The US Army will shortly deploy precision mortars to the field in Afghanistan to fight insurgents hidden in mountain ridge lines and other high positions.

As part of the army’s accelerated precision mortar initiative (APMI), three companies, including Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Alliant Techsystems (Atk) are competing to develop a 120mm precision mortar compatible with the M120 system.

APMI programme lead Major Jeffrey Hilt said the army’s operational needs statement from Afghanistan specifies a GPS-guided 120mm mortar, with a circular error probable (CEP) of 16.4ft or less and a 4.3-mile range.

As per the army requirements, the mortar must also be compatible with existing fire control systems including the lightweight hand-held mortar ballistic computer.

All three companies have received awards to proceed with phase 1 of APMI programme.

Second-level testing for the GPS-guided versions of the precision mortar from the respective companies will be carried out in January 2010 after which the army will select the winning design.