As MILMAG found out, after almost 20 years since the end of the 81mm mortar program, it will be shown at this year`s MSPO Trade Show. Foreign interest is the main reason for this presentation.
M-81 mortar was developed at the start of 1990s by the OBRSM - current Centrum Badawczo-Rozwojowe (Research and Development Center) which now is a part of Zakłady Mechniczne Tarnów. Two prototypes were constructed in 1998 but the program was put on hold. Polish Army was interested in this weapon system but wanted to pass a significant cost of 81mm ammunition needed for trials onto the, small then, OBRSM. This resulted in the holdup.
One of the mortars was left in the OBRSM (Current ZMT) stores, while the other was loaned to Wojskowa Akademia Techniczna where it was used for training. This is similar to what befallen the Krab/Regina self-propelled howizter program, which was also stopped and two prototypes were to be used as museum pieces. Luckily, the M-81 did not grow old too much over those 20 years as the artillery weapons development wasn`t so rapid.
For the last few years, under the new board of directors, the ZMT is heavily promoting their products on the international markets. 2017 could be a breakthrough for the ZMT`s attempts at exporting their products. If all the expected 2017 contracts will be signed and finalized, then ZMT will reduce it`s dependency on Ministry of Defence orders by 28%, compared with 2015. At the same time, company turnover might grow by over 100 million PLN from 2016. .
ZMT has all the rights, documentation and technology to produce the M-81. Moreover, there is no need for bureaucratic struggles concerning the export permits or a lengthy development process to conduct. Of course, there are also potential customers interested in this weapon.
M-81 was developed for land forces and it`s main purpose is to destroy manpower and field fortifications. It can also be utilized for smoke cover and battlefield illumination. Mortar can fire up to 40 round in one volley and is compatible with all the popular types of 81mm ammunition. It has a crew of 3 and protected guidance systems. M-81 consists of the 16,5 kg barrel, 5,4 kg action, 20,7 kg K-type bipod and a 14,8 kg baseplate. In it`s battle configuration it weights 61 kg. In the transport mode (with the mobile base attached) this increases to 91 kg. Weapon has a minimal range of 120 m and a maximum range of 6300 m. Rate of fire is 10/min with corrections and 20/min without.