Usually a mortar is a smooth-bore cannon firing with elevation angles of 45 — 85 degrees. There are rifled mortars, but about them below. According to the method of movement, mortars are divided into portable, portable, towed (many towed mortars are also portable) and self-propelled. The majority of mortars are dunnozaryadnye, the shot is made either because the mine that slid down the barrel “prick” the primer on the bottom of the barrel with a fixed striker, or a trigger mechanism. When rushing to fire, the so-called double loading may occur, when the mortar fighter submits the next mine to the barrel before the first one leaves, therefore some mortars provide a safety lock against double loading. Large-caliber and automatic mortars, as well as self-propelled with a tower installation, are usually charged from the breech, and they have anti-recoil devices.
The large steepness of the trajectory allows you to fire from shelters and "over the heads" of your troops, to reach the enemy behind the slopes, in crevices and on city streets, not only manpower, but also field fortifications. The ability to type on the tail of the mine combination of variable charges in combustible cards gives a wide maneuver in firing range. The advantages of the mortar include the simplicity of the device and the small mass - this is the easiest and most maneuverable type of artillery with a sufficiently large caliber and combat rate of fire, the disadvantages are the unimportant accuracy of firing with ordinary mines.
120-mm mortar 2B11 complex "Sani" in the combat position, the USSR
From kids to giants
Another surge of interest in mortars occurred at the turn of the XX and XXI centuries. The nature of modern conflicts and military operations requires high mobility of units and subunits, their rapid transfer to the combat area in any region and at the same time they have sufficient firepower. Accordingly, light artillery complexes with ample maneuvering possibilities (fast change of positions, maneuvering trajectories), aerial transport, with high power of ammunition and a short time between target detection and opening fire on it are necessary. Different countries have launched programs - their own or joint - development of a new generation of mortars.
The most common caliber mortar to date is 120 millimeters. After World War II, a gradual transition of this caliber to a battalion link began, where he replaced the usual 81 and 82 caliber of a millimeter. Among the first, 120-mm mortars were introduced as battalion armies of France and Finland. In the Soviet army, 120-mm mortars were transferred from the regimental unit to the battalion at the end of the 1960-s. This markedly increased the fire capabilities of the battalions, but at the same time demanded greater mobility from 120-mm mortars. In the Petrel Research Institute, under the existing 120-mm round of ammunition, a light-weight mortar complex “Sledge” was developed, which was put into service in 1979 under the symbol 2-12. Mortar (index 2Б11) - muzzle-loading, made according to the usual scheme of an imaginary triangle, with a detachable wheel travel. For the transportation of the mortar served as a car GAZ-66-05. The “transportable” character makes it possible to achieve a high marching speed - up to 90 km / h, although this requires a specially equipped vehicle (winch, bridges, paired, mortar fixtures in the back), and a separate vehicle will be needed to transport full ammunition. Towing a mortar behind a car off-road is used for short distances with a quick change of position.
The effectiveness of 120-mm lighting and smoke mines, as well as work on controlled and corrected mines, played a rather large role in the growth of interest in 120-mm mortars (although the “ordinary” mines still occupy the main place in the mortar ammunition). Examples include the Swedish homing mine "Strix" (with a firing range of up to 7,5 kilometers), the US-German HM395 (up to 15 kilometers), the German "Bussard" and the French "Asseded" (with self-guided combat elements). In Russia, the Tula Instrument Design Bureau created the Gran system with an 120-mm high-explosive fragmentation mine aimed at the target using a laser target indicator-rangefinder complete with a thermal sight, its firing range is up to 9 kilometers.
81- and 82-mm mortars went into the category of light, designed to support units operating on foot, on rough terrain. An example of that is 82B2 (14B2-14) "Tray" 1-mm mortars and 2B24, created in the Petrel Central Research Institute. The first one weighs 42 kilograms, fires at a distance of up to 3,9 and 4,1 kilometers, for carrying it is traditionally divided into three packs, the weight of the second - 45 kilograms, firing range - up to 6 kilometers. The adoption of the mortar 2B14 in 1983 was facilitated by the experience of the Afghan war, which required portable support for motorized rifle and parachute companies. Among foreign 81-mm mortars, one of the best is considered to be the British L16 weighing 37,8 kilograms with a firing range of up to 5,65 kilometers.
240-mm self-propelled mortar 2C4 "Tulip", USSR
Less common are heavy mortars of the 160 caliber of millimeters — such breech-loading systems were, for example, in service with the USSR armies (where they received such a mortar for the first time), Israel, and India.
The largest of the mortars produced was, perhaps, the Soviet 420-mm self-propelled 2B1 “Oka” complex, designed for firing nuclear projectiles. True, this mortar built weighing more than 55 tons was built in the total number of 4 pieces.
Among serial mortars, the largest caliber - 240 millimeters - is also possessed by Soviet M-240 towed 1950 model of the year and 2 4 1971 self-propelled 130,7 of the year, both breech-loading with a barrel tilting for loading. Respectively, ammunition rounds also look solid - with a high-explosive fragmentation mine weighing 228 kilograms, an active reactive mine weighing 2 kilograms, special shots with nuclear mines with a power of 1983 kilotons each. The Tulip was delivered to the artillery brigades of the Reserve Command and was intended for the destruction of particularly important targets inaccessible to the artillery for fire — nuclear attack weapons, long-term fortifications, fortified buildings, command posts, artillery and rocket batteries. Since 1, the Tulip has been able to fire an adjustable mine of the XnUMXK113 "Brave" complex with a semi-active laser guidance system. Of course, it is impossible to shoot this “flower” directly from the 81- or 120-mm self-propelled mortars. For this, a mortar with a base plate is lowered to the ground. Although this technique is practiced in less solid systems - when using a lightweight chassis. For example, in the Soviet motorcycle installation of the Great Patriotic War, where the 82-mm mortar was fastened instead of the motorized carriage. A modern lightweight Singaporean “shock” car “Spider” carries in the body a long-barreled 120-mm mortar, quickly lowered from the stern to the ground for firing and just as quickly “thrown” back into the body. True, these systems did not receive armor protection - it is replaced by high mobility, the speed of transfer from the traveling position to the combat position and back.
At the other “pole” are light mortars of a caliber of 50-60 millimeters. The debate about their effectiveness goes almost as much as they exist. In our country, 50-mm company mortars were removed from service during the Great Patriotic War, although the Wehrmacht used these installations quite successfully. Light mortars with a firing range of no more (or a little more) kilometers, but carried along with ammunition by 1-2 fighters, were adopted in many countries and later. In the “ordinary” (motorized infantry or motorized rifle) units, automatic grenade launchers were successful competitors, leaving light mortars with a niche in the armament of special forces, light infantry, and in units that were primarily close-combat and could not count on immediate support for “heavy” weapons. An example is the French 60 mm Commando (weight - 7,7 kilograms, firing range - up to 1050 meters), purchased by more than 20 countries, or the American M224 of the same caliber. Even lighter (6,27 kilograms) is the British 51-mm L9A1, however, with a firing range of no more than 800 meters. The Israelis, by the way, found the 60 mm mortars a very original use - as additional weapons for the main combat tank Merkava.
Breech and rifled
At the beginning of the 1960-i, the French army received a rifled muzzle-loading 120-mm mortar MO-RT-61, in which several solutions were connected - a rifled barrel, ready protrusions on the lead belt of the projectile, powder charge on a special charger, flying out with a projectile . The merits of this system were fully appreciated not immediately and not everywhere. What are they?
The feathered non-rotating mine has a number of advantages. It is simple in structure, cheap in production, the drop down almost vertically with the head part down ensures reliable triggering of the fuse and effective fragmentation and high explosive actions. At the same time, a number of elements of the casing of the mines are weakly involved in the formation of the fragmentation field. Its stabilizer of useful fragments practically does not give, the tail part of the body containing little explosive is crushed into large fragments at a very low speed, in the head part due to an excess of explosive substance a significant part of the metal body goes into dust. Slaughter fragments with the required mass and speed of dispersal results in mostly small along the length of the cylindrical part of the body. In a projectile with finished protrusions (the so-called rifled), it is possible to achieve greater elongation of the hull; to make walls of equal thickness along the length and with an equal mass obtain a more uniform fragmentation field. And with a simultaneous increase in the amount of explosive, both the speed of dispersal of fragments and the high-explosive action of the projectile increase. For 120-mm rifled projectile, the average speed of fragmentation of fragments was almost 1,5 times more than that of a mine of the same caliber. Since the destructive effect of fragments is determined by their kinetic energy, the significance of the increase in the velocity of dispersion is understandable. True, a rifled projectile is much more complicated and more expensive to manufacture. And stabilization by rotation makes it difficult to shoot at high angles of elevation - the “re-stabilized” projectile does not have time to “tip over” and quite often falls the tail part forward. Here are the advantages of a feathered mine.
In the USSR, specialists in the artillery section of the Central Scientific Research Institute of Precision Engineering (TsNIITOCHMASH) in the city of Klimovsk were studying the possibilities of combining rifled shells with a rifled barrel in solving the tasks of military artillery. Already the first experiments with French shells brought to the Soviet Union gave promising results. The power of the 120-mm rifled high-explosive fragmentation projectile turned out to be close to the usual 152-mm howitzer projectile. TsNIITOCHMASH, together with specialists from the Main Missile-Artillery Directorate, began work on a universal weapon.
In general, the idea of a "universal weapon" has repeatedly changed its appearance. In 20 — 30-s of the XX century, they worked on universal cannons with ground and anti-aircraft fire properties (primarily for divisional artillery) and light (battalion) guns that solve the tasks of a light howitzer and anti-tank gun. Neither one nor the other ideas did not justify themselves. In 1950 — 1960-s, the combination of the properties of a howitzer and mortar was already mentioned - it suffices to recall the experienced American tools HM70 Moritz and M98 Gautar (the names are derived from the combination of the words mortar and howitzer: MORtar-howiTZER and HOWitzer - morTAR). But overseas, these projects were abandoned, we also took up the 120-mm rifled gun with a removable breech and various types of charges that turned it into a muzzle-loading mortar or recoilless gun (however, the last “hypostasis” was soon abandoned).
Variants of shots used with 120-mm universal guns of the "Nona" family
Meanwhile, in the framework of large-scale self-propelled artillery works, difficult development for airborne troops of self-propelled 122-mm howitzer "Violet" and 120-mm mortar "Lily of the valley" on the landing gear chassis was going on. But the light chassis, even lengthened by one roller, did not withstand the recoil of the gun. Then they suggested creating a universal 120-mm gun on the same base.
The topic of work received the cipher "Nona" (in the literature there are various options for decrypting this name, but it looks like it was just a word chosen by the customer). The airborne self-propelled gun was urgently needed, so the legendary commander of the Airborne Forces, Army General V.F. Margelov literally “punched” this topic. And in the 1981, the 120-mm self-propelled artillery gun (SAO) 2С9 Nona-S was adopted, which soon began to be received in the airborne units.
The unique combat capabilities of the “Nona” lie in its ballistics and ammunition. Rifled high-explosive fragmentation projectiles - conventional and active-reactive - the gun fires on a mounted "howitzer" trajectory. At a steeper, "mortar", the fire is conducted by ordinary fired 120-mm mines, and mines of domestic and foreign production can be used (a considerable plus for the landing). The mine goes along the barrel with a gap without damaging the rifling, but the breech-loading scheme allowed the barrel to be made longer, so the shooting accuracy is slightly better than with most 120-mm mortars. The gun can fire at a flat trajectory, like a gun, but with a small initial velocity of the projectile (to combat armored targets, a cumulative projectile was inserted into the ammunition), moreover, light armor makes direct fire too dangerous.
82-mm automatic mortar 2B9M "Cornflower", USSR
In the development of a completely new complex did not do without curiosities. For example, after the first show of “Nona-S” at the 9 parade of May 1985, foreign analysts were very interested in the “blister” (spherical tide) on the left side of the tower, suspecting that a fundamentally new automated aiming complex with a range finder and target designator was hidden under it. But everything was much simpler - after installing the artillery unit, instruments and crew workstations in a coarse (in accordance with the requirements) tower, it turned out that the gunner was inconvenient to work with a periscope sight. To give a place for the movement of his hand, in the armor made a cut, covering it with a "blister", which remained on the production machines.
The combat check was not long in coming - the experience of the use of the new CAO in Afghanistan quickly made Nona a favorite in the Airborne Forces units. Especially since it became a weapon of regimental artillery, "close" to the units directly leading the battle. A basic chassis, unified with the BTR-D, characterized by high mobility, made it possible to quickly bring weapons to firing positions in difficult mountain conditions. Later, "Nona-S" entered in the Marine Corps - the benefit she has kept the buoyancy of the base machine.
Together with the self-propelled, as it should be, a towed version of the gun with the same ammunition was created, which entered service with the Ground Forces in 1986 under the designation 2B16 “Nona-K” (the name “Nona-B”, more suited to the order of symbols, seemed to the customer not very euphonic). The ground forces, assessing the results of the use of Nona-S in the Airborne Forces, ordered a self-propelled version, but on their own unified chassis, the BTR-80, and in 1990, the Nona-SVK NSS appeared.
Elapsed time, and for the new modernization 2С9 (2С9-1) prepared a set of measures, including: installation of two new systems - an inertial system for orienting the bore (installed on the rocking part of the gun) and a space navigation system (mounted in the tower), the introduction of an odometer navigation system with improved performance in accuracy, telecode communications equipment. The space navigation system should top-connect the instrument using signals from the domestic GLONASS satellite system. However, on tests in 2006, the upgraded "Nona-S" (2С9-1М) used signals from the commercial channel of the GPS system - an order of magnitude inferior to the accuracy of the closed channel. But even so, the gun opened fire at an unscheduled target through 30 — 50 seconds after taking up a firing position — significantly less than 5 — 7 minutes required for the same 2-9 gun. The CAO 2X9-1M also received a powerful onboard computer, which allows it to operate in an autonomous mode, regardless of the point of reconnaissance and fire control of the battery. In addition to the effectiveness of defeating the main targets, all this allows increasing the survival rate of the weapon on the battlefield, since it is now possible, without prejudice to the fulfillment of the firing tasks, to locate the weapons in the firing positions dispersed. The gun itself can not linger on one firing position and quickly perform a maneuver to evade the enemy's strike. By the way, the “None” now also has a heater, future crews will definitely like it. Although, perhaps, would not hurt and air conditioning.
120-mm rifled breech-loading mortar 2B-23 "Nona-М1" in the loading position
"None-S" had a chance to compete with foreign systems. Former commander of the airborne artillery, Major General A.V. In his memoirs, Grekhnev told about the competition in the form of joint combat shooting conducted in June 1997 by the gunners of the American 1 Armored Division and the Russian separate airborne brigade who were part of the peacekeeping forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although the rivals were in different "weight categories" (from the Americans - 155-mm howitzer М109А2 divisional artillery, from the Russians - 120-mm guns 2С9 regimental artillery), the Russian paratroopers "shot" the Americans for all assigned tasks. It's nice, but from the details of the story, we can assume that the Americans are not fully using the capabilities of their guns (battery commanders, for example, cannot target the target without receiving accurate data from the senior commander), our gunners squeeze out of their guns everything possible.
Back in 1980-s, the development of a new 120-mm automated universal CAO began on the basis of the research work of TsNIITOCHMASH. The efforts of the same FSUE “TSNIITOCHMASH” and the Permian OJSC “Motovilikha Plants” created 1996-mm SAO for 120 year, which received the index 2С31 and the code “Vienna” using the BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle chassis. The main difference between the artillery unit was the elongated barrel, which made it possible to improve the ballistic characteristics, the range of high-explosive fragmentation projectile increased to 13, and the active-reactive - to 14 kilometers. Refinement of the bolt group (referring to and "Nona") has increased the safety and simplified maintenance tools. In addition to the improved artillery unit, the "Vienna" has a high degree of automation. The gun-based computing complex on the basis of the onboard computer provides control of the operation of the CAO in an automated cycle - from receiving a command via a telecode communication channel to automatic pointing of the gun horizontally and vertically, restoring pickup after a shot, issuing commands and tips to the members of the calculation, automatic guidance control. There are automatic topographic location and orientation systems and optical electronic reconnaissance and target designation (with day and night channels). Laser target designator-rangefinder allows you to accurately determine the distance to the target and autonomously fire guided projectiles. However, traditional manual methods of targeting are also possible - combat experience has shown that one cannot do without them. Heavier chassis allowed to increase the ammunition to 70 shots. Measures were also taken to quickly dampen body oscillations after a shot - this allows you to quickly make several aimed shots on a single sight set.
At the same time, the efforts of the GNPP "Basalt" and TsNIITOCHMASH created new 120-mm ammunition, that is, the whole complex was being improved. In particular, a fragmentation projectile of thermobaric equipment with a significantly increased explosive effect was developed: for this, a more uniform crushability of the body was realized (through the use of a new material) and the fragmentation velocity was increased to 2500 m / s. Designed and shot with a cluster projectile equipped with 30 cumulative fragmentation combat elements. These munitions can be used in the guns "Vienna" and "Nona".
"Vienna" - the basis for the further expansion of the family 120-mm universal guns. In parallel with the creation of the CAO for the Ground Forces, work was carried out on the topic with the funny name “Pressing” over the similar CAO for the Airborne Forces using the BMD-3 chassis. More precisely, this is a new airborne artillery complex of the Airborne Forces, which consists of an automated 120-mm SAO, with ballistics and ammunition similar to AO Vena; Commander CAO (“Crimp-K”); point of intelligence and automated fire control; point artillery and instrumental intelligence. But the fate of "Crimp" is still unclear. Like the towed version of the "Vienna".
Universal tools are interested in other countries. In particular, the Chinese corporation NORINCO recently introduced the 120-mm rifled "mortar-howitzer" - the actual copy of the gun "Nona". Not for nothing, as you can see, Chinese experts have previously made so much effort in order to study the "Nona" as much as possible.
What about mortars?
More recently, already in 2007, the “Nona” family was expanded by another member. This 120-mm towed breeder-loading mortar 2B-23 "Nona-M1". The circle is closed - once the family itself was a continuation of the work on a rifled mortar. History its appearance is curious. In 2004, several amplification options for airborne units were tested. The Tulyaks proposed a multiple launch rocket system with unguided 80-mm C-8 missiles on the BTR-D chassis. The Nizhny Novgorod Central Research Institute "Petrel" is a portable 82-mm mortar on the same BTR-D, and TsNIITOCHMASH is a towed Nona-M1 mortar. The latter attracted attention not only for its efficiency, but also for its size and comparative cheapness. Yes, and large stocks of 120-mm mines against the background of the situation with the production of projectiles (including projectiles for Nona guns) that deteriorated sharply in the 1990-s, were not the last reason for the active interest in mortars. Among the characteristic features of the Nona-M1 mortar are automatic unlocking of the bore after a shot and bringing the trunk and bolt group into the loading position, variable width of the wheel travel, allowing it to be towed behind various tractors. Although compared to smooth-bore muzzle-loading mortars of the same caliber, it looks more bulky.
Experimental installation of RUAG 120-mm muzzle-loading mortar on the chassis of the Piranha armored vehicle 8х8, Switzerland
Abroad, a new wave of interest in 120-mm mortar complexes revived the French rifled mortar MO-120-RT (F.1). In the corral, of course, he was not, honestly serving in France as well as in Norway, Japan, and Turkey. But at the turn of the century, the French company “Thomson” DASA introduced its development to the market - the 2R2M mortar (Rifle Recoiled, Mounted Mortar, that is, a rifled mortar with recoil devices for mounting on the carrier) - initially as the basis of a self-propelled complex on a wheeled or tracked chassis. A mortar with a range of normal mine to 8,2, and actively reactive - up to 13 kilometers, kept a muzzle-loading scheme and, in order not to force the gunner to stick out of the car, it is equipped with ... a hydraulic elevator and a chute for lifting the shot and dropping into the barrel. In 2000, the TDA introduced the towed version. 2R2M can be used as an automated, remotely controlled complex. It became the basis of the Dragonfire mortar program for the United States Marine Corps, and it is also planned to use both rifled shells and fired mine for firing. A variant of the tractor is a lightweight Grauler jeep, which, unlike the army HMMWV, together with a mortar, crew and ammunition can be transferred by plane with vertical takeoff and landing of the MV-22.
At the same time, a self-propelled NLOS-M complex of the same caliber 120 of millimeters is being developed for the US Army, but with a breech-loaded mortar in a swiveling armored platform on a well-armored tracked chassis.
Two different self-propelled mortar complex of the same caliber for different conditions of use launched in the development and in Germany. One is a 120-mm muzzle-loading mortar on the chassis of the Wisel-2 airborne assault vehicle - there the artillery unit is mounted openly at the stern of the vehicle, but the loading is made from inside the hull. The other is a 120-mm mortar in a turret mounted on an BMP chassis.
The tower installation of breech-loaded mortars with circular shelling and a large range of elevation angles is of interest from the end of the 1980-s (the Soviet “Nona-S” was significantly ahead of foreign developments here). They replace the simple installation of a mortar in the body of an armored car with a large hatch in the roof of the body. Among other advantages of the tower installation is called a sharp decrease in the impact on the crew of the shock wave of the shot. Earlier, in a number of NATO countries, they managed, “according to environmental standards,” to limit the number of shots of an openly installed mortar to 20 shots per day. Of course, not for combat conditions. In combat, a trained crew spends so many shots in one or two minutes. With the transition to the tower circuit "allowed" to do more than 500 shots per day.
The British company Royal Ordnance, together with Delco in 1986, introduced the AMS armored mortar system with an 120-mm breech-loading mortar in a tower with a firing range of 9 kilometers. Moreover, among the requirements for a self-propelled mortar was the ability to transport aircraft type C-130J. This system on the chassis "Piranha" (8x8) purchased Saudi Arabia.
The original version was presented in 2000 by the Finnish-Swedish company “PatriaHyoglunds” - a double-barreled AMOS 120-mm mortar gun with a range of up to 13 kilometers. A double-barrel installation with an automatic loader allows in a short time to develop a firing rate of up to 26 rounds per minute, and a self-propelled chassis quickly leaves the position. The tower is placed on the tracked chassis of the BMP CV-90 or wheeled XA-185. There is also an easy single-barreled version of “Nemo” (ordered by Slovenia). At the turn of the 80 — 90-s of the XX century, installations were also proposed with a large number of trunks — for example, the Austrian 120-mm four-barreled SM-4 on the chassis of the Unimog car. But such "self-propelled batteries" did not receive development. But in general, mortars - very much alive.