In another sign of the move towards automated weapons and vehicles, the U.S. military is now developing fully automatic mortars.
The Dragon Fire II is a program to develop a fully automated mortar system that is capable of firing 120 millimeter heavy ammunition and provide support to soldiers in battle. The Dragon Fire II program has been in development since 2006 at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in West Bethesda, Maryland. The automated mortar system is being created for potential use by the U.S. Marine Corps.
The Dragon Fire II weapon will fire mortar shells at a high angle towards enemy positions. However, unlike most mortars, the Dragon Fire II will be completely automated and will not require soldiers to load the weapon with ammunition and discharge it. The U.S. military began experimenting with ways to automate artillery fire in the late 1990s in an effort to reduce human casualties in combat.
The first prototype of an automated mortar system was completed in 1998 and tested by the Marine Corps. The Dragon Fire II system is being developed by General Dynamics Ordinance and Tactical Systems.
The Dragon Fire II mortar system uses automated ammunition loading and an advanced aiming system. Tests have found that the automated weapon was faster and more precise than manually operated mortars. The Dragon Fire II mortar system can be used on the ground with a light armored vehicle or Humvee, and in the air with a CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter and a V-22 Osprey helicopter.
Once placed in a specific location, the Dragon Fire II system can be operated remotely by soldiers, or it can be set-up to run on its own in a fully automatic mode. The weapon can fire 10 rounds per minute. The Dragon Fire II can also be operated manually if the automated system fails.