy on the other side of hills, obstructions or fortifications, out of line of site.

photo of a 61 mm mortar

Not at all. Chinese and Arab armies used rockets this way centuries before the US even existed. Even in WWII the Germans and Russians preceded the US by some years in surface-to-surface missiles of various sorts; do searches on Panzerfaust and Katyusha some day.

… then it was his turn in the barrel?

Do you just adjust the angle for different distances? Do they come with different amounts or adjustable amounts (not sure how that would work) of propellant?

It’s done by angle.

It depends. The bigger ones are done by adjusting the elevation angle, as RickJay says.

For the 81, the propellant was installed in thin sheets stacked at the base of the round. It looked like a stack of individually wrapped American cheese slices. For short ranges you’d remove a couple of slices before dropping the round.

Here’s some god illustrations of other types of mortar ammo: 81mm Mortar Ammunition And Fuzes

The big-picture concept is that unlike a rifle or tank round, a mortar round is essentially a rocket with its propellant on the outside, not sealed inside.

Many nations have mortars with similar features, both past an present.

I’m in Iraq and the insurgents use mortars pretty frequently. Often to drop rounds into the Green Zone. I’ve been a couple of blocks from the launching and it is a low whump, not real loud.

What about these? :smiley:

Or this

These are siege mortars. They culminated in this
during WWII. The mortars discussed above are trench mortars.

What I was told about mortars & howitzers is that the high angle of trajectory makes it harder to determine exactly where the fire is coming from. Because the rounds are often coming pretty much straight down.

That true or pretty much BS?

It does make it more difficult to pinpoint the firing area, especially in built-up cities. Indirect fire has its place on the modern battlefield.

AP this morning:

BAGHDAD, Iraq — A mortar round slammed into a street in northeastern Baghdad Friday, killing three women when shrapnel hit their home, and soldiers discovered the bullet-riddled bodies of six men wearing handcuffs in western Baghdad, police said.