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Using the towed version of the 120 mm Ragnarok mortar system the Dutch and Norwegian subsidiaries of Düsseldorf-based defence company Rheinmetall have recently developed a new and comparatively simple way of equipping light forces – special forces, airborne troops and homeland security units – with a shoot-and-scoot-capable indirect-fire component. The system is close to being ready for the market and was recently demonstrated in a live-fire event to potentially interested parties. Rheinmetall said this occurred during the winter months of 2022/23.

Instead of a simple bipod mortar Rheinmetall’s own Ragnarok mortar system was chosen for the system. Rheinmetall Norway first publically presented the Ragnarok 120 mm mortar, also known as Mortar Weapon Systems 120 (MWS120), at the DSEI defence exhibition in London in 2019. The manually loaded mortar, which weighs just under one tonne and features an all-electric system with mechanical transmission, allows a firing rate of 18 to 20 rounds per minute. The alignment of the weapon is automatic.

The use of modern recoil technologies allows the system to be integrated into a wide range of vehicles. In addition to heavier 8×8 platforms, use in 6×6 and 4×4 vehicles is also possible.

According to the manufacturer, the development of the Ragnarok focused on achieving the highest possible rate of fire as well as modularity at the lowest possible price. Therefore, an automatic loading mechanism was dispensed with and the system was designed in such a way that almost any 120 mm tube (smooth or rifled) can still be used. The mortar system is optionally offered without an independent fire control system in order to enable the continued use of existing systems.

According to Rheinmetall, integration is quite easy due to the modularity of the MWS120. The system has already been successfully integrated into Hungary’s Gidran 4×4 armoured tactical vehicle as well as the Boxer 8×8 Boxer multi-role armoured vehicle. This has now been followed by integration of the same weapon system onto the trailer, which carries the MWS120, a power supply and a lowerable loading platform that also functions as the baseplate. In this version the Ragnarok trailer can simply be attached to any vehicle equipped with an appropriate trailer coupling and towed to the respective firing position. Once in the firing position the vehicle is parked roughly opposite the firing direction and the loading platform is lowered to the ground. This is done hydraulically, but can also be done manually in emergency mode in a process takes only a few seconds. After entering the fire mission into the fire control system, the mortar automatically aligns itself with the target. In the meantime, the crew can prepare the ammunition, which is stored on the loading platform of the towing vehicle, and start the firefight immediately after the aiming process is completed.

The larger surface area of the trailer floor compared to a conventional baseplate ensures that the system does not have to be ‘fixed by fire’ and that full precision can be called up from the first round. After the last round of the fire mission the lowered floor is pressed back into the loading area position by means of springs. The advantage of this principle is that the weapon system can thus be lifted even if the hydraulics fail and does not have to be left in the firing position. This process also takes only a few seconds.

A representative of Rheinmetall-Norway told ESD that the idea behind the concept was to be able to provide light forces with a “simple, modular and inexpensive” mortar that is still fully shoot-and-scoot capable. The representative added that the demonstrator is already fully functional, although only a few months have passed from the idea to the deployment of the system in a live-fire demonstration. Firing tests up to and including a sixth charge have already been successfully demonstrated.

If an order were to be placed today with the desired customer specifications, Rheinmetall says it would be able to provide the customer with a trailer solution that meets all the military specifications for such a system within about a year as long as the customer specifications are similar to the current demonstrator. More significant design changes would require a longer lead time.

If necessary the barrel of the MWS120 can be removed by means of a few hand movements and used as a classic mortar in combination with an accompanying bipod and base plate.

The fact that the weapon system is towed rather than carried by the vehicle offers the possibility of concentrating the complete mortar squad, which usually consists of four soldiers, together with equipment and ammunition on one vehicle.

In addition, the trailer solution offers the advantage that the trailer can be towed by practically any vehicle. For example, if a high level of protection is required the vehicle can be attached to an armoured 4×4, 6×6 or 8×8 vehicle. If this is not available a much lighter all-terrain vehicle or even a standard off-road vehicle with a towing capacity of slightly more than one tonne can be used.

Waldemar Geiger