Picatinny provides Soldiers with quicker, safer mortar fire control system

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. — Picatin­ny Arse­nal recent­ly received kudos from Sol­diers by devel­op­ing six out of 10 2010 Army Great­est Inven­tions. One of the inven­tions rec­og­nized was a dis­mount­ed fire con­trol sys­tem that will make dis­mount­ed 120mm mor­tars eas­i­er to fire and keep Sol­diers safer.

The dis­mount­ed fire con­trol sys­tem offers Sol­diers var­i­ous ben­e­fits.
Click to enlarge

The M150/M151 Mor­tar Fire Con­trol Sys­tem — Dis­mount­ed, or MFCS‑D, pro­vides mor­tar­men with increased speed and effec­tive­ness pre­vi­ous­ly only avail­able to the mount­ed mor­tar sys­tems using fire con­trol.

“We have a sim­i­lar sys­tem that’s used on 120mm mount­ed mor­tars — the M1064 Self-Pro­pelled mor­tar and the Stryk­er mor­tar car­ri­er,” said Bob Beck, branch chief of mount­ed mor­tar sys­tems at the Arma­ment Research, Devel­op­ment and Engi­neer­ing Cen­ter, or ARDEC. “Both are big heavy plat­forms, and issued to guys in Heavy Brigade Com­bat Teams or Stryk­er Brigade Com­bat Teams. These guys are mobile and on vehi­cles, not huff­ing stuff as much.”

“The chal­lenge was that when you put a fire con­trol sys­tem on a vehi­cle, weight is not as much of a con­cern because you’ve got a vehi­cle to car­ry it around with,” Beck said. “If you have a dis­mount­ed sys­tem like the Infantry Brigade Com­bat Teams have, they don’t have the lux­u­ry of the vehi­cle at all times.”

“The idea was to devel­op a fire con­trol sys­tem that could be imple­ment­ed onto the dis­mount­ed sys­tem to give those guys the same capa­bil­i­ty of increased sur­viv­abil­i­ty, increased accu­ra­cy and increased respon­sive­ness,” Beck added. “We proved the con­cept on the heavy plat­forms, so we need­ed to tweak it so that it’s able to sur­vive not in a vehi­cle, but out on the ground.”

To ensure the light brigades had the same capa­bil­i­ty as the heavy brigades, ARDEC engi­neers cre­at­ed the MFCS‑D, M150/M151.


The MFCS‑D Improves the Army stan­dard for first mor­tar round fired from eight min­utes (day) and 12 min­utes (night) to less than two min­utes for both day and night oper­a­tions.

In addi­tion, it improves Cir­cu­lar Error Prob­a­ble, or CEP, from 136 meters to 75 meters.

Sev­en­ty-five meters CEP means that if you drew a cir­cle around a tar­get at 75 meters radius, the rounds have to fall inside the cir­cle 50 per­cent of the time.

“With the MFCS‑D the stan­dard (fir­ing time) is less than two min­utes because there isn’t any time spent set­ting up aux­il­iary equip­ment or aim­ing stakes,” Beck said. “Once you’ve emplaced the new sys­tem it already knows where it is and where it’s point­ing.”

The rea­son is that the MFCS‑D has a GPS-aid­ed Iner­tial Nav­i­ga­tion Unit, or INU, so that the sys­tem knows where it is at all times.

“The MFCS‑D also has a com­put­er that cal­cu­lates the bal­lis­tic com­pu­ta­tions for Sol­diers, which makes the mor­tar sys­tem more accu­rate by elim­i­nat­ing human error,” said Bob Ucci, chief, Weapons and Fire Con­trol Branch; Office of the Prod­uct Man­ag­er, Guid­ed Pre­ci­sion Muni­tions and Mor­tar Sys­tems; PEO Ammu­ni­tion.

“The Sol­dier does­n’t have to do any cal­cu­la­tions,” explained Ucci. “They’re done auto­mat­i­cal­ly by the fire con­trol sys­tem because the iner­tial nav­i­ga­tion unit mount­ed on the gun tube allows for the com­put­er to know the exact ori­en­ta­tion of the weapon.”

“The INU mounts on the mor­tar tube to give the accu­ra­cy for lay­ing the weapon (point­ing and posi­tion),” added Ucci.

“So when a fire mis­sion comes in the com­put­er will auto­mat­i­cal­ly com­pute the required ele­va­tion and azimuth for the weapon to hit the tar­get, and dis­play it on the gun­ners dis­play.

“As he cranks the gun he’ll see the num­bers change real time until the num­bers reach zero. That tells him that the gun is laid and he can be con­fi­dent that the gun is point­ing where the solu­tion told you. At that point it’s just a mat­ter of drop­ping the round down the tube.

“You know where you are, where your fir­ing, and with the bal­lis­tic fire solu­tions in the com­put­er you know where the rounds going to land,” Ucci said.

In the past, to drop rounds on tar­get, the Fire Direc­tion Cen­ter trans­lat­ed coor­di­nates pro­vid­ed by for­ward observers into mor­tar tube deflec­tion and ele­va­tion adjust­ments.

Aim­ing points were marked on a plot­ting board to gen­er­ate the azimuth. Paper fir­ing tables list­ed the ele­va­tion need­ed to achieve the desired range with a giv­en type of ammu­ni­tion.

To estab­lish azimuth ref­er­ence lines, mor­tar crews left the pro­tec­tion of armored vehi­cles to place aim­ing stakes 50 and 100 meters away.

Then the crew used bal­lis­tic com­pu­ta­tions to cal­cu­late the azimuth and ele­va­tion and fire.

“There was a lot of time spent using the opti­cal sights and sur­vey­ing,” Beck said.


The speed of fire is also increased because the MFCS‑D is being field­ed with the M326 Mor­tar Stowage Kit. The kit uses a hydraulic lift to remove the entire mor­tar sys­tem from the trail­er and place the entire mor­tar sys­tem on the ground in less than a minute.

It can then quick­ly raise the sys­tem back into the trail­er.

“The Mor­tar Stowage Kits help because the weapon does­n’t need to be dis­as­sem­bled to be put back on the trail­er for trans­porta­tion,” Ucci said.

The MFCS‑D com­po­nents and Mor­tar Stowage Kit sit inside a M1101 trail­er towed with a HMMWV, which is the pri­ma­ry means of mov­ing the equip­ment.


The increased fir­ing speed of the mor­tar sys­tems will help keep the mor­tar crew safer because it allows them the abil­i­ty to “shoot and scoot.”

“We’re able to get the mis­sion, stop the vehi­cle, emplace the mor­tar on the ground, fire the mis­sion and with­in a minute you’re able to lift the weapon off the ground and leave. You can get rounds down range in a minute and dis­place the weapon in anoth­er minute,” Beck said.

This attribute helps the mor­tar crews to evade incom­ing counter-fire.

The MFCS‑D also elim­i­nates the need to send Sol­diers out to set up aim­ing stakes.

“When you set up aim­ing stakes you’ve got to send a guy out in a field and he has to set up sur­vey stakes at 50 and 100 meters out,” Beck said.

“So you’re send­ing him out in an open field where he’s vul­ner­a­ble to attack. Because the MFCS‑D knows where it is at all times, you don’t have to set up aim­ing stakes because the sys­tem already knows where it’s aim­ing.”


For mor­tar crews, there are many sim­i­lar­i­ties between the mount­ed and dis­mount­ed sys­tems.

“A lot of the soft­ware was reused for com­mon­al­i­ty. You don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly want to start from scratch,” Beck said of the MFCS‑D devel­op­ment process. “You want them to be as com­mon as pos­si­ble. There are, how­ev­er, some spe­cif­ic things that were inte­grat­ed specif­i­cal­ly for the MFCS‑D, just because it was a dis­mount­ed sys­tem and the dif­fer­ences in plat­forms.”

Tech­nol­o­gy has also advanced since the lega­cy sys­tem was field­ed, so it was chal­leng­ing to inte­grate the new devel­op­ments into the MFCS‑D sys­tem.

For instance, the MFCS‑D uses a touch-screen instead of the key­board found in the mount­ed sys­tems.

“Every­one before had used a key­board for the com­put­er, but to max­i­mize dis­play size and min­i­mize the size of the com­put­er you can’t real­ly get a full-size key­board that guys can use with arc­tic gloves,” Beck not­ed.

“A touch screen was the log­i­cal choice. But the com­mon soft­ware for the mount­ed and dis­mount­ed sys­tems has to be capa­ble of tak­ing input from either, whether you’re using the key­board or the touch screen.”

The MFCS‑D is also com­pat­i­ble with the Accel­er­at­ed Pre­ci­sion Mor­tar Ini­tia­tive, or APMI. APMI is the world’s first field­ed 120mm GPS-guid­ed mor­tar round, which was field­ed in March 2011.

The MFCS‑D was first field­ed to the 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Divi­sion, Schofield Bar­racks, Hawaii, in April 2010.

It will even­tu­al­ly be field­ed to all U.S. Army Dis­mount­ed 120mm Mor­tar teams.

PEO Ammo is field­ing one brigade a month and, to date, the equip­ment has been field­ed to ten IBCTs and four Nation­al Guard bat­tal­ions.

They expect all Infantry Brigade Com­bat Teams to have been field­ed and trained on the equip­ment by 2016.

US Army

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter