As the Army pushes the distance of its artillery and missiles to never-before-seen ranges, it’s also aiming to lob mortars farther and faster.

A posting last month on the government notice website wants to see what industry has for three programs aiming to increase 120mm mortar capabilities — an extended range mortar system, an indirect fire turret and an automated remote capability.

The extended range system is expected to replace the existing M120A1 system by 2026. It can be nearly 100 pounds heavier than the current variant, but it must fire nearly 2,000 meters farther, or a maximum distance of 9 kilometers.

The Future Indirect Fire Turret is picking up steam a little sooner, with the Army expecting industry to produce the new turret by 2021.

It will provide protection from enemy counter battery systems and from noise and blast overpressures. The turret will need to fire farther than the current Battalion Mortar System and the Recoil Mortar System.

And it must mass fires from a single platform, hit targets with both direct fire and use in progress weaponry such as the Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile System or Single Multi-missile Attack Munition, according to the posting.

The turret will be automated and able to mount on the Stryker, Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle and Next Generation Combat Vehicle. The turret will have to reach much farther than is now the norm, pushing rounds out to max ranges of 20 kilometers, or more than 12 miles.

The system will speed up targeting, too.

Computing targeting will need to run at least semi-autonomously, with a goal of autonomous targeting, being able to fire and move within 90 seconds of identifying an enemy. The goal will be to “shoot on the move.”

Oh, and faster firing.

It will need to shoot six rounds in four seconds on target with a goal of reaching 12 rounds in four seconds.

Officials want it to send 16 rounds downrange in the first minute of firing and sustain six rounds a minute indefinitely to begin with. But, they hope to reach 24 rounds per minute for two minutes followed by 12 rounds a minute indefinitely.

The automated remote capability applies to two systems, both the 81mm and 120mm mortars, according to the posting.

The main features of interest on this project are pushing the 81mm out to 15 kilometers and allowing for autoloading of 20 rounds between human-assisted reloads.

For either caliber, the system must shoot 20 rounds a minute max, with a goal of reaching 30 rounds a minute.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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