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Special Forces test an Israeli mortar system that will make them more lethal and survivable

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Green Berets from the 3rd Special Forces Group have been testing a new, fully autonomous, computerized, mounted mortar system that can be used in a Humvee or other light, highly mobile vehicles. 

The 3rd Special Force Group has partnered with the Israel Elbit Systems to “develop, test, and field” the new mortar system, according to SFC Zach VanDyke. Special Forces operators are in the final stages of development and testing and are working to assess how well the mortar system works for deployed Special Forces teams, VanDyke told Task and Purpose.

“The system will allow for more mobile and versatile capabilities on the battlefield for combatant commanders and other leaders to consider when planning both defensive and offensive operations,” VanDyke said.

The “Sling” 120mm mortar system can be fitted on many light vehicles that can carry 900 pounds of cargo weight. Elbit said on its website that the mortar could be put in or out of action in 30-60 seconds, increasing operator survivability due to its “shoot and scoot” capability. The mortar system can easily be crewed by two to four personnel.

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Special Forces Green Berets adjust a mortar
Green Berets adjust M252 81mm mortar system to fire on a new target reference point on Fort Carson, December 13, 2018. (Photo by Sgt. Dustin Miller/10th Special Forces Group)

The U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), the unified command that oversees the military’s special operations components, purchased one of these mortar systems in May. SOCOM has been testing them in Humvees and other light vehicles, according to Elbit.

The mortar tube and the baseplate are the same as the M120A1 120mm mortar system that Elbit Systems also builds. However, the weapon is mounted to the rear cargo compartment of a Humvee, where it can be easily put into action by being folded out and laid on the target via a fire-control and an electro-drive system that control azimuth and elevation. Because the recoil of the base plate is transferred to the ground, it doesn’t transfer any recoil to the vehicle. 

The mortar can be stowed in the rear compartment by being folded back. This allows the vehicle to be easily loaded on helicopter transports without needing a trailer.

The Sling, 120mm mortar, features an accurate automatic laying system, doing away with the old hand-cranked system that slows down reaction time. It can fire 16 mortar rounds in a minute; the rounds are stored in ammo racks on the interior right side of the vehicle. The range of the mortar is about seven kms or 4.2 miles using standard ammunition.

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special forces fire a mortar during a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant Course
Students assigned to the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, who are in the Special Forces Weapons Sergeant course, fire a mortar from an M253 Cannon during training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina Sept. 9, 2019. (U.S. Army photo illustration by K. Kassens)

Elbit built special ammunition that has greatly increased the range and accuracy of its mortar rounds.

The “Iron Sting” is a 120mm mortar round with inertial guidance, precision GPS, and semi-active laser seeking to provide less-than-one-meter capability at ranges out to 12 kilometers. The “LG2MK laser-guided mortar round” kit can be assembled onto existing mortar rounds in about two minutes. This changes the conventional unguided mortar round into a guided, precision munition. 

The Israeli Army is already using the Elbit Sling systems, which will allow special forces operators to move into position quickly, set up fire accurately on an enemy target, and relocate quickly, thereby giving mortar crews greater survivability on the modern battlefield. The U.S. Army is looking to do the same.

Feature Image: The Sling 120mm mortar system mounted on a vehicle. (Elbit Systems)

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Steve Balestrieri