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Sep 16, 2011

Defence firm launches new mortar, howitzer displays greater accuracy

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South African landward defence systems company Denel Land Systems (DLS) announced last week that it had delivered the first units of its M6 60 mm long-range mortar system to the South African Army infantry formation. The weapon is also now being launched on international markets.

The product is a complete system, comprising the mortar itself; long range mortar bombs; a mortar weapon fire control computer (MFCC); an observation post (OP) with a laser range finder (LRF) fitted with an integral magnetic compass and coupled to an OP MFCC; a mobile command post (CP), also equipped with an LRF and a CP MFCC; technical support equipment, including special tools, carry harnesses and first line spares; logistics; and training equipment (including a simulator).

The new mortar system is light, can enter action more rapidly, can bring a large area under fire, engage previously calculated targets, undertake both line and point bombardments and carry out coordinated illumination missions. The system also increases the mortar team’s situational awareness, displays safety limits (including the location of friendly forces), undertakes ballistics calculations and can provide navi- gational data.

Central to the operation of the system is a personal digital assistant (PDA), which has an in-built global positioning system. The weapon, the OP and CP MFCCs all use the same PDA, which is fitted with a serial communications port adapter to interface with external devices. The soldier can select whatever role within the system he requires the PDA to fulfil.

In action, the OP would use an LRF to acquire the target, ascertain the bearing (magnetic declination is automatically allowed for) and, after fire has been opened, to correct it. The OP also establishes a target list. The fire mission is approved and usually controlled from the CP, although the CP can transfer control to the OP, if needed.

Once the fire mission has been approved, it only takes seconds for the target data to be converted into settings on the mortar’s sights and in the MFCC. This reduces reac- tion time and creates a high probability of hitting the target with the first or second bomb fired. Several targets can be engaged in rapid succession, even if different types of bomb are employed.

DLS manufactures mortar, artillery and turret systems, among other products, and is a wholly owned subsidiary of the State-owned Denel defence industrial group.

Early last month, the Denel group announced that the latest version of the Stryker Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV) III 105-mm-calibre Light Self-Propelled Howitzer (LSPH) had achieved exceptional accuracy in firing trials at the Alkantpan test range, in the Northern Cape. Error margins of only 0.3% were achieved consistently at maximum range.

The accuracy is such that the weapon can directly fire three shells through the same hole at a range of 1 km. Its maximum range is 30 km. Denel reports that this combination of range and accuracy is the result of developing the gun/ howitzer, projectiles and charges together as an integrated system.

The LSPH is a joint programme between DLS, which is responsible for the gun/ howitzer and its turret, US defence company General Dynamics Land Systems, which provides the Stryker LAV III 8 × 8 vehicle, and Rheinmetall Denel Munitions, which is responsible for the projectiles and charges and which is 49%-owned by the Denel group.

The latest version of the LSPH can be directly operated by a crew instead of being remotely fired. The vehicle has a crew of three – the commander/gunner, loader and driver.

The entire system, complete with 36 shells, weighs 18 200 kg and is transportable on a C-130 Hercules aircraft. It has aroused significant international interest since the original concept was unveiled in 2000. The gun/howitzer and its turret are also compatible with the South African Army’s new Badger infantry fighting vehicles.

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
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