WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. -- The Arsenal announced Friday that it received a $4.2 million contract from the U.S. Army to manufacture a new lightweight 60mm mortar baseplate that will enhance Soldiers' abilities to move more quickly across the battlefield, while also reducing logistical requirements.

"This multimillion dollar order will add to our current workload more than 14,000 hours of direct labor," said Jake Peart, the Arsenal's chief of Production Control & Program Management. "We will begin shipping in the fall of 2013 and we will complete our production in the spring of 2015."

The Army's new M224A1 lightweight 60mm mortar system that was fielded in 2011 requires two baseplates: The M7A1 baseplate, which is used in a conventional firing mode, weighs 9.2 pounds, and can fire charges 0 to 4; and the M8 baseplate, which can be used in a hand-held firing mode, weighs 3.6 pounds, but can fire only a charge 0 or 1.

The new M7A2 baseplate the Arsenal will begin manufacturing may be used in a conventional firing mode or from a hand-held firing position, weighs only 4.8 pounds, and can fire charges 0-4. Thereby providing the same firing capabilities as the current two baseplates combined, while reducing the overall weight of the mortar system by more than 8 pounds. Each additional charge above charge 1 increases the range of the mortar round.

The 60mm mortar system is a lightweight, high angle of fire, smooth bore, man-portable, muzzle-loaded weapon system. The Arsenal will continue to manufacture baseplates for the legacy, 60mm mortar system, the M224, until the Army completes its fielding of the newer, lightweight mortar system.

Orders for Watervliet's mortars have greatly increased since 2007 due directly to the type of ground combat that our military has been doing in Afghanistan. In the last 12 months, the Arsenal has manufactured more than 2,000 various mortar parts, from tubes to baseplates.

The U.S. Army's Benét Laboratories designed the M7A2 baseplate. Benét Labs is collocated on the Watervliet Arsenal and is a Department of the Army research, development and engineering facility. It is a part of the Weapons & Software Engineering Center (WSEC), Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC), which is located at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.

The Watervliet Arsenal is an Army-owned-and-operated manufacturing facility and is the oldest, continuously active arsenal in the United States having begun operations during the War of 1812.

Today's Arsenal is relied upon by U.S. and foreign militaries to produce the most advanced, high-tech, high-powered weaponry for cannon, howitzer, and mortar systems. This National Historic Registered Landmark has an annual economic benefit to the local community in excess of $100 million.