Eurosatory 2024 – PGZ will be the largest Polish exhibitor. M120 Rak self-propelled mortar calls for attention

Eurosatory 2024 – PGZ will be the largest Polish exhibitor. M120 Rak self-propelled mortar calls for attention
Autor fotografie: Jarosław Wolski, CC BY-SA 4.0|Popisek: Wheeled M120 Rak mortars
04 / 06 / 2024, 23:00

The largest Polish exhibitor at Eurosatory 2024 will be PGZ, Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa. From the perspective of the Czech Army, one of the most interesting products in its portfolio is the M120 Rak self-propelled mortar.

The mortar is still one of the most effective weapons against a dug-in enemy and also for destroying fortifications in the field. The Army has mortar purchases in its modernisation plan. Mortars are artillery weapons that are capable of firing at high-angle trajectories. This feature makes them almost irreplaceable in the armament of armies, although modern ammunition for conventional guns can already replace them using time switches and special trajectories. However, such ammunition is very expensive. The conventional mortar is muzzle-loaded, has a high rate and accuracy of fire. It uses artillery mine shells, which are lighter than cannon grenades of the same caliber. It is characterised by relatively high accuracy but a shorter range. Self-propelled mortars capable of direct fire are breech-loaded.

The M120 Rak leaves the firing position within 30 seconds

The Polish M120 Rak is a heavy 120mm self-propelled mortar mounted on a SMG 120 / M120G tracked chassis or SMK 120 / M120K wheeled platform. The same is used by the Rosomak Armoured Personnel Carrier. Serial production began in 2016 at Huta Stalowa Wola (HSW), part of the PGZ. The mortar is powered by a 260 kW MTU 6V199 engine, which gives the tracked vehicle a road speed of 60 km/h.  Thanks to this, the mortar can overcome slopes with a gradient of up to 60% and withstand a maximum lateral inclination of 30%. The range is 500 km. The armour complies with STANAG 4569 standards and should therefore be able to withstand small arms fire, shrapnel from up to 155mm projectiles and mines. The wheeled M120 Rak is capable of speeds of up to 80 km/h.

M120G Rak prototype, 2010

The main element of the entire system is the 120mm self-propelled mortar MAHSW, the turret is fully autonomous and in terms of compatibility it can be mounted on virtually any chassis with sufficient load capacity, which makes it attractive for potential foreign users. The barrel has a length of 25 calibers, a wedge breech mechanism with vertical movement and a hydraulic recoil system. The turret is electrically operated, but can be switched to manual control. The Fire Control System consists of a thermal imaging camera, laser rangefinder, and an automatic targeting system that can interface with external control systems. It can fire at a range of up to 12 km and can also engage armoured vehicles with special ammunition. There are 46 rounds available and the M120 Rak is able to leave the firing positions within 30 seconds.

The respected Polish website Defence24 reported that PGZ, a holding company set up by the Polish Government to unify the country's arms producers, has recently announced American interest in the M120 Rak. Beata Perkowska from PGZ's communications department commented: "PGZ is active in promoting products from the group's portfolio, including the Rak self-propelled mortars. The US has shown interest in the Polish 120mm automatic mortar system. At this stage we would not like to disclose details of the ongoing negotiations." Interestingly, according to Army Recognition, HSW has come up with an improved variant of the Rak, which should be capable of firing up to 16 rounds per minute, and thanks to improved automation of reloading, the crew could consist of just three men. Closely related to this is the cooperation with control systems outside the mortar.

M120 Rak

The M120 Rak has an integrated TOPAZ Fire Control System, which is used across the Polish Army. It is these improvements and the Rak's considerable autonomy capability that may be the deciding criteria for the U.S. Army. The U.S. is bringing a new generation of multipurpose armored vehicles (AMPVs) to the Army and is looking for new mortars. So far, they have mainly tested the Finnish Patria NEMO and their own M121. The M120 Rak could apparently be an alternative to the Finnish product in particular.

Will the Czech Army decide for the M120 Rak?

General Opata's June 2018 modernization proposal envisages the purchase of 62 self-propelled mortars for the Czech Army. The acquisition requirements are quite demanding. They include, among others, an autonomous 120 mm calibre weapon system, an automated Fire Control System, mine protection, air transportability, speed limits, integration of the national command and control system, an inertial navigation system and a very crucial direct fire capability.

There are only three self-propelled mortars in the world that are capable of direct fire. The aforementioned Finnish Patria NEMO, Elbit's CROSSBOW and the Polish M120 Rak. On this basis alone, the mortar of our neighbours becomes very interesting and, given the fundamentally growing strength of the Polish arms industry, this system should be considered. Relations between the military-industrial complexes of our country and Warsaw are almost nil, which, given the proximity of the two countries, is certainly a mistake if only for the sake of logistics.

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