Automatic Vehicle Mounted Mortars to Get Combat Debut

RAK120
RAK120

In April 2023 it was reported that the Polish Government had agreed to provide the Ukrainian Army with three tactical sets of its RAK120 Armoured Vehicle Mounted Mortars.

Footage and photos have now been released by the Ukrainian military in the publication Militarnyi showing the deployment of these system with the 44th Separate Mechanized Brigade. This will see the first employment of this self-propelled automatic mortar in actual combat and could provide a true battlefield test of the utility and benefits of this innovative close indirect fire support system. Despite several designs being developed, manufactured and in service with a number of armies to date the automatic mortar has not been proven in combat.

The RAK120 itself was developed by Poland’s Huta Stalowa Wola (HSW) funded by the Polish Government. It is one of a few self-propelled automatic mortars which include the Finnish Patria NEMO and AMOS, as well as the recently displayed Crossbow from Elbit Systems. These vehicles mounted mortars differ from conventional self-propelled mortars like the M106 which uses the M113 APC or M1129 using the Stryker chassis.

The RAK and NEMO have the mortar mounted in a turret with 360-degree training. They are breech loaded from inside the vehicle rather than having the projectile dropped down the tube. The crew is thus fully protected during firing and not exposed as in traditional mortar operations. This arrangement also allows for automatic loading of the weapon. In the RAK120 the commander and gunner are located in the turret while in the NEMO the turret is unmanned and remotely controlled by crew in hull positions.

Other benefits of these automatic mortars, are their ability to not only engage targets with indirect fires to ranges of over 10km, but also the capability for direct fire. These systems utilize automated fire controls integrating on-board navigation, ballistic computation, and gun laying. Thus, they can not only fire within seconds of halting, but also execute MRSI missions where up to five rounds are aimed to impact simultaneously on a target. Full stabilization can also be provided permitting accurate firing while moving.

While the RAK120 being employed by Ukraine utilized the 8×8 Rosomak armoured vehicle, the NEMO and AMOS have been integrated on a number of chassis wheeled and tracked, as well as, on fast combatant craft.

Ukraine is understood to have twenty-four RAK120s plus twelve fire-control vehicles. The Swedish Army in 2020 introduced a similar turreted self-propelled mortar on the CV90, the Mjolner. Reports suggest that it has caused a major rethinking in its tactical employment of mortars. With interest being shown in the automatic turreted mortar by other armies including the United States and it is expected that close attention will be given to how the RAK120 performs against the Russian forces.

by Stephen W. Miller