To help keep American soldiers safe (and outfitted with the most futuristic gear, of course), the United States Army just announced plans to begin testing of a new smart grenade launcher capable of zeroing in on covered/hidden targets. Officially called the XM25 Counter Defilade Engagement System, this smart grenade launcher comes courtesy of the Virginia-based rocket systems manufacturer Orbital ATK, and aims to allow soldiers on the battlefield to avoid exposing themselves during firefights. The company itself says the weapon increases a soldier's hit probability out to roughly 1,600 feet by 300 to 500 percent. You don't need to be a math whiz to like those odds.
In development since last decade, the XM25 is no stranger to the battlefield, having made an appearance during 2010 when the Army's PEO Soldier program sent prototypes to Afghanistan for use on the battlefield. During these prototype tests, PEO Soldier Lieutenant Colonel Chris Lehner equated the XM25 to other innovative military advancements such as the machine gun or tank, which possess the ability to greatly alter tactics employed by soldiers. Lehner acknowledged that due to the smart grenade launcher's inherent efficiency, lower cost, and ease of use, it instantly became preferable over airstrikes or mortars.
"The system is less expensive, more precise, quicker to deploy, and causes less collateral damage than mortars, artillery or airstrikes," Lehner points out in a PEO Soldier press release from 2010. "Our Soldiers can remain covered/protected and use their XM25 to neutralize an enemy in his covered position. This will significantly reduce the risk of U.S. casualties and change the way we fight."
Under the hood, Orbital ATK says the launcher features the ability to accurately strike a target from around 1,640 feet while also possessing the capacity to hit a target with a mid-air explosion at roughly 2,300 feet. Built by the German weapons company Heckler & Koch, the semi-automatic launcher houses a chamber capable of holding five 25 millimeter cartridges per clip. Though the standard XM25 figures to make use of an explosive airbust grenade, Orbital ATK is also developing compatible armor-piercing, door-breaching, and non-lethal rounds for use with the launcher.
During operation, soldiers using the XM25 simply utilize the weapon's built-in targeting system which accurately selects a desired target, analyzes its distance, and examines possible obstacles. Depending on the distance of the target, the soldier either selects the fusing of the grenade to explode on impact or, for further targets, to detonate mid-air over a wall, foxhole, or vehicle. After making necessary adjustments, the launcher's onboard computer informs the operator of the new aim point needed to accurately strike the target.
As of now it's unknown exactly when the Army may officially unveil the XM25 as an everyday addition to its weapons arsenal. Though if tests go as well as they did for the 2010 prototype, it likely won't be long before every U.S. soldier has access to a smart grenade launcher and better yet, a safer, more efficient method of navigating a battlefield.