MORTARS

MORTARS
It happened in the second half of the war...Explosions began to be heard at one part of the frontline. Germans issue an air alert. They decided that it's the Soviet aviation, which is bombing them, but there were no planes in the sky. Sounds of artillery fire also weren't heard, but explosions at German positions were still going on. Weapon which was firing was located only several kilometers away from the enermy, but only relatively quiet popping sounds were heard during fire. That's why Germans didn't hear salvos. These weapons were 160 mm mortars. This event is described in memours of Nikolay Nikolaevich Voronov. He became a Chief of Red Army Artillery in 1943.

A mortar as a kind of artillery weaponry was loved by infantrymen. Artillerymen, from the other hand, were respecting a mortar as a mean which is ab;e to accomplish tasks, which are not possible to other artillery guns. A mortar is an artillery weapon with a base plate. It's intended for indirect fire with mortar rounds. Mortars don't have recoil machanisms. The ground absorbs the recoil force through base plate. Because of that mortars can be lighter than other artillery weapons. Mortar is a powerful firing mean against personnel and enermy's military vehicles, located on open terrain and in shelters. The matter is that there is no a blind zone for a weapon like this. Mortar shells can get the target anywhere - behind a hill, a building, in a ravine and in a deep trench. This is possible, because angle of round's fall is always bigger than 45 degrees and sometimes it can be close to a right angle.

In more simple words mortar round falls on target almost vertically i.e. like a bomb dropped from a plane. In battles of World War II, infantry was bearing the biggest losses exactly because of motar fire. Mortars of various calibers were in arsenal of the Red Army during the Great Patriotic War. Infantry Companies were armed with 50 mm mortars. 82 mm mortars werein arsenal of Battalions. While mortars with caliber of 120 mm were intended for Regiments. A 107 mm mortar was developed for Infantry Mountain Divisions. Barrel receives a necessary angle of elevation in order to change range of fire. It varies in limits from 45 to 85 degrees. Except that, 50mm mortars had also a remote valve. It was opening a special hole, which was allowing parrt of powder gases to leak out.Pressure on round moving in barrel's channel was reducing and distance of round's flight was reduced accordingly.

50mm Company Mortar model 1940:
Weight in battle position: 9 kg
Rate of fire: 30 rounds/min
Muzzle Velocity: 97 m/s
Weight of shell: 920 grams
Range of fire: 800 m

One of advantages or mortars is a relative simplicity of their structure. So, they are easier for introduction in production, which is important in war-time conditions. Coordination of mortars mass prodution was conducted by a specially formed People's Committee of USSR's Mortar Arsenal. This People's Committee was established at 26th of November, 1941. Results appeared immediately 165,000 of mortars were produced during the first year of the war. That's 4 times more than during the pre-war period. The soviet industry produced about 350,000 mortars in the most difficult conditions during the years of the war. Backbone of mortar arsenal of the Red Army consisted of 82 mm mortars. Having this caliber they were relatively light and soldiers could move them without use of horse or mechanical power. For example, weight of a 76mm field gun was more than 1 ton, while the weight of a 82 mm mortar was not exceeding 60 kg.

82 mm Battalion Mortar model 1943:
Weight in battle position : 58 kg
Rate of fire: 30 rounds/min
Muzzle velocity: 211 m/s
Round's weight: 3.1 kg
Range of fire: 3.040 m

Fragmentation shells were main ammunitions of mortars. They were defeating the target with fragmentations and by action of explosives. Except that smoke rounds were in use. They were intended for creation of smoke screen on enemy's observation posts and fire positions, and also for ranging and target designation. Interesting detail... Often trophy German 81 mm mortar round were used for firing with Soviet 82 mm mortars. Meanwhile Soviet 82 mm mortar rounds were not suitable for fire with German mortats. One of the most known mortar teams was the team of Shumov brothers. They were 6 brothers in total, but only three of them managed to live till the victory. Weapon whichShumov brothers were using to fire against the enery, was a 120 mm Regiment mortar. Mortar of such caliber started being delivered to the Red Army already since 1939. 120 mm mortars were extensively used both in defence and in attack. It wasn't seldom that thier fire was playing a decisive role on the outcome of the battle. The most modern one was a mortar model 1943.

120 mm Regiment Mortar model 1943:
Weight in battle position: 275 kg
Rate of fire: 15 rounds/min
Muzzle velocity: 272 m/s
Round's weight: 15.9 kg
Range of fire: 5700 m

New motar was simpler in maintenance. Device was installed on weapon, which was preventin a double loading. The matter is that a very well trained team could fire with high rate of fire. For example, the team of Shumov brothers was reaching such rate of fire, that there could be up to 18 rounds in the air simultaneously. The safety was preventing a second round get inside barrel's channel if the previous round was still there for some reason. Special wheeled mount was designed for towing of 120 mm mortar. Mortars which we just saw had to be loaded from the muzzle. Round was sliding down in barrel's channel, a percussion cap was pricked by a sting, and shot was occurring. However not all mortars work like that. Some of them can be loaded from the rear side of the barrel. The barrel comes to horizontal position for that. As a rule, mortars which are loaded from the back have caliber 160 mm and bigger, because a long barrel and heavy round don't allow to load the weapon from its muzzle.

160 mm mortar model 1943
Weight in battle position: 1,170 kg
Rate of fire: 3 rounds/min
Muzzle velocity: 245 m/s
Round's weight: 40.9 kg
Range of fire: 5,100 m
At that time when this weapon was introduced into service no country in the World had such powerful mortar. 720 of these fearsome weapons were produced in total during war years. Explosions specifically of these mortars rounds forced Germans to issue an air alert. We mentioned about this episode in the beginning of this film. Soviet mortars proved themselves during the years of the war as reliable, fearsome and most important as effective weapon. If in the beginning of the Great Patriotic War mortars were considered as means for direct infantry support, then toward the end of the war they turned into one of main kind of artillery. Soviet mortar-men gained their glory on the battlefield. Many of them were awarded with orders and medals for presented heroism and bravery.

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