US soldiers operating in Afghanistan will receive precision mortar rounds by the end of 2010, providing them with a improved ability to destroy targets in mountainous terrain.

Ammunition programme executive officer Brigadier General John Maddux said you could drop one on a target to execute the mission and stay on course.

“Also, this will decrease the footprint of conventional ammo in theatre because you only need one to make first kill,” Maddux said.

The accelerated precision mortar initiative (APMI) programme is an urgent operational requirement by the commanders in Afghanistan who have highlighted the importance of pinpointing targets using precision or GPS-guided mortar rounds.

Three contenders including Raytheon-Israeli Military Industries, General Dynamics and Atk have proposed their respective mortar rounds for the APMI award.

Mortar systems department coordinator Bruce Kay said that APMI improved upon the 136m circular error probable (CEP) of conventional mortars by reducing it to about 10m.

“This is a 120mm mortar round that provides precision capability to ground forces,” he said.

“This is designed for a precision capability such as against a sniper in a building, or enemies in a bunker or trench.

“If you were to engage with a conventional mortar round, you would have to fire eight to ten rounds to kill or suppress the target but with APMI, you will probably be able to do the same thing with one or two.”

The second phase of testing for the APMI, which includes safety certification and qualification, will begin shortly.

According to the officials, the army will still need conventional mortars for area and suppressive fire.