The mortar is the infantry's own artillery, ready to go at a moment's notice at the order of the unit commander. The 60mm (2.36 inch) mortar was developed to give the infantry a lightweight, easily man-carried mortar for indirect fire support of small units (platoon/company). Typically, in American ground forces, a mortar section was associated with each infantry company. The M2 60mm mortar of World War II was the first 60mm model fielded, to be followed by the M19 and M224 models.
Ranger of the 1st Ranger Battalion firing an M2 60mm mortar, World War II. The light weight and quick set up of the M2 made it an excellent indirect fire support for the fast moving Rangers.
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The first U.S. light mortar was the 60 mm M2, produced during World War II as a scaled down 81 mm mortar. It had an effective range of 1000 yards (meters) and a maximum range of double that, with its HE round. It weighed only 42 lbs assembled, making it readily man-portable.
The M2 was organic to every American rifle company (Army and Marine Corps), typically in a weapons platoon with a mortar section containing three mortars. It was the most flexible indirect fire support, quick to bring on target and deadly in effect.
The M19 Mortar, also of World War II vintage, had the same range and weight as the M2, but more flexibility in firing. It had a lightweight base plate that made it possible to hand fire the mortar and use it for direct aimed fire. After WW II, the M2 and M19 continued to be used by the Army and Marines in Korea and Vietnam.
M224 60mm Lightweight Company Mortar System (LWCMS), with bipod.
The M224 60mm Lightweight Company Mortar System (LWCMS) was adopted in 1982 to replace the M19 60mm mortar, giving the company mortar section increased capability in range and responsiveness. It can be fired in a direct mode or through the use of a fire direction center (FDC). Like the M2 and M19, the M224 is a high-angle weapon used for close-in support of ground troops. The M224 system consists of the M25 Cannon (tube), M170 Bipod, M7 Baseplate for conventional mode firing or M8 Baseplate for hand-held mode firing , and the M64A1 Sight Unit (also used by the M252 81 mm mortar). This smooth bore system can be gravity-fired or fired by using a manual spring-loaded firing system. The maximum effective range of the M224 is 2.17 miles (3490 meters).
While the M224 replaced the older M2 and M19 60mm Mortars, the M224 was designed to fire all types of the older ammunition until stocks are exhausted. Its primary rounds are of the newer, longer-range type. The high explosive round used in the M-224 has snap-off propellant segments, allowing the gunner to adjust the range by changing the amount of propellant, and a variable fuse, adjusted by rotating the fuse head. The fuse setting allows the projectile to burst before impact, on impact or after impact.
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