The M224 is the current portable mortar system in service with the United States Army and Marine Corps. The system provides a high-angle attack weapon that can be used in close proximity to friendly troops. Its indirect fire support and relative light weight handling characteristics has proven effective in support of ground forces, special operations units and mountain elements as well as airborne forces alike. The M224 was selected as a replacement for the M2 and M19 series of 60mm mortars which were in operational use since the days of World War 2. The M224 supersedes these aged designs in providing for an overall improved effective range.
The M224 can be broken down into its core components consisting of the base plate, sighting unit, bipod and firing tube (also cannon or barrel) altogether weighing in at 46.5lbs. The baseplate comes in two flavors designated as the M7 and the M8. The M7 is utilized for conventional firing and attaches to the base of the firing tube while the M8 offers up a hand-held firing option. The M7 baseplate features a screw-type elevation and traverse mechanism for changing the angle of fire. Sighting is accomplished through the M64A1 Sight Unit which is attached to the bipod mount via a conventional dovetail arrangement. The bipod is designated as the M170 and fits to the forward end of the firing tube. The 40-inch long barrel is officially designated as the M25 Cannon and is of a smooth bore, muzzle-loading design which also includes the firing mechanism, base cap and an additional short-range sight at the base. The weapon system also features a spring-type shock absorber to dampen recoil.
A crew of three is recommended for maximum operational efficiency. Effective maximum ranges vary depending on the chosen method of fire (conventional or hand-held). For conventional fire, the range of the M224 is listed at 3,490 meters (approximately 2.17 miles) while a range of 1,340 meters is approximated for hand-held firing. Weights vary dramatically as well, again, depending on selected method of fire. The unit weight for conventional firing is 48lbs while the hand-held firing weight is listed at just 18lbs. A maximum rate-of-fire of 30 rounds-per-minute can be attained for up to four minutes with a sustained rate-of-fire of 20 rounds-per-minute for up to twenty minutes.
The M224 is cleared to fire variety of ammunition types including standard practice and training rounds, infrared and standard illumination rounds, white phosphorous smoke projectiles and high-explosive (HE) munitions with multi-option/point detonation fuses. A single M224 unit cost is listed as $10,658.