S. Korea starts field deployment of homemade 120mm self-propelled mortar system

By Lim Chang-won Posted : February 4, 2022, 14:08 Updated : February 4, 2022, 14:08

[Courtesy of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration]

SEOUL -- The field deployment of South Korea's homemade 120-millimeter self-propelled mortar system integrated into a tracked armored personnel carrier has begun to replace the aging 4.2-inch system which has been in use for decades. The new system features automated fire control and improved firepower support capabilities that enable a rapid and precise attack.

The first batch of 120mm self-propelled mortar systems along with fire control vehicles has been delivered to a mechanized unit, according to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) controlled by the defense ministry. Mortar guns were designed by S&T Dynamics while Hanwha Defense provided tracked armored carriers and fire command vehicles. 

"The 120mm self-propelled mortar system is a key force to raise the operational performance of the offensive maneuver mission of South Korean troops," Cho Hyun-ki, a senior DAPA official, said in a statement on February 4. "We hope it will contribute to defense exports by expanding its localization rate in subsequent mass production."

The total cost of development that began in 2014 was estimated at 880 billion won ($733 million). Hanwha Defense also showed expectations for exports, saying that the 120mm self-propelled mortar system has better performance than similar systems in terms of range, firepower, and automation system construction. 

The self-propelled mortar is based on a variant of Hanwha Defense's K200A1 tracked armored personnel carrier. With the vehicle fixed, the mortar itself rotates 360 degrees and can shoot in all directions, enabling effective firepower support. 

Without disclosing specifications in detail, Hanwha Defense revealed confidence over the excellent performance of its system, saying the strike range is 2.3 times longer and the firepower 1.9 times greater than that of the old system. It can be operated at 75 percent of personnel for the old system.

Mortar carriers provide close and immediate indirect fire support for maneuver units while allowing for rapid displacement and quick reaction to the tactical situation. The ability to relocate not only allows fire support to be provided where it is needed faster but also allows these units to avoid counter-battery fire.

Hanwha Defense said that an automated system was applied to the entire shooting process of the new self-propelled mortar, dramatically improving speed and accuracy. It is possible to continue firepower support with its own command system built for each gun, enabling effective mission performance in battlefield environments.

 The new self-propelled system with an average shooting range of 12 km can move at a maximum speed of 70 km per hour with four crew members on board. The test model disclosed by DAPA earlier had a semi-automatic reloading system that enabled up to eight shots per minute. It took two minutes and 53 seconds in firing 30 shots in a row.

The development of South Korea's 120mm self-propelled mortar system backed by a K6 heavy machine gun has been relatively slow compared to other countries mainly due to a huge stockpile of shells for the 4.2-inch system. For a while, the new system will be used just by mechanized units. 

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