Side view of Soltam M66 mortar on display in a museum
Source: Bukvoed - © GNU Attribution Share Alike license
The M66 is a towed 160mm heavy mortar of Israeli origin. It was developed by Soltam in the 1960's to provide a heavy shelling ability for the Israeli armed forces. The M66 is one of the heaviest and most powerful mortars developed in the 20th century.
The design is based on the Finnish Tampella Krh/58C, but the M66 is a heavier and sturdier system, using a stronger arms and a heavier baseplate. The system was strengthened in order to fire long range dart shaped projectiles with a 16 km range. These were tested, but never adopted by the IDF. The M66 is a breech loaded smoothbore mortar that is operated by 6 to 8 men. When deployed in the firing position the M66 rests on its round base-plate. Instead of a bipod the wheels are used to support the weapon.
The M66 provides a lot of firepower. It fires 38 kg mortar bombs that do more explosive damage than most types of 155mm artillery shells. The maximum range is 9.6 km. Accuracy is good, with a dispersion of about 100 meters at maximum range. The rate of fire is somewhat limited at 5 rpm.
The weight makes the M66 hard to move by hand and in the field. The mortar is towed by a 6x6 truck, which also carries the crew and ammunition. In travel configuration the baseplate is removed. A small two wheel carriage is used to move the baseplate in position.
The M66 mortar was also mounted on a Sherman tank chassis resulting in the Makmat self-propelled mortar. This greatly increased mobility, especially in difficult terrain.
The M66 is used by only a handful of nations. It remains in use today, although many are placed in reserve
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