The 81mm mortar was introduced in 1965 to replace the old 3 inch mortar that had been in service since before the Second World War. Like its predecessor, the 81mm could fire a range of different mortar rounds, not just high explosive. One of the most useful on the battlefield is the parachute illuminating round. When fired, this round launches an incredibly bright flare into the sky which slowly descends on a parachute and lights up the whole battlefield, turning night into day. Today we are looking at a deactivated example of one of these mortar rounds:
The main body of the mortar bomb is painted white and has prominent black stenciling on it giving details of its type:
When fired the mortar round reaches a height of 400m before bursting, the front and rear parts separating to allow the flare to come away. The L54A1 has a burn time of 30 seconds and produces the equivalent of 1,000,000 candles worth of brightness. The base of the round has a metal tail that holds the propellant that launches the round:
The very base of the tail can be opened with a special tool and the primer which set of the launching charge can be seen here to have been struck:
From this we can see that this component dates from February 2008. The fuze for the mortar round is situated in its nose and its internal components ensure the round explodes at the height or distance set by the mortar man:
This is certainly a visually impressive piece of ordnance, measuring two feet in length. I believe there are a number of other rounds for this weapon to find, so it will be fun to try and track down the other variants to build up a nice cross section of rounds.