Soldiers say new mortar system boosts speed, accuracy
RODRIGUEZ RANGE, South Korea — Air power and ground bombardment came together in a newer, faster way at Rodriguez Range late last week.
For the first time, the 2nd Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment combined its AH-64 Apache helicopter crews’ firepower with the 4th Battalion, 7th Cavalry’s newly deployed M-95 Mortar Fire Control System. Add in fighting vehicles on the ground and snipers eyeballing the valley below and the targets at Thursday’s combined live-fire exercise never stood a chance.
“All the work pays off when you get to see them put rounds down range,” said Apache crew chief Cpl. Anthony Carrier.
The ground and air elements spotted targets by radio and determined the best type of attack. In some cases, Bradley Fighting Vehicle crews pointed a laser at a target, which could be seen and fired upon with guns or practice rockets by the Apaches.
Meanwhile, Bradley mortar crews fired their high explosive rounds, weighing nearly 40 pounds each, from a couple of miles away.
Using the former XM-31 system, soldiers had to find their targets with an aiming circle and make corrections after the first firing blast.
The new system is digital. The aiming circle is no longer needed, and the onboard computer displays precise correction calculations on a lightweight display.
The four-man Bradley crew operating the mortar system also can communicate using a system similar to instant messaging.
The system’s potential for quicker strikes clearly sets it apart, said Sgt. 1st Class Edward Schlottman, a mortarman for 17 years.
It took up to two minutes to fire during an immediate suppression mission with the old system, Schlottman said.
When trainers from Fort Benning, Ga., came to South Korea to demonstrate the system, they accomplished their missions in between nine and 13 seconds. Soldiers said that won’t happen every time and requires a lot of practice, but it is possible.
“We were in awe,” Schlottman said. “This is something that’s totally separate from past advances. In terms of speed and accuracy, it’s amazing.”
Soldiers took an 80-hour course with classroom and field components to learn the new system.
The time spent learning was well worth it, said soldiers firing the mortars from inside the Bradley vehicles. “This system brought us out of the Stone Age,” said smiling gunner Pfc. Chris Baker after firing dozens of 120 mm rounds on Thursday.