France Purchases Thales 120mm 2R2M Mortars

The French Army are purchasing some 54 Thales 120mm 2R2M (Rifled Recoiled Mounted Mortar) mortars to mount on their newly acquired VBMR Griffon 6×6 light armoured vehicles to replace the ageing VAB mortar carrier and towed variants. The system will officially be known as the MEPAC (mortier embarqué pour l’appui au contact or Embedded Mortar for Contact Support) in French service.

120 mm 2R2M system integrated on an AVV (Armoured Vanguard Vehicle) in operational situation during PHOENIX exercise 2008 in Mourmelon. Based on its experience in the Rifled Towed mortar (120 mm RT), in service with the French Army and the armed forces of more than 25 other nations. The 120 mm 2R2M Rifled Recoiled vehicle-Mounted Mortar system leads the way in the new world of advanced mortar systems. It meets all the requirements of modern ground-to-ground fire support missions. It is equipped with automatic firing aids, and an inertial navigation unit, and offers high mobility, short deployment and withdrawal times, the same firing precision as an artillery system, and enhanced crew protection. Extremely light and compact, the 2R2M can be mounted on all types of light armoured vehicles (wheeled or tracked) in the 10 to 15 tonne class. It can fire all types of conventional munitions currently in service, as well as next-generation rounds and smart munitions in development.

The 2R2M is a rifled 120mm mortar with semi-automatic loader with the crew loading the mortar bomb and charge with the system doing the rest. When fitted to the Griffon MEPAC, it will be carried under armour and deployed via a sliding hatch. This enables the crew to get the mortar into action rapidly without drawing undue attention to itself from enemy eyes as it appears largely the same as the standard Griffon armoured personnel carrier model.

Thales claims the mounted 2R2M is capable of firing ten rounds a minute with increased accuracy over the standard towed version due to a propriety recoil brake. Once the fire mission is complete the crew can close the mortar hatch and move to avoid counter-battery fire, an increasing consideration after Ukrainian experiences against Russian artillery. Mobile mortars have also proven themselves in counter-insurgency conflicts.

During Operation Serval in Mali, the French Army used VAB based mortar carriers to provide organic indirect fire support, which when combined with ISR, facilitated their lightning-fast January 2013 campaign. The same operation also proved the worth of wheeled artillery, the so-called ‘gun on a truck or GOAT’ with two French 155mm Caesars keeping pace with the VBCI and AMX-10 RC to provide intimate fire support.

The VBMR (Véhicule Blindé Multi-Rôle or armored multirole vehicle) Griffon itself is a recent acquisition with the first units delivered at the start of July this year with a total of 1872 to be delivered. Thales who manufacture the 2R2M mortar system were part of the consortium which designed the Griffon. The VAB, which has seen extensive service in Africa and Afghanistan, is suffering from spiraling maintenance costs. The replacement of the VAB was first announced under Project Scorpion in 2014.