Thales South Africa offering fire control and automation upgrades for conventional mortars

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Thales South Africa has developed a digital fire control system for standard mortars, offering a cost-effective and lightweight solution to greatly improve accuracy.

The new modular Mortar Fire Control System (MFCS) was first displayed at the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) 2022 exhibition outside Pretoria and has received interest from European customers, amongst others. More recently it was, together with the Thales Automated Mortar Fire Control System (AMFC), demonstrated to the military attache and advisory corps at an SVI Engineering event earlier this year, with the AMFC mounted on an SVI Max 3 4×6 armoured vehicle.

The Mortar Fire Control System can be integrated to any conventional mortar system ranging from 60 to 120 mm, effectively providing a digital upgrade for conventional mortars.

The MFCS has at its core the AS 4000 Integrated Mortar Fire Control System developed by Thales. Hardware includes a rugged tablet computer with GPS, data communications units, and MFCS software (tailored to either mortar fire controller or command post). The mortar laying and positioning system includes an optical heading and reference system to eliminate drift over time.

Automated Mortar Fire Control System

The Thales Automated Mortar Fire Control System (AMFCS – known as the Scorpion in South Africa) is a fully automated weapon system for light fire support, interchangeable between different calibres (60, 81, 82 mm mortars and 107 mm rockets). The AS 4000 is installed in the mortar vehicle cab and used to lay the mortar onto target – this is done through a full 360° electric traverse mechanism. A mortar man drops the mortar rounds down the pipe – an auto-loader was considered but rejected for the sake of mechanical simplicity, reliability and weight reduction as well as keeping the costs low.

One option for obtaining targeting data is to use the Thales Sophie binocular/thermal imager, which also includes a laser rangefinder mounted on a sighting system. This enables targets to be rapidly detected and engaged under almost all weather conditions.

A damping system mitigates recoil, allowing the AMFCS to be fitted to relatively small and light vehicles. A requirement was that the mortar be easily swapped from one vehicle to another; it can be easily unbolted and the platform transferred.

Thales said the AMFCS solution allows for rapid deployment and quick action, as the mortar can be laid onto target within 20 seconds – an improvement on reaction time of 95% compare to conventional mortars. This also facilitates ‘shoot and scoot’ operations.

As the system is automated, it offers a high first round hit probability and a low dispersion of bombs across the target area. The system can operate in GNSS denied environments, and detect GPS spoofing.

The AMFCS (Scorpion) is currently in operational use with the South African Special Forces, for whom it was designed and developed. In recent years Thales South Africa Systems has intensively marketed and demonstrated the AMFCS in different countries around the world.

Longstanding SANDF relationship

Thales has also provided various integrated artillery and light mortar fire control systems and ancillary equipment to the South African Army, including the AS 4000 Fire Control System for the South African Artillery Formation.

The company has also delivered Tactical Intelligence Systems to the South African Army Intelligence Regiment (including Sophie surveillance systems, Squire ground surveillance radars, and communications equipment as part of a battlefield surveillance and mobile intelligence processing system).

On the aerial side, Thales has seen the Digital Joint Reconnaissance Pod (DJRP) installed and integrated on the South African Air Force’s Gripen fighter aircraft to take high-resolution images of the battlefield.

For the SA Navy, Thales supplied the Combat Management System (CMS) and the Combat Team Training Simulator for the South African Navy’s Valour Class Meko A200 frigates.