The Type 4899 4-inch Mine Projector is the newest addition to the Empire's imposing arsenal of high-explosive killing machines, more recent even than its terrifying multiple rocket launchers.
The Mine Projector is a small, light artillery piece intended to provide short-range, high-angle fire support for Imperial Infantry Battalions and Brigades. The name is deceptive, as it is actually a sort of mortar. The word "mortar", however, in Imperial terminology, refers strictly to old-fashioned muzzle-loading, [usually] smooth-bore and largely immobile siege weapons which are no longer in use. The Type 4899 4-inch Mine Projector is none of these things.
The weapon is mounted on a miniature, simplified version of an artillery carriage with a fixed box trail and transverse axle, eschewing the complex suspension and anchoring mechanisms used on larger artillery pieces to reduce weight and size. Ammunition is carried in a rectangular steel box which is stowed transversely across the trail, rather than on a separate limber hitched to the axle, and must be removed before firing as it blocks the axis of recoil. The Mine Launcher is normally drawn by a pair of the Empire's large and muscular purpose-bred war dogs, hitched independently via simple harnasses to facilitate simple rapid deployment. It may also be moved by its human crew relatively easily using drag chains, a method which would normally be impractical for anything but traversing and repositioning other Imperial artillery pieces due to their immense weight.
The Type 4899 Mine Launcher, known simply as "4-inchers" in common soldiers' parlance, is the only Imperial artillery piece not made primarily from steel. Instead, it is constructed from a special lightweight copper alloy (considered a type of bronze by the Empire) that contains aliminum, nickel and zinc, among other things. There are many steel components where added strength is necessary, but overall the result in a considerable reduction in weight. Recoil absorbtion and recouperation is facilitated by a simple spring mechanism and, when necessary, wheel chocks or a small folding spade at the end of the carriage trail. The weapon itself is not muzzle-loaded like a typical mortar; instead, it uses a relatively uncomplicated circular breech hatch (rather than the mechanically complex and heavy semi-automatic falling block mechanisms common to other Imperial designs). Ammunition is contained in 4"-diameter steel tubes that are almost as long as the Projector's barrel, with an open front end sealed by a thin stamped metal plate (basically identical to a tin can's lid). These cylinders are not mere cartridges, however. They serve as a strengthened barrel liner that allows the gun to resist the force of its propellent without having to be made impractically thick and, perhaps more importantly, have a rifled interior to impart additional accuracy upon the projectile itself. The Mine Projector's loader must take care to insert each round with the sealed opening of the tube first and to twist it clockwise so that it is locked in place.
The breech hatch of the Mine Projector contains a spring-loaded firing pin that is engaged by a catch the moment the loader shuts it, meaning he must take care not to stand directly behind it. The force of the exploding propellent automatically re-opens the breech and re-cocks the firing pin, while a rotating extractor claw driven by gears attached to the hinge of the hatch automatically unlocks the spent cartridge/liner and pulls it out of the barrel as it swings open.
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