The Swiss defense procurement agency armasuisse has awarded a production contract for 32 Mörser 16 self-propelled mortars after an almost three-year delay and a reset in the program.
The system, comprising the RUAG MRO Cobra 120 mm (12 cm) mortar on a Piranha 8×8 wheeled armored vehicle, completed trials at the Bière weapon range in March 2020.
The findings from the trials have been incorporated into the serial production contract, armasuisse said, and the companies involved can now start work on delivering the mortars systems from 2024.
The project encountered significant issues early on and had to be restarted in 2018 after a 32-month delay. The testing in 2020 had shown that the mortar still had significant shortcomings, the most notable of which was that the system could not be effectively used in snowy or rainy conditions. According to an internal defense ministry report, the system does not have a gun barrel cover, which allows the water to pour in and potentially affect the munitions. Additionally, soldiers have to be exposed to the elements while operating the mortar, and opening the cabin door to access the mortar from the vehicle cabin allows water to enter the inside of the vehicle due to the lack of a drainage system around the mortar platform.
It remains to be seen whether these, alongside a number of other issues, have been rectified prior to the serial production contract award.
The RUAG-developed Cobra mortar has a range of 7,000 to 9,000 meters. One of the main features of the system is that it uses an electric drive to ensure both the accuracy and the speed of the system. According to RUAG, ballistic computing enables multiple rounds simultaneous impact firing.
The Swiss Army is procuring 32 self-propelled mortars to replace the Minenwerferpanzer 64/91 mortars which were retired in 2010.