120-PM-38 mortar on display in a museum in Omsk, Russia.
Source: Vitaly V. Kuzmin - © GNU Attribution Share Alike license
The PM-43 is a World War 2 era heavy 120mm smoothbore mortar of Soviet origin. The PM designation refers to "Polkovoy Minomet", Russian for regimental level mortar. The design started out as the PM-38, which is also known as the M1938. The PM-43 is a slightly updated model that was produced in much larger numbers than the PM-38 as it was widely exported and produced until the later stages of the Cold War
The design is based on the French Brandt Mle 35 mortar. The PM-38 is a conventional smoothbore muzzle loaded mortar. Besides having longer shock absorbers and some other minor differences the PM-43 is similar to the PM-38. The system consists of four major parts: the barrel, base-plate, bipod and two wheel carriage. The fixed spread bipod allows for manual traverse and elevation. A crew of six is normally used to operate the weapon.
The PM-43 provides a lot of fire power with its ability to fire 12 to 15 rounds per minute to targets ranging 460 to 5.700 meters. The 120mm shells are very powerful compared to medium caliber mortars. At the time of development the design was very modern and capable. Judging by today's standard the range is somewhat limited and the weight is excessive.
For a heavy mortar the M43 is very mobile due to its well designed two wheel carriage. Normally it is towed or transported by a light truck, but can be hand drawn over short distances by infantry.
The Soviet Union has been the main user of the PM-38 and PM-43 mortar. In the mid and late Cold War era the M120 and 2B11 mortar were designed to supplement and replace these World War 2 era mortars. Most Soviet allies received stocks of these mortars during the Cold War. Nowadays many users are replacing it with more modern designs due to its age. However, the M43 still is one of the most common heavy mortars in the world.
120-PM-38 mortar on its two wheel carriage on display in a museum in Germany. Note the retrofitted muzzle device added in East German service.
Source: Ralf Roletschek - © GNU Attribution - Share Alike license
The Nazi German 12 cm Granatwerfer 42 is a copy of the Soviet 120mm PM-38.
Despite the introduction of the M120 in the mid 1950's, the vast majority of 120mm PM-43 mortars in Soviet service were actually replaced by the 2B11 Sani.
Introduced in the early 1980's, the 2B11 is more mobile and has a longer range.
The Chinese W86 was developed as a more potent replacement for the Type 55 in Chinese service.
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