Dragon Fire/Box Mortar
|TDA Armements SAS
The US Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) has developed in conjunction with French TDA a 120 mm mortar system which is designed to operate without a crew.
Development of this 120 mm mortar system, which is referred to as the 120 mm Box Mortar, or the 120 mm Dragon Fire, started in 1997 when the MCWL, teamed with the US Army Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC), started to look at which mortars were currently available.
Following a study, the barrel used in the TDA 120 mm 2R 2M self-propelled mortar system, fully covered under France in the Armoured Mortar Systems section was selected.
For the Box Mortar, TDA supplied the US Marine Corps a 120 mm mortar barrel, recoil system and semi-automatic loader. This is mounted on a towable fire platform linked to the fire-control system. According to TDA the characteristics of the Dragon Fire can be summarised as:
- Automatic computation of firing parameters from the fire-control system
- Automatic computer controlled aiming
- Automatic loading
- Automatic firing
- Firing capabilities through a full 360º with elevation from +40 to +88º
- Minimum range of 1 km and maximum range of 13 km
- Firing rate of up to eight rounds a minute
- Compatible with all existing 120 mm rifled ammunition
- Airborne and heliborne by V-22 Osprey and towable by any type of vehicle
- Can be installed on any 10 tonne class vehicle chassis
- Fire support for projection forces and crisis management
- Support for urban operations
- Area denial thanks to the ability to create a dynamic barrier denying access to sensitive areas without any permanent hazard for civilian populations
- Coastal defence with the ability of perfect integration into static or mobile coastal defence networks
The US Army does employ a 120 mm smoothbore mortar system but this ammunition is not compatible with the French 120 mm TDA 2R 2M rifled mortar system.
The 120 mm a 2R 2M rifled mortar, which was originally developed as a private venture by TDA, is of the muzzle loading, recoiling type with built-in hydraulic traverse, elevation and loading system.
Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey designed the carriage which provides support for the 120 mm barrel as well as electrical power for the mortar's hydraulic traverse/elevating mechanism, electronic fire control and communications equipment. The carriage was built at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois.
When deployed in the firing position the carriage will be supported on one firing stake at the front located under the towing eye and two firing stakes at the rear. The aiming and pointing system will be mounted on the left side of the barrel. It will normally be towed by an AM General HMMWV (4 × 4).
The first example of the system receives target information from the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS) and the SINCGARS (Single Channel Ground/Air Radio System).
The onboard electronic fire-control system, provided by Allied Signal processes this information and then traverses, elevates and engages the target.
The prototype system will fire one round at a time although a 33 round magazine is also being developed. For safety reasons there will also be a man in the loop for the trials phase.
First firing trials took place in 1998 followed by the US Marine Corps Urban Warrior experiment.
The mortar will have a maximum range of 8,135 m using conventional ammunition and 13,000 m using a high-explosive rocket-assisted mortar bomb.
Types of standard French TDA 120 mm mortar bombs fired include high explosive, smoke, illuminating, anti-armour, practice, training and cargo with 20 sub-munitions.
The basic idea is that the system would be delivered by aircraft or helicopter complete with a load of ammunition and then be used without manpower to support small dispersed units. It is expected that the system will be trialled in the US Marine Corps Urban Warrior advanced warfighting experiment.
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