Staff Writer (Updated: 5/9/2016):
Mine projectors served the useful battlefield role of destroying fixed, fortified enemy emplacements that usually housed machine gun teams, artillery systems or both. In any case, these fortresses prevented further advancement by ground forces and mine projectors provided a solution. The weapon type could also be used to remove field obstacles (i.e. barricades, barbed wire fields) that threatened or contained allied troop movements, cavalry and vehicles. The design of the 17cm mMW was such that it could attack these targets at range utilizing a short rifled barrel, which made for good accuracy. The 170mm (6.69") 110lb shell was specific to the 17cm mMW weapon in that it was designed with a thin outer casing which allowed for more internal filler, hence, more explosive capabilities within. The shells were loaded down into the open muzzle-end of the launch tube in the normal muzzle-loading mortar fashion (still utilized today). A hydro-spring suspension system offered the necessary recoil function and the wheels of the transport carriage were typically removed before firing. The wheeled nature of the carriage did, however, allow a team of four to pull the weapon into position with some work. Overall weight was 1,065lbs which naturally required multiple crew (or pack animals) to move. A pit was dug to protect the weapon and gunnery team whenever possible and elevation served projectiles between +45 to +90 degrees with traversal limited to 25 degrees to either side. A trained crew could loose up to 20 rounds per minute out to a range of 1,700 yards though more accuracy was attained at ranges under 325 yards. Sighting was done through a panoramic sighting device integrated into the design.
After some practice, the original 17cm mMW gave way to a revised design sporting a longer barrel which increased overall range. The original's barrel measured just over 2 feet while the revised variant added a further 5 inches to the length. The manufacturing change, therefore, created two distinct designations - the earlier short-barreled versions became the 17cm mMW a/A (for "alter Art") and the later, longer-barreled versions became the 17cm mMW n/A (for "neuer Art"). The "alter" and "neuer" markings simply designated them as "old" and "new" respectively.
In action, the 17cm mMW series gave a good account of itself. They were utilized by engineering units charged with all manner of demolition of enemy fortifications, obstacles and emplacements. The massive 170mm shells could certainly deliver firepower against targets and utterly destroy concrete and steel structures with some ease. Such weapons were, however, cumbersome to maneuver in the heat of battle and in confined spaces so early-war designs eventually gave way to more streamlined, lighter forms by war's end. In addition to their base explosive projectile, such mine projectors could also make use of incendiary rounds as well as poison gas rounds to further the hellish nature of trench warfare.