BAE’s M326 MSS: Mortar In, Mortar Out, Mortar On
In an age of artillery trackback radars, one of the most important attributes for any artillery system is speedy set-up and take-down. The M109A6 Paladin fixed that problem for the USA’s 155mm self-propelled howitzers, but what about those large 120mm mortars that weigh 300 pounds, and have to be manhandled into and out of place over many minutes?
In this case, the solution was rather less expensive. BAE Systems invented the M326 120mm Mortar Stowage System, a simple and rugged device that can be easily attached to the M1101 Trailer, Hummers, or Trucks. The assembled mortar base plate, tube and bipod are held together as a unit by a steel strut that connects the mortar to the M326’s hydraulic lift arm, which hoists the fully assembled M120 Mortar in and out. During tests, mount and dismount of a fully assembled M120 Mortar have been achieved in less than 20 seconds. Jim Unterseher, BAE Systems’ vice president of Army Programs claims that with the M326, a 120-mm mortar crew can set-up, fire and be on the move again in 3 minutes without having to lift the heavy tube.
BAE Systems has now received a $13.9 million contract from the U.S. Army to procure 588 M236 Mortar Stowage Systems. The contract calls for BAE Systems to begin low-rate initial production (LRIP) immediately and deliver the first 52 M326 systems to the Army by October 2008, then deliver an additional 536 systems through full-rate production, which will begin immediately following LRIP completion. All of systems will be assembled at the Louisville, Kentucky, facility and will be delivered by early 2010. The contract also includes options for funding the delivery of up to 100 additional systems, as well as new equipment training, installation, warehousing and spares. If all options are exercised, the contract could grow to $20.6 million. BAE release.