Mortars are 'The infantry's artillery', providing artillery-like fire support to small infantry units when artillery is either not available, or cannot be moved forward fast enough. In the U.S. Military, the typical deployment is that light 60 mm mortars are at the platoon or company level, supported by 81 mm mortars at battalion, and by the 4.2 inch mortars (now 120 mm) at regimental level.

Marine Reserve Cpl. Jason Burket positions an M252 81mm mortar during an exercise in Jaramijo, Ecuador, 10 September 2002
Marine Reserve Cpl. Jason Burket positions an M252 81mm mortar during an exercise in Jaramijo, Ecuador, 10 September 2002.

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Infantry Mortars

Click on the link to go to individual Olive-Drab pages for each type of mortar:

Charactaristics of Mortars

A mortar is an indirect fire weapon that consists of a tube into which a mortar shell is dropped. The shell hits bottom on a fixed firing pin, setting off a detonation which propels the shell out with a high ballistic trajectory. Mortar rounds have fins to stabilize their flight and cause the shell to strike fuze-end first.

Since before World War II, mortars have had these components:

  • a lightweight tube
  • a bipod lifting and supporting the forward, open end of the tube
  • a relatively large base plate supporting the closed end of the tube at ground level
  • a sight, elevating and traversing mechanism, and other accessories

Light (60 mm) and medium (81 mm) mortars are portable, carried into combat by their crew. Heavy mortars are installed in custom gun carriages and are employed like artillery.

Mortars are used for battlefield illumination at night, to lay down smoke to conceal troop movements, and for anti-personnel fire using high explosive rounds. Chemical mortars have been used in the past but are not now part of the U.S. inventory.

Types of rounds for modern U.S. mortars
Types of rounds for modern U.S. mortars.

Find More Information on the Internet

There are many fine websites that have additional information on this topic, too many to list here and too many to keep up with as they come and go. Use this Google web search form to get an up to date report of what's out there.

For good results, try entering this: mortar 60mm or 81mm or 4.2. Then click the Search button.

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