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Ammunition management/resupply for the light infantry mortar.

The integration and effectiveness of the light mortar is only as good as the ammunition plan, management, and resupply procedures. The amount of ammunition available is an important consideration in the attack of targets. When this is low, missions should be limited to those that contribute to mission accomplishment. When the controlled supply rate (CSR) is high, missions fired may include targets that require the massing of fires without adjustment. The CSR is designed to limit the number of rounds per weapon per day.

CSRs are imposed for two reasons--to conserve ammunition and to avoid a shortage for a tactical operation. During the fire support planning, ammunition requirements must be considered. Thus, it is very important for the mortar section leader to be present to recommend the types and amounts of ammunition that will be required. Combat experiences in World War II and Korea have shown that an on-hand mix of 70 percent HE, 20 percent WP or smoke, and 10 percent illumination ammunition is the most flexible. The basic load of a light infantry company should be approximately 245 HE, 60 WP, and 45 illumination, for a total of 350 rounds, which can be in any combination to best support the mission. The percentage of ammunition used by the unit should be modified by the commander on the basis of the mission. The expenditure of mortar ammunition must be based on the tactical priorities and ammunition availability.

How do we manage 60mm ammunition at company level (that is, How do we know what we have on the ground at any one time.)?

It is difficult for the commander to keep track of the availability of on-hand mortar ammunition. The primary responsibility should fall on that section sergeant and the FSO/FSNCO for knowing exactly how many rounds are currently carried by the company, where in the company, and what type of rounds. To make it easier for the commander to know what is on the ground, recommended ammunition breakout is as follows: 1st and 2nd squads carry HE pure (2 rounds per man = 36 HE per platoon), and 3rd squad carries illumination and WP (A Team illumination [8 rounds], B Team WP [8 rounds]. This amounts to a basic load of 60mm--not carded by the mortar section--as 108 round HE, 24 rounds illumination and WP. Using a very basic tracking card updated by the FSO/FSNCO, the commander can keep track of the availability of 60mm ammunition within the company and realistically plan future operations.

AMMUNITION RESUPPLY

Even as good as it sounds by doctrine, we know a light infantry company cannot carry a basic load of 350 rounds of mortar ammunition. Companies at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) routinely begin rotations with as few as 40 to 60 rounds of 60mm mortar ammunition and almost never get a resupply. When executing the defense, it is with a very small amount of ammunition. To keep the company resupplied with mortar rounds, the company executive officer (XO) and the first sergeant and mortar section sergeant must work together on a daily basis. They must forecast the appropriate number of rounds to be fired daily and make it a standard part of logistics. If the number resupplied is more than the number fired, the ammunition can be kept in the combat trains or carried in the company vehicle until needed. This allows the company to maintain its initial load of ammunition on the basis of the SOP or the current tactical mission. When defense sectors are identified, another basic load can be brought forward.

Although units generally manage to get mortar ammunition onto the battlefield, getting it to the mortar firing positions has been the problem. The fix to ammunition management and resupply must be obtained through a detailed company level control procedure (SOP) for the distribution, drop-off, and retrieval of mortar ammunition. Target suppression is a common task for the mortars. Field Manual (FM) 7-90, Tactical Employment of Mortars, recommends firing five rounds from each tube against a platoon-size enemy element, which should inflict 20 percent casualties. This means that the fire for effect (FFE) should never be less than 10 rounds and will often require much more. This is only one example for one mission. A 60mm mortar section can fire 350 rounds in approximately 9 to 10 minutes at a sustained rate of fire.

How do we get the ammunition to the mortar section?

* Line squads drop when called for ammunition: Using his quick reference card, the mortar section sergeant and the FSO/FSNCO can call for the squads or teams that carry the required ammunition to be dropped off at the mortar firing point location. This works well in the defense, as well as air assaults and airborne assaults as units require time to assemble and thus will have time to drop ammunition with the mortars. This can be chaotic if the landing plans are changed.

* Co-locate ruck drops with mortar firing point: The most success I saw at the JRTC was when in the attack, co-locating the company (or a platoon) ruck drop with the mortars. This allows the mortars direct access to the ammunition they might require. It works very well when mortars are supporting an attack from an established company tactical assembly area, where platoon ruck drops can be established. Thus, mortars have three mortar round caches, in effect. This allows them to shoot, then displace to the next ruck drop, which in most cases would be 150 to 250 meters away from the last firing point. This gives the mortars greater flexibility in supporting the attack. The driving constraint in this method is the maximum range of the 60mm mortar, especially if older, non-ballistically matched lots are issued, where WP and illumination have a maximum range of 950-1500 meters. This method can also succeed when the mortars are task organized under a platoon for security purposes, and establish a mortar firing position in the vicinity of that platoon's objective release point (ORP).

* Gator-based: The final method is a gator-based mortar section. Most units in the Army now have two gators per rifle company. These gators support the installation of a power conditioner, power-amp, low profile antennae, and ASIP/SINCGARS radios. Depending on the enemy situational template, gators allow the mortars to carry more ammunition (in my experience, up to 90 additional rounds) than their rucks would normally allow them to carry on their person. Using gators for this purpose also has the benefit of true basic load, as the platoons would still carry their breakdown as listed above, plus the additional 90 or so rounds carried on the gators. Putting a CVC on the head of more responsive fires as his ears are tuned to the company command net or the fires net waiting for the call.

Once our ammunition is dropped with the mortars and is not used, how do we get it together and move it again?

A few ideas on this one when time and situation do not allow the company's sub-units to move back and pick up their ammunition:

* Each team leader, in addition to the two rounds of 60mm ammunition he is carrying, also carries an aviator's kit bag, which is dropped off with the mortar section when that element drops its ammunition. This allows three things: The ammunition for that sub-unit can be collected together, and two men (maybe one) can pick them up in a single bag to move back to the parent element; allows for ease in cache; and aviator's kit bags can easily be hung on the front rack of a gator or HMMWV, or thrown in the back. And the type and number of rounds can be annotated by attaching a toe tag to the handle; this enables the section sergeant/FSO/FSNCO to update their reference cards quickly.

* Mortars carry a poleless litter: This allows up to 25 rounds of 60mm ammunition to be laid within the litter, strap the litter closed, and two men within the mortar section (with some extra effort) can move the rounds that had been dropped but not fired back to the parent element.

* In any case: Locating the mortar firing point with a unit's ruck drop alleviates many of these problems.

One of the greatest challenges for the company commander is planning and integrating indirect mortar fires. To succeed, the mortar section sergeant must be present during all planning, orders, and rehearsals. The company commander must use the expertise of the mortar section sergeant, who in return must understand the tactical employment of the mortar to best support the company's mission. The mortar section sergeant can advise the commander on the one-half to two-thirds range criteria, mortar location, and decide whether hand-held or conventional mode will best suit the mission. The mortar section sergeant will also recommend the amount and type of ammunition the company and platoons should carry, based on METT-T (mission, enemy, terrain, troops and time). All of this information should help the company commander develop courses of action and wargaming to integrate the mortars to their fullest capability.

In summary, ammunition management, resupply techniques and integration must be exercised routinely during all field mining exercises. Through careful planning and a thorough knowledge of the 60mm mortar, it will remain the most effective, efficient, and flexible weapon provided to the light infantry, air assault, airborne, and ranger battalions on the battlefield.

Sergeant First Class Brian A. Hamm has served as a mortar section sergeant, a mortar platoon sergeant, and a mortar observer-controller at the Joint Readiness Training Center.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Professional Forum
Author:Hamm, Brian A.
Publication:Infantry Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2002
Words:1595
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