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Support Weapons for Infantry

Discussion in 'Army & Security Forces' started by 40 deg south, Aug 5, 2019.

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  1. 40 deg south

    40 deg south Well-Known Member

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    On a different topic, noticed a couple of recent news stories from the other side of the Tasman.

    Defence Technology Review : DTR AUG 2019, Page 1

    Firstly, Defence Technology Review announced the arrival of new 81mm mortars for ADF. The new M252 A1 is a lightweight version of the existing 81mm mortar made in the US - the Wikipedia (sorry) description is as follows:
    https://venturaapdr.partica.online/apdr/apdr-julyaugust-2019/flipbook/52/
    Secondly, the regular 'Across the Tasman' column in APDR features news that NZ has awarded a contract for replacement 81mm mortars to Hirtenberger Defence Systems of Austria.

    GETS | Ministry of Defence - Contract Award 81MM Mortar
    Sure enough, a bit of googling throw up info on a contact signing in May 2019. It appears Hirtenberger has been supplying NZ with 81mm ammunition since at least 2015, and also supplied the 60mm system in service.

    81MM SYSTEM | Hirtenberger Defense Systems
    Comany promotional site here.

    I'm intrigued that NZ and Australia, despite replacing the same weapon system with a lighter-weight updated version at the same time, have settled on different suppliers. It would be interesting to know what the selection critieria was for each country, and why they ended up making different choices.

    One possibility is that NZ simply found it more convenient to work with a single supplier across their entire mortar range, and that was the decisive factor? Or are their performance differences between the two systems that influenced the decision?
     
  2. MickB

    MickB Active Member

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    I knew that the 81mm can be broken down to be manpacked, but was unaware that this is the norm.

    If the 81mm is mostly vehicle transported then what difference to vehicle transporting a 120mm.
    Is this not why we have projects like the 4X4 mule but to get more equipment and heavier firepower up front?

    Do not other nations use 120mm mortars, how do they get around this issue?

    But yes I would not like to carry one.
     
  3. Raven22

    Raven22 Defense Professional Verified Defense Pro

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    In the future, Australian mechanised battalions will have 120mm mortars, while the light battalions will have 81mm mortars, the same as pretty much everyone else.

    Have a read of Op Anaconda in Afghanistan for an example of why 120mm mortars aren’t always best.
     
  4. Pusser01

    Pusser01 Defense Professional Verified Defense Pro

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    Hi Raven22, do you think there is a need for a 60mm mortar in Australian service? I only ask noting some our allies utilise it (USMC, UK & I believe NZ just signed up for some). Cheers.
     
  5. Richo99

    Richo99 Member

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    This months Defence Technology Review has a report on page 5, which details the purchase as being 176 x M252A1 mortars, with 50 units already in Australia, and the balance by June 2020.. Also comes with a fancy new handheld ballistic computer.
     
  6. seaspear

    seaspear Member

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  7. Raven22

    Raven22 Defense Professional Verified Defense Pro

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    I must admit, personally I’m not a big fan of 60mm mortars, but it’s not my area of expertise. Most of my light infantry mates think they are great, but my mates with a mech infantry background think they are a bit pointless. Like everything, they have their place but here is an opportunity cost in their use. A 60mm mortar is already in service with SOCOMD and has been trialled by conventional battalions. There is also a project that will introduce a 60mm mortar into the regular battalions. I imagine we will se a 60mm mortar introduced into the light battalions in the next few years.
     
  8. old faithful

    old faithful Defense Professional Verified Defense Pro

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    60mm mortar s don't really offer that much of an advantage over 40mm grenades for a grunt IMO.
    Its another bit of kit to carry, and although 60mm rounds are small, 40mm rounds are smaller, and allow much easier carry and re sup.
    81mm mortars have a range of about 3200m give or take, you have arty support, now "recce" helos, I think there are some good options for 40mm development in our Army.

    Milkor MGL - Wikipedia
     
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  9. buffy9

    buffy9 Member

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    Having some mortar experience, I agree with this summary. The 60mm is good for providing indirect fire in close country (either urban areas or thick vegetation) and is more difficult to detect considering you can place it behind hills, in gullies or anywhere else provided it has a clear trajectory to fire. Whereas DFSW generally need a clear LOS and are relatively easily identified once they have fired, mortars do not suffer these limitations to the same extent. Their ability to provide top down fires is probably the most useful component - especially if facing dug in infantry where trench systems, sandbags and other fortifications may provide cover horizontally, albeit not vertically.

    This being said a 60mm mortar has it's disadvantages. Whilst much easier to carry than an 81mm (which are far less effective when manpacked) the ammunition would still be a limiting factor. If you include rounds for adjustment (which varies, but let's say 5) and then fire for effect (which again varies) then the number of fire missions capable of being conducted when the system is manpacked is severely limited. Additionally the system is far less useful against anything more than infantry or soft skinned targets - noting any effects will be limited to puncturing tyres and penetrating/damaging exterior systems. It would make sense that mech inf may not think it useful when they may have vehicle mounted mortars of a higher calibre (81mm) which provides greater effects, range and capability (noting 81mm can employ airburst, delay and possibly now even precision capabilities). However for light infantry it can be useful, provided any force element is able to carry the necessary amount of ammunition required.

    I believe the use of 40mm grenades in addition to the 60mm mortar would be best practise. Both have their places and are relatively light, making them suitable for light infantry operations. Additionally the advantages/disadvantages of a 60mm mortar (such as flexible location and ammunition quantity) can be offset by the advantages/disadvantages of a 40mm grenade (more ammunition and a need for a clear LOS).

    This all being said the 60mm is still overall less capable than heavier systems such as the 84mm, 40mm LWAGL and the HMG. With the move towards mounted operations it would make more sense to adopt vehicle mounted mortars which are more mobile and less exposed to counter battery fire. Vehicle mounted mortars can also carry more ammuntion and can keep up with other mounted units quite effectively. The 84mm, whilst only DFSW, provides a wide range of of heavier capabilities, most significant being it's bunker busting and anti-ARMD roles. The AGL and HMG systems are both effective suppression/support weapons and whilst I'm not truly familiar with DFSW, can provide more sustained fire than any 60mm mortar could.

    The 60mm mortar is good for light inf but not mot/mech inf. I can imagine it being highly effective in COIN, peacekeeping or other low-intensity contingencies (where the likely hills, jungles, buildings and other obstacles could benefit from light indirect fire) as well as in higher end urban op, primarily in defence. However it lacks power when facing a peer type opposition or when higher calibre systems can be better utilised.

    To my own knowledge the SOTG preferred the 60mm mortar in Afghanistan over the 81mm, probably due to it's light weight.It most likely proved useful in the mountainous terrain and could reliably be carried during arduous stomps from airmobile insertions. The Cove has a good article on the M224 trialled by 3RAR also:

    Lightweight Handheld Mortars: A Suitable and Effective Platform to be Organic to Rifle Platoons | The Cove
     
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  10. OPSSG

    OPSSG Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Consolidated thread for discussions on manoeuvre support weapons used to support infantry (i.e. weapons usually used by a support or weapons company of an infantry battalion) to augment the fire power of the rifle companies in an infantry battalion.

    Below is a video of the 120mm towed mortar commander’s course, which is very manual compared to other automated or semi-automated systems.


    In May 2017 Elbit Systems unveiled the Spear Mk2 120mm mobile mortar, a new version of the autonomous mortar system designed for Light Combat Vehicles. The new variant mounted on Plasan’s Sandcat is displayed this week at the DSEI exhibition in London. Spear addresses the need of small, rapid deployment light forces to quickly bring firepower and mobility to engage the enemy requiring minimal logistical footprint.


    In June 2018, ST Engineering and Hirtenberger Defence Systems signed a co-operation agreement to pursue business opportunities for 120 mm mortar system in Europe. The comprehensive mortar system combines ST Engineering’s 120 mm Super Rapid Advanced Mortar System (SRAMS) weapon system with HDS’ mortar fire control system and 120 mm mortar ammunition.

    The original 120 mm SRAMS featured hydraulic elevation and traverse on the Bronco Armoured All Terrain Vehicle, but the latest SRAMS Mk II has all-electric elevation and traverse with the latter increased to 180 degree left and right, according to James Soon of ST Engineering Land Systems. This is laid onto the target using a computerised fire control system (FCS) by the operator, via a flat panel display and associated controls. It can fire 10 rounds a minute.

    SRAMS is also used in UAE’s Agrab Mk 2, which comprises a BAE RG31 Mk 6E, controlled by a Thales South Africa Systems integrated FCS. The Agrab vehicle is powered by a Cummins turbocharged diesel developing 360hp at 2,600rpm, coupled to an Allison six-speed automatic transmission, to give a maximum road speed of 90km/h. The vehicle has a Platt Protected Weapon Station armed with a .50 M2 HB machine gun, plus banks of electrically operated grenade launchers. The 120mm SRAMS fires over the rear arc with elevation limits from +45° to +80°, and a traverse of 40° left and right. The 120mm ammunition is supplied by Rheinmetall Denel Munitions; currently available are high-explosive (HE), bi-spectral smoke and illuminating rounds, all of which are not armed until 40m from the barrel. Maximum range is typically 8.1km for an HE mortar bomb.

    ST Kinetics’ smooth-bore 120mm mortar system is currently being qualified to fire a rocket-assisted projectile out to a maximum range of 13km, as well as a laser-guided mortar bomb for the precise engagement of targets designated by a forward observer or unmanned aerial vehicle. The latest suite of ST Engineering 120 mm ammunition includes the PM120 precision guided mortar bomb (PG MB), Extended Range High Explosive (ER HE), ER Infra-Red Red Phosphorous (IR RP) and ER Illuminating. These are all designed for use with smoothbore mortar systems. The 120 mm PM120 is GPS guided and the company quoted a maximum range of up to 8.5 km and a CEP of 10 m. The HE warhead contains 2.8 kg of TNT. ER HE also contains 2.8 kg of TNT but this can be insensitive munition (IM) compliant if requested by the customer and is fitted with a DM111A4/A5 nose mounted fuze. Maximum muzzle velocity was being quoted as 408 m/s and maximum range of up to 9 km.

    The ER RP contains three smoke canisters and is fitted with a MTSQ DM93 fuze, with a maximum muzzle velocity of 408 m/s and a maximum range of up to 9 km, ST Engineering said. The ER illuminating round has the same fuze, muzzle velocity, and range as the ER RP and has an illuminating intensity of 1.25 million cd. There is also the option of IR Illuminating
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2019
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  11. buffy9

    buffy9 Member

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    I strongly believe the 120mm mortar is underrated. It's firepower is supreme compared to platform size and manning with the only downsides being that it can't be manpacked and that the shells are logistically harder to provide. A 120mm shell has room for precision fire modifications; and will tear through most vehicles/targets presented to it.

    Additionally it provides the heaviest component of a three tier system - 60mm mortars (PL/CT), 81mm mortars (CT/BG) and 120mm mortars (BG and otherwise). Whereas a 120mm could be utilised in a peer setting more efdectively, a 60mm could be utilised in a COIN setting more effectively - with the 81mm as an intermediate.

    It's a shame that the only consideration so far is an IFV variant. A great idea, but I would love to see SPEAR adopted on a Hawkei ute or Supercat with an attached ammunition carrier/mule. Effective agility and mobility with heavy fires available, in addition to lower fires which can be either manpacked or carried in lighter (more all-terrain) vehicles.

    As a side note, would loitering munitions fall into such a category as support weapons? Their use has grown in recent years (first link) and whilst having some advantages (as evidenced by drone attacks in Syria and Yemen), I fail to see their great advantage over other systems? If one needs a drone for ISR/STA then the Puma, Wasp, Black Hornet or other system could be employed. If one needs OS then why not employ the use of other manned systems such as mortars or missile systems (noting Spike and it's variationa) or highier tier systems, such as outright artillery or aircraft.

    I can see it's use in a raid setting (particularly by SOCOM, 2RAR or any other unit that could make use of limited assets via independently controlled precision effects) though don't see any particular role for it in supporting INF. Mortars and various forms of DFSW could provide adequate firepower to threats identified by other already carried systems (noting there is consideration to bring the Black Hornet down to SECT level, the Wasp down to PL level) and unless timing is critical, there is likely better options than an immediately available drone.

    Also the risks urk me. Can they land safely if mission is aborted? What if loss of link occurs? Bandwidth overcrowding? Etc.

    Proliferation of loitering munitions.

    https://dronecenter.bard.edu/files/2017/02/CSD-Loitering-Munitions.pdf

    Militant attack on Russian base in Syria in recent years. Note potential raid usage.

    Drone attack on Russian bases launched from Turkish controlled area

    RTV procurement by ADF. Mostly to note that RTV is primarily utilised by 2CDO to carry 60mm and 81mm mortars in addition to Javelin ATGM and 84mm DFSW. Other info also present.

    Aussies Announce Rough Terrain Vehicle 2 Requirement - Overt Defense

    - - -

    Links to some loitering munition examples/info:

    Loitering Munitions - High Precision Systems

    In Profile: Loitering Munitions - Overt Defense

    Loitering Munitions In Focus

    Harop Loitering Munitions UCAV System - Airforce Technology

    WARMATE 2 loitering munitions - WB GROUP
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2019
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  12. MickB

    MickB Active Member

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  13. OPSSG

    OPSSG Super Moderator Staff Member

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    @buffy9 it is a great idea to include loitering munitions in this thread and I believe these Kamikaze drones, of various capabilities, are used as infantry support weapons and often a divisional level weapon system in Israel — just as most Western style divisions have an artillery brigade in their orbat. Will try to think on this topic in the days, ahead and if possible, provide insights, after I do more research.


    Certainly some of the smaller loitering munition systems are being pushed down to provide direct support at battalion level (in service and in a DS role) and company level (in limited trials) as a support weapon — which is very relevant to not only Israel but also Taiwan, as they move from a conscript army model. You provided a link to one such system and I note that the Hero family of loitering munitions is in service with select elite Israeli divisions. But the bigger change is the shift in doctrinal thinking (with transfer of control to different echelons, from the division strike centre to lower command levels) behind its war time usage for urban warfare, as a source of innovation to deal with Hamas and Hezbollah ATGM teams hidden in urban terrain — which is hinted at in the numerous marketing videos for these systems.

    To me, the doctrinal dividing line between an ATGM team and one that operates loitering munitions may not exist — it can be just another missile they carry. The NLOS missile is a high speed drone that kills tanks or hard targets but just not designed for recovery. The NLOS missile is hidden in the Pereh, a missile carrier disguised as a tank. The Pereh was developed by Israel in the 1980s in tandem with the Spike-NLOS (called the Tamuz in Israeli service) missile, but was not revealed to the public until 2011. The Pereh is based on the M60 tank chassis and carries 12 launch tubes built into an ungainly rear-end pop-up super-structure along with super-sensitive optics. In areas such as in and around the border with Lebanon, the Perehs could sit atop hills, taking out targets of opportunity and providing fire support up to 25 km away. Given the range of these long range missile systems, the employment of the sensors as part of a C4I system (which is classified) is much more interesting than the munitions itself. Below is a video of the Korean operated NLOS live-fire, which is stationed in islands near the Northern Limit Line as a counter-artillery system.


    Israeli loitering munitions often come with a parachute recovery system — and are safe to recover without EOD support, for the forward sensor operator.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2019
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  14. kinetic

    kinetic New Member

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    Soviet/Russian 2S9, 2S12 are looking at you weirdly, for they are by no means underrated in the books of Russian military. :)
     
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  15. buffy9

    buffy9 Member

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    Underrated by the West perhaps, but artillery is rarely underrated by the East.There is a reason Stalin called artillery "the God of War."
     
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  16. kinetic

    kinetic New Member

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    Yeah, despite all this talk about revolution in military affairs the practice shows that only 10-15% fire missions assigned to field artillery require usage of precision-guided weapons and when you have the appropriate number of tubes and ability to effectively manage them the strike aviation has to be called in to defeat especially hardened targets within range, the rest could be cheerfully vaporized by your gunner buddy.

    Convenient, if a bit logistically demanding in the end :)
     
  17. Firn

    Firn Active Member

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    This is a field full of contradictions even between close allies in the same campaign. So much depends on so many different variables from the changing tactical context to the availability of other sources of firepower.

    Take for example Wigram report from Sicily:

    On the whole it is an very interesting report but as Ortman rightly pointed out you should be wary to extract universal lessons after a specific type of short campaign. Later both types of mortars would be of high value to the Allies in drawn-out combats with stiff resistance despite the very considerable amount of airpower, armor and artillery at their disposal.

    An another example is the light 2-inch mortar positively mentioned by Wigram which was, as well known, a staple among Commonwealth forces. Possibly it was just light enough as its heavier 60mm counterparts were increasingly replaced by 81+mm mortars in the German and Soviet armies as it was felt that the HE effect was just to small to justify the resources. Battalions would shift to towards the 120mm, material, transport and terrain permitting. Depending on the circumstances rifle granade groups would be employed in German platoons in a similar fashion to the 2-inch mortar, a bit like the French did fairly prominently in WWI, among others.

    Soviet assault squads were sometimes mostly based on SMGs with the tanks becoming the primary support weapon of the infantry and taking care of harder and more long-range targets. So it is very important to take the vast amount of differing experience into account and avoid a one-size fits all solution. From a light infantary platoon patrolling in a low-intensity insurgency conflict through a jungle patch to a mechanized battalion counter-attacking in a high-intensity urban battle against a peer enemy, needs and possibilities differ.
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2019
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  18. Firn

    Firn Active Member

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    So what can be done, how can we understand what works?

    Once again there is no miracle solution and will never be. However we might increase the ability of the army to get things right most of the time by doing a couple of things:

    1) Conserve competencies

    We should avoid to lose what we already have. This seems obvious but we seem to forget often that organizations have evolved for good reasons in the way they have. There is knowledge embedded in they way they are structured, are equipped, are training and in some cases fighting. Sometimes only combat can reveal the why but good training goes a long way. However it is perishable and takes time, effort and investment to get some of it back.

    The Korean war proved how much could be lost in just a few years after the end of the biggest and most complex war the world had ever seen. Even fairly large and wealth countries like the Netherlands or Canada lost their armored brigades and even their tanks in a world where they no longer seemed needed only to change course later. Armored warfare, light infantry operations, special forces interventions are all means along the spectrum of war. Budget cuts will come but throwing out an entire tribe will mean a loss hard to overstate. It might be necessary but the costs must be laid bare.

    Conserving also gives an internal benchmark, something against which new things can be tested and measured.*

    2) Understanding us

    We known from history that things change and different scenarios need different solutions. Environments like cities, deserts, jungle and arctic force adaption. The different tribes of the armed forces give us diverse insight. Two armored companies will approach the same mission somewhat differently but a light infantry company will very likely have a more distinct way of doing it.

    Even inside an infantry company we will have roles that demand different skills and mentality. A scout and a sniper seem similar from the perspective of an assaulting grenadier but even they do not make the same job.

    Special force might get too much hype and crowed the infantry out of some jobs but they are often a fertile habitat for peculiar or hard to master skills. Combat tracking is a case in point, deep recce and enduring observation are others.

    With those pieces in place training can be much more varied, smart and hard. A tank platoon might be surprised to be hit by devastating indirect fire despite clear skies because they were spotted by an observation team deep insider their turf°. A special force team might be attacked by a scrambled mechanized force after a drone with thermals spotted their movement.

    Allies allow for an even broader scope of training and greatly enhance the possibilities to come in contact with other ideas and to understand it's own capabilities and limits. This is especially important for smaller countries which just lack tanks, heavy artillery or fighter planes and might not come into contact with different environments at home. In some cases it gives also the ability to experience a different level of training even if it is 'only' as part of a brigade . They might not even know what they don't know.

    -----

    I will continue later and will try to tie in the question of combat support but I leave it there for feedback.

    *Randomized control trials were at the core of the recent 'Nobel' prices in economy

    °There are many examples from WWII of observers remainng hidden and calling down artillery strike after artillery strike...
     
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  19. Volkodav

    Volkodav Defense Professional Verified Defense Pro

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    I believe the Brits replaced their 51mm platoon mortars with 40mm under barrel grenade launchers before experience in Afghanistan led them to acquiring 60mm mortars to supplement the 40mm grenade launchers and the 81mm mortars at Btn level.

    If our light Btns go for 60mms I wonder how they will be allocated. Will they be in Support Coy, allocated to each rifle coy, or possibly even deployed at platoon level like the Brits do?
     
  20. Firn

    Firn Active Member

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    This seems to be a good example too illustrate how environment, type of combat, training, quantity and quality of (fire) support, logistics, ammunition, technology and the weapon itself play all a role.

    Regular German army rifle platoons had a generally a 50mm mortar team until 1941. Throwing basically the same weight of ~1kg a bit furhter ~500m it was seen as a waste of man and material, with it's performance reduced by soft ground, very limited by snow and almost cancelled by swampy terrain. Perhaps the greatest disadvantages compared to British system were weight, being 14kg against under 5kg and the lack of smoke.*

    Combat distances were usually far shorter then imagined before the conflict as it was quickly obvious as the effect of individual small arms fire dropped fast with increased range and perhaps more importantly premature firing at 300 or 400m exposed positions, gave the attacker space and time to maneuver and to bring in the heavy firepower. Already after the fall of France a German division reported that British and French forces did hold fire until the attacking force was close and stating that many losses could have been avoided by an earlier opening of fire...

    Speed and mobility through quickness of mind and actions became of vital importance and additional weight carried a penalty. The full motorization and the abundance of Bren carries in many operational areas certainly facilitated the employment of firepower on the platoon level.°

    Proxy fuzes are now even available for 40mm HV grenades and will filter down to the LV/MV grenade launchers of squads. Such fuzes render 60mm mortar bombs of course vastly more effective in snowy conditions and soft ground and in general as well. The bombs themselves are more deadly as well due to seventy years of technical progress..



    *Interestingly the general lack of smoke was seen as a problem in France and in the campaign in south-eastern Europe in little mortar was a standard element of the rifle platoon.

    °The 40mm 6-shooter Milkor was used in the Border wars by units like the Koevoets which operated from Casspir and Wolf APC. Book sources and the footage at 4:10 confirm it. In this case the equipment carried by the trackers and support troops on foot was minimal due to the vicinity of the mothership. Close distances favored the stunning amount of automatic gunfire from autocannons, heavy and medium machinguns and assault rifles with 50 round magazines raking the near vegetation and hiding places. Six quickly available 40mm LV grenades fitted right in as did the vehicle mounted 60mm mortar of which on out of four APC often carried.

     
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