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Stealthy mortar system to boost speed, accuracy, enhance Soldier safety

By Eric Kowal and Ed Lopez, Picatinny Arsenal

In certain battlefield conditions, such as the mountainous terrain and unimproved roads of Afghanistan, large-caliber indirect-fire weapon systems lack the mobility and maneuverability required to successfully execute an assault.

To resolve this concern, engineers at Picatinny Arsenal (Morris County, NJ) are developing a revolutionary weapon system called the Automated Direct Indirect-fire Mortar (ADIM), which can be fired while mounted on a light tactical vehicle such as the HMMWV (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle) or its replacement.

The Automated Direct Indirect-fire Mortar is designed to give Soldiers highly maneuverable firepower in combat scenarios where the terrain makes it difficult to use large-caliber indirect-fire weapons systems. The mortar provides speed, accuracy, and enhanced Soldier safety with a faster "shoot and scoot" capability.





The ADIM, currently an 81-mm mortar weapon system, uses "soft recoil" to reduce the firing loads transmitted to the platform by a factor of eight, well within the limits of the HMMWV (or other light tactical vehicles) capacity. This enables mounted firing and supports rapid mobile operations.

An associated benefit of the soft recoil system is the ability to fire the weapon (direct) at low quadrant elevations (QE) as well as (indirect) at high QE to either compensate for terrain interferences or take advantage of the reduced time of flight associated with low QE firing solutions.

ADIM functions are automated so that operations normally conducted manually by the Soldier can instead be executed via electro-mechanical actuators controlled by the weapon Actuator Control System (ACS), which was also developed by Picatinny engineers and is a government-owned technology.

ACS operation is directed by the Automated Fire Control System-Mortar (AFCS-M), which is an enhanced version of the fielded M95 Mortar Fire Control System (MFCS).

The AFCS-M provides the human interface for controlling the loading/unloading, emplacing, aiming, and firing of the ADIM.

The ADIM, currently an 81-mm mortar weapon system, uses "soft recoil" to reduce the firing loads transmitted to the platform by a factor of eight, well within the limits of the HMMWV (or other light tactical vehicles) capacity. This enables mounted firing and supports rapid mobile operations.





A key capability associated with the AFCS-M is the incorporation of an inertial navigation unit and GPS receiver, which enable full-time emplacement of the ADIM and thus eliminate the long setup and reset times of several minutes associated with traditional surveying and aiming stake methods.

The ACS and AFCS-M combination enables rapid execution of mobile "shoot-and-scoot" operations to reduce Soldier exposure to enemy fire and susceptibility to counter-fire. AFCS-M also provides the ability to operate the ADIM via remote control as an unmanned weapon system operated by Soldiers in a protected (Fire Direction Center) location. An ideal application for this is Forward Operating Base (FOB) protection.

Although the ADIM can be fired remotely, it is designed to require a Soldier to identify the target and make the decision to fire as prescribed in DoD Directive 3000.09 Autonomy in Weapon Systems.

ADIM automation and Fire Control reduces the Soldier burden while increasing survivability.

ADIM was demonstrated at the Army Expeditionary Warfighter Experiment (AEWE) Spiral J event at Fort Benning, GA, in January 2105. AEWE is the Training and Doctrine Command's premier live-fire, prototype experimentation campaign.

This year, 66 industry and military technologies participated in three AEWE Spiral J experiment cases: two force-on-force and one live fire (the first time AEWE included a live-fire case).

ADIM participated in the AEWE live-fire exercises, which included Soldier training and simulated and live-fire exercises. Soldier training included manual weapon operations (loading, unloading, and misfire procedures), and automated operations executed via the AFCS-M.

Simulated missions were executed using radios for voice communication between the remotely located Fire Direction Center (FDC) operator and the ADIM passenger (Chief of Section), and digital communication of firing missions sent directly from the FDC to the ADIM.

Due to interim safety release limitations, Soldiers were not permitted to be in the HMMWV while the ADIM was firing. Instead, shoot-and-scoot missions were executed with simulated firing to demonstrate the ability for Soldiers to:

  • Receive a call for fire;
  • Stop the vehicle;
  • Initiate the mission;
  • Execute automated pointing and firing; and
  • Resume driving in less than 50 seconds.

During two days of AEWE live-fire exercises, 174 rounds were fired with Soldiers operating the ADIM via remote control. Several multiple aim-point missions were executed with rounds fired at multiple targets in succession, demonstrating ADIM's ability to rapidly engage multiple targets.

Multiple target-suppression missions (one round per target and then target sequence repeated) and automated search-and-traverse (or single-gun-sheaf) missions (firing multiple rounds into an area surrounding a specified target) were also executed.

"Give me ADIM, and I'm ready to go back to Afghanistan," said a Fort Benning Soldier after observing the ADIM's performance.

ADIM is being developed by the Weapons Systems and Technology Directorate of the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center at Picatinny Arsenal.

Plans are underway for the ADIM to participate in Manned Un-Manned Teaming (MUM-T) exercises as part of the Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 16.1 at Fort Bliss, TX, in October 2015.

The Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.

RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.

Published July 2015

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