M252 81mm Medium Extended Range Mortar
The M252 81mm Mortar System was developed under a co-developement agreement with the United Kingdom to replace the M29A1 Mortar. A Blast Attenuation Device (BAD) is attached to the muzzle of the cannon assembly to reduce the blast effects on the mortar crew. The M252 is ideally suited to support airborne, air assault, mountain and light infantry units.
The M252 81mm Medium Extended Range Mortar is a crew-served, medium weight mortar which is highly accurate and provides for a greater range (4,500 meters to 5,650 meters) and lethality than the previous 81mm mortar. The cannon has a crew-removable breech plug and firing pin. The muzzle end has a short tapered lead-in which acts as a blast attenuator device. The breech end is finned for better cooling. This mortar also uses the standard M64 mortar sight of the 60mm mortar, M224.
This mortar replaced the previous Marine Corps 81mm mortar in 1986. The M252 is an adaptation of the standard British 81mm mortar developed in the 1970s.
Mortars can provide a heavy volume of responsive, accurate fire with a variety of ammunition. They are ideal for attacking close in targets, targets on reverse slopes, and those targets in areas difficult to reach with low angle fire. Mortars are particularly effective in providing white phosphorous and illumination support.
Mortars are transported by vehicle, helicopters, or by man pack. Mortars can be man packed in terrain where vehicular support is restricted. However, in a fast moving operation, the mobility of mortars, coupled with their limited range capability, may be a restricting factor. Mortars also have the capability to be fired from a light armored vehicle
Mortar fires can be massed on a target by the organic unit. However, massing of mortar fires outside the zone of action of the organic unit is difficult due to the limited range of the mortar. Responsiveness is an inherent characteristic of mortars.
The high angle trajectory and long time of flight causes the mortar to be vulnerable to enemy counter fire. Active and passive measures are used to increase survivability. Because ammunition for mortars may have to be man packed, sustainment of mortars may be difficult. So mortars should be employed as an immediately available source of fire support for the infantry commander. Other indirect fire weapons are used when they can achieve the desired results.
It is most commonly found in the mortar platoon of an infantry battalion. The 81 mm mortar platoon employs eight mortars. When the mortar platoon is in General Support [GS], it supports the entire battalion as directed by the battalion commander. By keeping the platoon in GS, the battalion commander retains flexibility, ease of coordination of fires, and the ability to mass fires. Direct tactical control (i.e., selection and occupation of firing positions), as well as administrative matters remains with the platoon commander.
The mortar platoon, or an element thereof, may be employed in Direct Support [DS] of a specific unit of the battalion; e.g., a company. Liaison is maintained between the 81 mm platoon commander and the supported unit through an FO. The platoon commander retains responsibility for the control of the mortar unit /element's actions, to include positioning and displacement. The supported commander controls the allotted fires. This relationship is normally assigned for a specific mission or phase of an operation. DS may be warranted when the mortar platoon cannot provide the required support while its fires are under battalion control.
The mortar platoon, or an element thereof, may be attached to a subordinate unit of the battalion. Attachment is justified when the mortar platoon cannot give adequate support to a unit by operating in a GS or DS role. Attachment is used when a subordinate unit is operating beyond the effective range of the mortar weapon; e.g., a patrol an independent attack, or during the early phase of an amphibious operation. The subordinate unit commander normally exercises C2 responsibility to include logistics support for the attached mortar unit/element. This is the least desirable method of employment.
The M252 Mortar System consists of the following major components:
- M253 Cannon Assembly (35 lbs)
- M177 Bipod Assembly (27 lbs)
- M3A1 Baseplate (25.5 lbs)
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