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Marines in Afghanistan getting mortar improvements

The Office of Naval Research's new Fire Control Unit 60mm Mortar sight also contains an onboard ballistic library allowing for multiple cartridge employment.

A new tool is heading to Afghanistan to make it easier for Marines to put insurgents in their sights.

The “Fire Control Unit” is a new 60mm mortar sight, small enough to fit in a uniform pocket, that attaches to the weapon’s upper barrel, providing a dramatic increase in target accuracy, especially at night, an Office of Naval Research statement said Wednesday. Combat instructors at Marine Corps Base Quantico conducted a live-fire demonstration Tuesday.

Prior tests were so successful that the Marines in Afghanistan have requested six prototypes, which are already on the way.

“The nighttime capability is awesome, I mean awesome,” assistant mortars instructor Sgt. Garrett Dennard said in the statement. “At night, by the second round, I trusted it 100 percent.”

The 60 mm mortar was integral to victory in the Pacific during World War II and has been a Marines staple ever since. But targeting relied on eyes for aim, looking over the end of the barrel at a target.

A chief warrant officer had contacted ONR’s TechSolutions program, seeking help to improve accuracy, the statement said. The program takes requests from sailors and Marines and works with engineers and scientists to “provide technology solutions, usually within a 12- to 18-month timeframe.”

“This is a true success story,” TechSolutions head Tom Gallagher said in the statement. “It’s going to save lives.”

ONR also developed a new lightweight sling with a built-in heat shield that protects the user’s hands while making it easier to transport the weapon, the statement said. The sling features a lightweight mount designed to eliminate the loud clanging that the old mount made when it banged against the weapon in transit, which could give away a Marine’s position.

“The new sling and sight overall are really important additions to the weapon,” Dennard added.

TechSolutions partnered with L3 Insight Technologies to develop the sight and Tactical Assault Gear Industries on the sling and heat shield, the statement said. The groups worked in conjunction with U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific Experimentation Center on both projects.

The statement said experts believe the improvements also could yield significant long-term cost savings.

“If our guys can tee up targets at a quicker pace and hit their targets with less shots, that’s a clear win not only on the battlefield, but in the cost category - which ultimately allows more training and opportunities for our warfighters,” Gallagher said.

burke.matt@stripes.com

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