After World War I, mortars passed into the hands of infantry units, while very heavy pieces remained with the artillery. The U.S. Army classifies mortars as light (60mm), medium (81mm), and heavy (120mm and above). All light and medium mortars are carried by infantrymen. They are inexpensive and easy to maintain, and can achieve a very high rate of fire. An 81mm mortar platoon can fire 196 rounds in a minute—a far greater weight of ammunition on a target than can be achieved by a field artillery battery, but one that can only be sustained over a short period of time. Concealment is easy and fire control is straightforward. With the advent of global satellite positioning systems, accuracy has been improved. The high‐angle fire associated with this weapon allows it to engage targets concealed behind cover.
[See also Weaponry, Army; World War I: Military and Diplomatic Course.]
The Diagram Group , Weapons: An International Encyclopedia from 5000 B.C. to 2000 A.D., 1990.
Timothy M. Laur and and Steven L. Llanso , Encyclopedia of Modern U.S. Weapons, 1995.
William F. Atwater
mortar (in warfare)
mortar, in warfare, term originally applied to certain types of artillery with high trajectories, but later applied to an infantry weapon that consists of a tube supported by a bipod that fires a projectile at a very high trajectory. The mortar is not usually classified as artillery. Unlike standard types of artillery, mortars need no complex recoil equipment and are usually smoothbore and muzzle-loaded. Their weight is light in relation to the weight of shell delivered, but at the expense of range and accuracy. First developed by Sir Frederick Stokes during World War I, the mortar was used by infantry in trench warfare and is standard equipment in modern armies.