The Bundeswehr mortar cramp

Two D&F articles of April '09 were about the poor development - a.k.a. neglect - of mortars in the Bundswehr; Bundeswehr mortars and Bussard.

The authorities concentrated on a slow and poor program of ultra lightweight tracked bulletproof vehicles with an uncommon 120mm mortar concept and the introduction of new ammunition. There's apparently no official effort to give back mortars to mechanized infantry and the proposed system is not really convincing for mountain troops (which use vulnerable 4wd cars and towed 120mm mortars to date).

The new system is useful for the few Jäger (light infantry) units and for our airborne infantry. It's limited in size & weight for internal transport in heavy lift helicopters; I don't really understand that requirement because sling loads could be larger and transport by helicopter is a very restricting requirement for exceptional situations only.

Soldat & Technik, a German journal with a strong pro-Bundeswehr bias (many if not most articles are written by reserve officers, active officers and ministry personnel) has this month a story about the mortar modernization in the German army.

The article begins with complaints about the slow pace of the program since its creation in 1998 (no combat readiness before 2011, possibly later) in face of the high age of the predecessor platform.

The bad 'news':

The fuze for some of the planned munitions is late. Seriously; there are dozens of fuzes available on the market and they develop a new one. No comment in favour of civility.
An interim solution 120mm HE bomb (from Austria) has a too large dispersion and is only certified till 2010. These HE bombs were bought for the ISAF mission in Afghanistan, but are apparently not in use!?

They seriously plan to keep the MRT-86 mortar computer in service beyond 2012. It was introduced in the mid-90's, is obviously 80's tech and honestly, this alone should be enough to fire those who are responsible. I would order simple adapters for an USB2.0 slot and a simple java-based FC software. That requires 200,000 € and four months if you hire the right garage & home office freaks.
And then something unusual for SuT articles:

Sofern die vielen Mängel aus den Tests mit den Erprobungsmustern tatsächlich abgestellt sind, werden tatsächlich die ersten WaTrg am Ende des Jahres 2011 zu erwarten sein. Für einen Einsatz stehen sie dann aber frühestens in 2012 zur Verfügung.
(If the many deficiencies seen in the tests with the prototypes could indeed be removed we can expect the first firing platforms at the end of the year 2011. They will be available for a mission no sooner than 2012.)

The good 'news':

The automatic barrel laying is supposed to reduce dispersion by 50%. This can be had with off-the-shelf systems like CARDOM as well, of course.

They finally (again) want a guided munition; that one sounds a lot like a fiber-optic guided munition and it sounds expensive. They certainly don't plan to go for a relatively simple guided munition and certainly for none that's available off-the-shelf.

A total of 38 mortar platforms plus C4 and resupply vehicles is planned (that's less homeopathic than the eight ordered so far). Only eight seem to be available till 2012, though (30 are planned to be included in a 2011 budget proposal only).

I'm not sure what this article is meant to do; it could by a cry for help to the parliament to kill off the stupid program or a cry for help to superior to make personnel changes. It's certainly not the typical cheering article - and the program does obviously not provide any opportunity or cheering anyway.

P.S.: I agreed on this Wiesel2-based mortar system for airborne troops back in April. I wasn't aware at that time that it still had development issues.


  1. The beauty of mortars is they give "CHEAP", high angle fire that does a great job in broken terrain, which infantry must use to remain viable. Why does the west persist in making mortars expensive and impossible to procure in a timely manner? This isn't rocket science, but for some reason rocket science we have to make it. Baffling.

  2. The main problem is counterfire. Tube artillery isn't exactly rocket science either, but it got quite expensive because of the shoot&scoot requirement (self-propelled howitzers).
    We CAN (do) use COTS 4wd Wolf vehicles to tow simple 50's tech 120mm mortars that pop 50's tech HE and SMK.

    That doesn't meet our expectations, though. It wouldn't be survivable in face of enemy counter-mortar radars.
    So we require a self-propelled version and we'd like to have it bulletproof and fragproof and offroad-capable.

    Now add accuracy expectations (to really exploit its range and to make it available for lethal fires quite close to friendlies) in combination with the MRSI technique. The result is a requirement for an automatic laying mechanism.
    Such an electric laying system with microprocessor constrol doesn't need to be expensive, of course. The five digit € range should be feasible using industrial robots as a reference.

    Sadly, military development and procurement projects are too often red taped, unimaginative, slow, overspecced, overpriced or even outright industry subsidy efforts.
    There's also the terrible "NIH" syndrome - every major nation needs to develop its own hardware even for urgent needs while OTS hardware is available in allied countries.