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Overview

 American soldiers firing a Israeli-made M120 Mortar
A modern mortar is fired when a gunner drops a shell into the barrel.  When the shell hits the bottom, it activates a firing pin, setting off the primer and launching the shell.  Mortars are usually set between 45 and 85 degrees, to achieve a maximum distance and a minimum distance respectively.  A mortar shell is fired at a lower velocity than traditional artillery cannons in order to be used effectively in military tactics. 

Light and medium mortars are used by infantry, as opposed to heavy, mounted mortars.  The infantry mortars are effective because they can be easily transported into terrain that is not suited for traditional artillery.  Higher caliber mortars are usually able to be disassembled and carried by multiple infantrymen.  The heavy mortars (120 - 300mm caliber) are able to be mounted on specialized vehicles with a roof hatch.  Heavy mortars can also be mounted on a towed carriage, leaving the vehicle free to utilize any other modifications.   
 

Specific Mortars


Design

Modern mortars consist of three main parts: the barrel, the base plate, and the bi-pod.  The typical caliber of a mortar is 60 mm to 120 mm.  Typical ammunition for mortars have either fin-based or spin-based stabilizing systems.  Fin-based stabilizing ammunition have small fins on the firing pin end of the shell that help control the flight path.  Spin-based stabilizing ammunition function in the same manner as a rifle bullet.  These shells rotate as they travel along the barrel of the mortar, resulting in a torque that keeps the shell oriented during flight.  Spin-based shells, however, are slower to load because the pre-engraved band on the shell must be lined up with the barrel's ridge.  They are more accurate, but also susceptible to drifting. 

Mortar ammunition can come in a few different varieties, most notably illumination rounds, smoke rounds, and high-explosive rounds.  Illumination rounds for mortars can emit either visible light or infrared light, depending on the needs of the operators.  Smoke rounds are used to conceal movement.  Some types of smoke round, such as the white phosphorus round, can injure humans by burning or sound trauma.  High-explosive rounds are used to destroy targets. 
 

In Games

Company of Heroes

Allied Mortar Team
Every faction in the Company of Heroes franchise is able to train a mortar squad, but the Panzer Elite can deploy a Mortar Halftrack, instead of an actual squads. The Mortar squads provides excellent support against enemy infantry, but they are very vulnerable, so either they need protection, or since they have a long firing range, they can be far away from combat and stay safe that way. They can also be used to destroy and disable engines and turrets on vehicles and tanks with a well placed shot. Some of the squads have incendiary grenades, that will set the targeted area in flames and burn any enemy infantry that enters.
 

Gears of War 2

On rare occasions in singleplayer, the player will find the devastating mortar launcher. Like any mortar, it functions as a long-range weapons with delayed fire. The player must try to predict the movement of the enemy to maximize the damage. 
   

Valkyria Chronicles

It is possible to equip lancers with a mortar lance, the Lancaar-SH, if certain conditions are fulfilled. The advantages of this lance are wide blast radius, high anti-personnel stats, and being capable of destroying a tank with one shot if aimed properly. Lancers have 3 mortars to begin with, but their ammo can be refilled by: waiting for the next turn, being resupplied by an engineer, or by random potentials for some.

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