A mortar is a muzzle-loading indirect fire weapon that fires shells at low velocities, short ranges, and high-arcing ballistic trajectories.
A mortar is relatively simple and easy to operate. A modern mortar consists of a tube which gunners drop a shell into. A firing pin at the base of the tube detonates the propellant and fires the shell. These attributes contrast with the mortar’s larger siblings, howitzers and fieldguns, which fire at higher velocities, longer ranges, flatter arcs, and sometimes, direct fire.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries very heavy immobile siege mortars were used, of up to one metre calibre. A mortar can also be a launcher for fireworks, a hand-held or vehicle-mounted projector for smoke shells or flares, or a large grenade launcher. Light and medium mortars are portable, and usually used by infantry units.
The chief advantage a mortar section has over an artillery battery is its small numbers, mobility and the ability to engage targets in the defilade with plunging fires. It is able to fire from the protection of a trench or defilade. In these aspects the mortar is an excellent infantry support weapon, as it can be transported over any terrain and is not burdened by the logistical support needed for artillery.
There are also heavy mortars of 120mm to 300mm caliber. These weapons areusually towed or vehicle-mounted, sometimes breech-loaded, and normally employed by infantry units attached to battalion through division level. Even at this size, mortars are simpler and less expensive than comparable howitzers or field guns.
A mortar can be carried by one or more men (larger mortars can usually be broken down into components), or transported in a vehicle. An infantry mortar can usually also be mounted and fired from a mortar-carrier, a purpose-built or modified armoured vehicle with a large roof hatch. A heavy mortar can be mounted on a towed carriage, or permanently vehicle-mounted as a self-propelled mortar.
These handbooks describe the strategies and tactics employed by mortar units in warfare. You will discover plans for improvised homemade mortars, how to build a mortar, mortar warfare and much more.
Discover the fundamentals of mortar gunnery in this comprehensive training manual aimed at assisting MOS 11C soldiers and their trainers. Included in this manual are details on operational procedures of a fire direction center, capabilities and use of the mortar ballistic and capabilities and use of the M16/M19 plotting board.