What if the 60mm mortar officially reappeared as a weapon for the French armed forces? Replaced for decades by the individual grenade launcher (IGL), the 60mm mortar is today the subject of a call for tender launched on 24 March by the French DGA Procurement Agency which is seeking 120 systems.
In addition to the mortars proper, the French Army needs a complete mix of ammunition: 6,500 explosive shells, 2,000 visible illuminating shells, 2,300 IR illuminating shells, 2,500 smoke bombs, and 4,700 training shells. All with new bipods and their associated pointing devices, says the announcement.
The 60mm mortar is thought to be currently only used by certain units of the French special forces, notably in Afghanistan. The number of systems required by the DGA could nonetheless indicate an endowment far in excess of just the special forces.
In addition to ease of installation and increased firepower, the 60mm mortar has a maximum range of more than 3.5km, instead of the … 675 metres for the IGL. Technological improvements have led to the weight of a 60mm mortar being halved while adding, depending on the model, a day/night shooting capacity.
In the French industrial landscape, the solution should logically come from TDA Armements, a subsidiary of Thales that has literally set the standards for infantry mortar. But if TDA has already supplied the 81mm LLR F1 infantry mortars and 120mm RT F1 artillery mortars, the company no longer carries a 60mm caliber in its portfolio. Foreign competitors therefore remain interested notably, amongst others, Austria’s Hirtenberger, who, after urgently supplying the British army, could offer its M6 C-640 Mk1 mortar.