The M1943 (also known as the "MT-13") was a heavy field mortar utilized by the Soviet Army through the latter half of World War 2. What made this particular mortar system unique was its large-caliber 160mm projectile which, in some ways, precluded its use as a "quick-set" weapon for infantry (as opposed to the smaller, portable 60mm and 81mm units available). With Germany having invaded the Soviet Union in June of 1941 through Operation Barbarossa, every weapon available to the Soviet Union was of great importance and the M1943, with its large caliber shell, proved a devastatingly lethal addition to the Red Army arsenal. The weapon was adopted for service sometime in 1943 and became the heaviest battlefield mortar to be utilized by the Soviets in the conflict - known to the Communists as the "Great Patriotic War".
The M1943 was brought about based on need from a resource-strapped military campaign. Already embroiled in full-scale war for years, the Soviet Army needed a cost-effective solution to help deliver quantitative amounts of high-explosive ordnance against a determined and prepared enemy. The Red Army would require a potent weapon that could combat enemy concentrations at range or tackle dug-in point targets with equal fervor across plains and mountain ranges.
The M1943 was based on the form and function of the earlier M1938 120mm mortar system, itself a direct copy of the excellent French-designed Brandt mortar system of 1935. However, the M1938 was a muzzle-loading weapon in much the same way that any conventional mortar system was. The difficulties faced by Soviet engineers was in how to load a 160mm projectile into a firing tube measuring nearly 10 feet in length, particularly when the tube would be elevated upwards off the ground in order to produce the correct firing arc needed. Engineers, therefore, developed a breech-loading mechanism for the new weapon and installed a formidable suppression system to help combat the effects of the inherently violent recoil experienced when launching a projectile of this magnitude. A circular convex baseplate was affixed to the rear of the firing tube to assist in retarding the recoil effects. The tube was further mounted onto a two-wheeled carriage system for ease of transport by mover vehicle or armored personnel carrier. The wheels could also serve the gunnery crew well when relocating over short distances or turning their weapon against a target area as needed.
As a breech-loaded weapon, the M1943 featured a hinged firing tube which opened forward at about its center point to allow complete access to the firing chamber. After the 160mm shell was loaded, the barrel was brought back to position which, in effect, closed the breech and the weapon was made ready to fire. The M1943 maintained an operational weight of 2,580lbs with the projectile itself weighing in at 90lbs, both of these qualities requiring multiple crew to manage. Elevation was limited to +45 to +80 degrees and traverse was 25 degrees. A trained gunnery crew could fire off 10 rounds per minute at a muzzle velocity of 804 feet per second with a range out to 5,600 yards. A truly effective battlefield weapon considering its hefty payload - and the German Army soldier would pay the ultimate price.
After World War 2, the M1943 continued to serve the Red Army and its interests across Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania and Syria. The M1943 was then replaced in Soviet service by the M-160, a 160mm caliber mortar system that retained the breech-loading philosophy of the proven M1943 but featured a longer barrel and, thusly, longer inherent range. While no highly regarded in today's technologically-minded world, the 160mm class of mortar can still be found in service in some far-off places around the world.
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