Artillery systems have been around almost as long as gunpowder and have played a prominent role in virtually every conflict since then. But they've never been as precise — and deadly — as the Dragon Fire II automated mortar.
Developed by TDA Armaments and the US Marine Corps, the Dragon Fire II employs electric actuators to automatically aim, load, and fire 120mm shells (both rifled and smoothbore) and uses an advanced fire control system to calculate the firing data. It weighs 1565kg (about half of its predecessor) and is small enough to be carried internally by amphibious assault craft, CH-53 helicopters and MV-22 Osprey. On the ground, it can be towed behind a Humvee or loaded into a modified, roofless Light Armour Vehicle to provide 360 degrees of coverage from within the column when shooting on the move.
Its automated Mortar Fire Control System (MFCS) allows for extremely rapid response, which is necessary as mortar teams must move often to avoid counter-fire, by reducing the average length of time from deployment to firing the fire the first round down from eight minutes to under one. The advanced MFCS is also incredibly accurate — capable of dropping any number of rounds within 15m of a target at a range of 5600m (with a maximum range of over 8000m) — as well as very fast — able to fire 10 rounds per minute for two minutes, or four rounds per minute for sustained periods.
They can even be networked together with one unit coordinating fire, which allows for extremely complex firing and timing sequences to be quickly and accurately executed. With this system, a six-gun battery of Dragon Fires would be able to level a 440m x 805m area in under four minutes while covering every square meter within it.
Unfortunately, the only place to see a Dragon Fire is now at the Picatinny Arsenal. Despite providing faster response times and greater accuracy than traditional tube artillery while cutting the number of required support personnel in half, the Dragon Fire project has been shelved by the Marine Corp as focus has shifted away from relatively lightweight expeditionary fire support systems like this to larger ones such as the Army's non-line-of-sight cannon.
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