The US Army is planning to award contracts for the development of a 120mm high-explosive guided mortar (HEGM) later this fiscal year.
The award comes after the service successfully closed its initial solicitation phase, which sought designs for a new 'smart' mortar from the private sector.
Companies that receive contracts under the HEGM programme will create and deliver potential solutions to the US Government for testing.
The final HEGM solution will be selected through an open competition conducted in 2018.
The HEGM will be an all-terrain, all-weather mortar that will be compatible with all US 120mm mortar weapons and fire-control systems in infantry, armoured, and Stryker brigade combat teams.
Guided Precision Munitions and Mortar Systems product manager lieutenant colonel Anthony Gibbs said: "We received multiple proposals, and we've seen a lot of industry interest in the HEGM requirements.”
The new laser-guided, precision mortar is intended to replace the existing precision-guided HE mortar, known as the accelerated precision mortar initiative (APMI).
Gibbs added: "The APMI solution was a tremendous asset for our soldiers in Afghanistan.
"It filled their urgent need for a responsive precision mortar at widely dispersed combat outposts and is available for our global response force today.
"We're going to improve upon the existing technology and incorporate next-generation upgrades into HEGM, such as increased threat countermeasures and enhanced manoeuvrability."
The precision-guided mortars are said to prevent troops from having to fire large quantities of HE rounds.
Soldiers can fire one precision-guided round and eliminate the target, thereby reducing their resupply needs, the US Army stated.
Image: US Army soldiers fire mortar rounds at insurgent fighting positions in Kunar province, Afghanistan. Photo: courtesy of Sgt. Matthew Moeller.