By Eric Kowal and Ed Lopez, Picatinny Arsenal Public Affairs
In certain battlefield conditions, such as the mountainous terrain and unimproved roads of Afghanistan, large-caliber indirect-fire weapon systems lack the mobility and maneuverability required to successfully execute an assault.
To solve this problem, engineers at the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, are developing a revolutionary weapon system called the Automated Direct Indirect-fire Mortar, known as ADIM, which can be fired while mounted on a light tactical vehicle such as the Humvee or its potential replacement.
The ADIM, currently an 81mm mortar weapon system, uses soft recoil to reduce the firing loads transmitted to the platform by a factor of eight, well within the limits of light tactical vehicle capacity.
“This enables mounted firing and supports rapid mobile operations,” said Dominick N. Carra, Senior Associate, Weapons Engineering Development, Weapons and Software Engineering Center at Picatinny Arsenal.
The new mortar system is a projected supported by Army Science and Technology funding.
An associated benefit of the soft recoil system is the ability to fire the weapon (direct) at low-quadrant elevations as well as (indirect) at high-quadrant elevations to either compensate for terrain interferences or take advantage of the reduced time of flight associated with low-quadrant elevations firing solutions.
ADIM functions are automated so that operations normally conducted manually by the Soldier can instead be executed via electro-mechanical actuators controlled by the weapon Actuator Control System, which was also developed by Picatinny engineers and is a government-owned technology.
System operation is directed by the Automated Fire Control System — Mortar, known as AFCS-M, which is an enhanced version of the fielded M95 Mortar Fire Control System.
The AFCS-M provides the human interface for controlling the loading/unloading, emplacing, aiming and firing of the ADIM.
A key capability associated with the AFCS-M is the incorporation of an inertial navigation unit and GPS receiver, which enables full-time emplacement of the ADIM and eliminates the long setup and reset times of several minutes associated with traditional surveying and aiming stake methods.
The combination enables rapid execution of mobile shoot and scoot operations to reduce Soldier exposure to enemy fire and susceptibility to counter-fire. It also provides the ability to operate via remote control as an unmanned weapon system operated by Soldiers in a protected location.
Although the system can be fired remotely, it is designed to require a Soldier to identify the target and make the decision to fire as prescribed in DoD Directive 3000.09 Autonomy in Weapon Systems, Carra said.
“Automation and fire control reduce the Soldier burden while increasing survivability,” Carra added.
Army researchers demonstrated the system at the Army Expeditionary Warfighter Experiment Spiral J event at Fort Benning, Georgia, in January 2015. The event is the Training and Doctrine Command’s premier live fire, prototype experimentation campaign.
During two days of live fire exercises, Soldiers fired 174 rounds operating the ADIM via remote control. The ADIM also demonstrated its ability to rapidly engage multiple targets through several multiple aim-point missions.
Multiple target suppression missions (one round per target and then target sequence repeated) and automated search and traverse (or single gun sheaf) missions (firing multiple rounds into an area surrounding a specified target) were also executed.
“Give me ADIM and I’m ready to go back to Afghanistan,” said a Fort Benning Soldier after observing the ADIM’s performance.
Plans are under way for the ADIM to participate in Manned Un-Manned Teaming exercises as part of the Network Integration Evaluation 16.1 at Fort Bliss, Texas, in October 2015.
This article appears in the July/August 2015 issue of Army Technology Magazine, which focuses on innovation. The magazine is available as an electronic download, or print publication. The magazine is an authorized, unofficial publication published under Army Regulation 360-1, for all members of the Department of Defense and the general public.