Weapons of the War in Afghanistan
|Downed CH-47F at Firebase Vegas January 17, 2009.|
6 friendly wounded, 1 friendly KIA (Sgt. Ezra Dawson).
CH-47F was downed by Small arms fire(SAF)/RPGs/MANPAD(Possibly an SA-7)
In the world of war, weapons and technology are ever changing, each war is characterized by the weapons and tactics used to fight it. As new environments and enemies are encountered, the parties to those wars develop new - more effective tactics, technologies, and weapons to counter and defeat their adversaries. The ingenuity seen in war has existed since (and most certainly before) the first wars of recorded history and continue to this very day.
Keeping with that theory, let’s take a look at the weapons that have characterized the wars and conflicts that the United States has been a party to over the course of it’s history. During the course of this series, I aim to breakdown the weapons used in each conflict by their classification, and to which party they were employed by. Having served in combat operations in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, I would like to start our series with the War in Afghanistan.
For our eighth installment, let’s take a look at the most commonly encountered mortar systems in the War in Afghanistan.
Part I: The United States
M224 60mm mortar
In Afghanistan it is common for each firebase and outpost (platoon level) to have at least one M224 mortar system (Especially in RC-East).
The M224 60 mm Lightweight Mortar is a smooth bore, muzzle-loading, high-angle-of-fire weapon used for close-in support of ground troops.
The M224 system is composed of the: M225 Cannon 14.4 lb (7 kg); M170 Bipod 15.2 lb (7 kg); M7A1 Baseplate for use in conventional mode 9.6 lb (4 kg) or M8 baseplate for use in handheld mode 3.6 lb (2 kg); M64A1 Sight Unit 2.5 lb (1kg)
The mount consists of a bipod and a base plate, which is provided with screw type elevating and traversing mechanisms to elevate/traverse the mortar. The M64A1 sight unit is attached to the bipod mount. The mortar can be fired in the conventional mode or the handheld mode. This smooth-bore system can be gravity-fired or fired by using a manual spring-loaded firing system.
The M224 Mortar can fire the following principal classifications of training and service ammunition:
- High explosive (HE): Designations M888, M720, and M720A1. Used against personnel and light material targets.
- Smoke Cartridge (WP): Designation M722. Used as a screening, signaling, or marking munition (White Phosphorus).
- Illumination (ILLUM): Used in night missions requiring illumination for assistance in observation.
- Training practice (TP): Designation M50A2/A3. Used for training in limited areas. These rounds are obsolete and not used anymore.
- Red Phosphorus: Which can be seen with or without a Night Vision Optic
- Full Range Practice Cartridges (FRPC): Designation M769. This round is used for practice or clearing misfires.
- M1061 MAPAM: SAAB Technologies produced Multi-Purpose Anti-Personnel Anti-Material round.
The M224 rounds have three fuze types: The Multioption Fuze (M734), the Point-Detonating Fuze (M525), and Timer fuze. The M734 is used for the M720 HE round and can be set to function as proximity burst, near-surface burst, impact burst, or delay burst.
- Cartridge: 60mm rounds
- Effective Range: HE: 70–3,490 m
- Weight: 47 lbs / 21.1 kg
- Rate of Fire: up to 20 rpm sustained; 30 rpm in exceptional circumstances and for short periods
- Capacity: Single shot
|View to the south of the Korengal Valley from the gate of the Korengal Outpost.|
M252 81mm mortar
The M252 81 mm medium weight mortar is a British designed smooth bore, muzzle-loading, high-angle-of-fire weapon used for long-range indirect fire support to light infantry, air assault, and airborne units.
The M252 system weighs 91 lb (41 kg) completely assembled and is composed of the M253 Cannon (35 lb, 16 kg), M177 Mount (27 lb, 12 kg), M3A1 Baseplate (29 lb, 13 kg), and the M64A1 Sight Unit (2.5 lb, 1.1 kg). The mount consists of a base plate and a bipod, which is provided with screw type elevating and traversing mechanisms to elevate/traverse the mortar. The M64A1 sight unit (also used on the M224) is attached to the bipod mount. The M252 is a gravity-fired smoothbore system. Attached to the muzzle of the weapon is the Blast Attenuation Device (BAD), used to reduce the blast effects on the mortar crew. To increase cooling efficiency, the breech end is finned; though first-hand accounts attest that the level of cooling is negligible. The cannon also has a crew-removable breech plug and firing pin.
Types of rounds:
While the M252 does fire a weapon specific series of ammunition, it can also fire rounds from the M29 Mortar (only at charge 3 or below though). The M252 Mortar can fire the following principal classifications of training and service ammunition:
- High explosive (HE): Designations M821, M821A1, M889, M889A1, M372-series, and M362. Used against personnel and light materiel targets.
- Smoke Cartridge: Designations M819 and M375-series(WP). Used as a screening, signaling, or marking munition.
- Illumination (ILLUM): Designations M853A1 and M301-series. Used in night missions requiring illumination for assistance in observation.
- Non-Lethal Indirect Fire Munition: Developmental round based on the M853A1 that disperses flash bang submunitions to temporarily daze people.
- Training practice (TP): Designations M880, M879, M68 and sabot. Used for training in limited areas.
- Infrared Illumination (IR): Produces illumination which is only visible through the use of night vision devices.
The M224 rounds have two fuze types: the Multioption Fuze (M734) and the Point-Detonating Fuze (M935). The M734 is used for the M720 HE round and can be set to function as proximity burst, near-surface burst, impact burst, or delay burst.
- Cartridge: 81mm rounds
- Effective Range: HE: 91–5,935 m
- Weight: 91 lbs / 41.3 kg
- Rate of Fire: 8–16 rpm sustained; 20–30 rpm in exceptional circumstances and for short periods
- Capacity: Single shot
M120 120mm mortar
In Afghanistan it is common to have 120mm mortars at the company level providing indirect fire to the platoons. At Firebase Vegas we would frequently call in indirect from the 120mm mortars at the Korengal Outpost.
The M120 fires fin-stabilized ammunition from a smoothbore barrel. Unlike its smaller ammunition cousins, the 81 mm and 60 mm mortars, the fin blades of the ammunition fired from the M120 are not canted. Thus, no spin is imparted to the projectile in flight. Although heavy mortars require trucks or tracked mortar carriers to move them, they are still much lighter than field artillery pieces. They outrange light and medium mortars, and their explosive power is much greater. Its mission is to provide heavy weapon, high-angle organic indirect fire support to the unit commander. The M120 is used by both mechanized units and light infantry in certain situations. Another feature of the M120 is the M303 Sub-Caliber insert, which allows the mortar to fire 81 mm ammunition.
High explosive rounds fired by the M120 weigh about 31 lb (14 kg) and can have a lethality radius of 225 ft (69 m).
The M120 mortar system consists of the following major components: M298 cannon assembly (110 pounds or 50 kilograms); M190 bipod assembly (70 pounds or 32 kilograms); M9 baseplate (136 pounds or 62 kilograms); M1100 trailer (399 pounds or 181 kilograms); M67 sight unit (2.5 pounds or 1.1 kilograms)
The M120 is capable of firing the following munitions:
- XM395 precision guided munition
- M929 smoke cartridge (White Phosphorus)
- XM930 illumination round
- XM930E1 illumination round
- XM931 practice round
- M933 high explosive round
- M934 high explosive round
- M934A1 high explosive round
- XM983 illumination round
- Cartridge: 120mm rounds
- Effective Range: 200m-7,240 m
- Weight: 319 lbs / 144.7 kg
- Rate of Fire: 16 RPM max, 4 RPM sustained
- Capacity: Single shot
|Shawn Garlow in the Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan.|
For more info on these and other weapons
Technical specs compiled from:
For Use of Photos by Shawn Garlow
Labels: 1-26 INF, Afghanistan, Cactus Tactical, Firebase Vegas, Korengal Valley, M120 120mm, M224 60mm, M252 81mm, Mortars, Operation Enduring Freedom, War In Afghanistan, Weapons of War