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December 01, 2010

Uh-Oh: XM-25 Anti-Cover Cybernetic Grenade Launcher Hits Afghanistan; Called "Revolutionary" and a "Game-Changer"

Dri had this in the sidebar; I just read about it a bit on Hot Air.

Cover is of course critical in a firefight. Hunker down behind a berm, duck under a window's frame, peek out behind a corner -- your opponents will have a hell of a time hitting you.

I'm just making this crap up but I bet it's right -- 90% of the military's firefight tactics are about finding, exploiting, and defeating cover.

The XM-25 has a laser-rangefinder. The soldier using it points it at his target, and pushes a button to register that range. Then he adds in a + or - to note whether he wants the grenade to explode just before that distance or just after.

Then he fires a grenade, up to 2300 feet (longer than most carbine/AK-47 ranges), and a the gun instructs the grenade when to blow up.

Long story short: If a guy is hiding behind the cover of the corner of a brick building, point the gun at the corner, click in "+" (meaning, explode just beyond this distance), and aim just past the corner into the open air, and fire -- the grenade will launch and will detonate just as it passes the corner, killing the guy hiding behind it.

Which means that the most critical tactic in a firefight simply no longer exists for our enemies.

If it works as they're selling it -- and they are really selling it big, not lowering expectations -- it literally, I think, could end the war.

Because you can't have a war if all of the opposing forces are dead.

Lt. Col. Christopher Lehner, project manager for the semi-automatic, shoulder-fired weapon system for the U.S. Army's Program Executive Office Soldier, said that the XM25's capability alone is such a "game-changer" that it'll lead to new ways of fighting on the battlefield, beginning this month in Afghanistan.

"With this weapon system, we take away cover from [enemy targets] forever," Lehner told FoxNews.com on Wednesday. "Tactics are going to have to be rewritten. The only thing we can see [enemies] being able to do is run away."

I don't know if it's going to work quite as well as anticipated, but again, they are not taking a "hopeful" stance -- they seem convinced that this thing is just absolutely lethal.

One way to think about it, I guess, is in movies the heroes always get behind cover (and don't get shot) while the idiot villains' minions run out in the open (and get shot to shit). Basically this gun, if it works as well as they think it will work, turns opponents into idiot movie minions, with movie-like results.

Change In Tactics: Assuming this works as brilliantly as advertised:

In cases where our guys have planned an assault on stronghold, this weapon will only marginally improve our fighting power, because in those cases we already are bringing so many advantages to the table, like Spooky gunships and Apaches and mortars and rocket launchers. Even there, though, we'll kill a lot more guys, and have more surrenders, and have fewer escapees. Maybe a lot fewer, as those designated to stay behind and lay covering fire while the higher-ups escape will balk, given that their odds of surviving the encounter are a lot lower now.

Civilian casualties should decline, generally, since heavier, less descriminate explosive attacks will be less frequently needed. Plus the bad guys won't be firing as long (and they probably shoot up most of the civilians themselves with their poor fire discipline). This not only helps in that (cliche warning) hearts and minds thing but it increases our lethal potential: If we are more precise about killin' them that needs killin', we can take the shackles off and do more of it.

It will make ambush attacks on small patrols a much riskier proposition -- here it will have big impact. Unless the enemy is in force and thinks it can all but wipe out a patrol in the first barrage of gunfire, the enemy will know that attacking a patrol, even a small one, is essentially suicide. Such ambushes will be less common (and there will be many more enemy kills during the transition period).

Even snipers will have to change their tactics some -- they will have to learn to take one or two or maybe three shots, before fleeing and trying to blend into a civilian crowd. They will have to scoot very quickly after the shoot.

Cover isn't just a defensive advantage; it's an offensive advantage, too, as a guy who has some security in his position will generally take better-aimed shots and fire more aimed rounds (and not just stick his gun out and fire blindly, or just cower and hide). If the gun works as well as it's said to, enemy fighters won't just be defensively disadvantaged, but offensively too, as a lot more of their time and mind-share is devoted to mere survival.

The Taliban (and Al Qaeda in Iraq) will generally have to rely more on roadside bombs. They rely on that stuff a lot as it is, but we've gotten better at defeating these tactics; they will have to go back to that sort of thing mostly exclusively.

This could have an impressive effect on enemy morale, perhaps catastrophic. There is a big difference between going into battle with a belief that there is a 20% chance you'll be killed (or maimed) and going into battle with the belief that there is a 90% chance you will be killed (or maimed). A lot of fighters will balk once you get past the 60% mark.

I don't know if this thing works as well as advertised. And I don't want to get silly about it and claim a revolution. But there have been truly revolutionary weapons in the past (longbow, rifle) and those weapons did change the face of warfare (and make the early-adopters of such then-cutting-edge tech the masters of the battlefield). It does sound to me like a weapon that defeats, decisively, the chief defense against gunfire -- cover -- could very well be that sort of longbow/rifle revolutionary weapon.

Vid: Little bonus: the reporter is Rick "Manslaughter" Sanchez.

Jean objects to my overselling this:

The ability to compromise cover is a little oversold, visually identifying those situations will be hard. What this does in tactical terms is it significantly increases the probability of a hit beyond basic rifleman range for the untrained masses. No longer do you need that kid from Kentucky or Idaho on the DMR to engage at a extended ranges; it may also reduce the need to hump the mortar. It is also a direct fire weapon under local control - no need to ask higher to start pop stuff at 2K out. So it reduces training and strain on a limited set of personnel, cuts JAG time, shortens the C2 "span of control" and may reduce pack weight. All wins, if it works.

XBradTC agrees:


I'm sure the XM25 will bring something to the fight. But really, ever since the M79 was introduced, we've had a fair ability to engage troops in defilade out to about 300-400m. This is a more accurate round, and an interesting technical achievement, but one of the very great difficulties in the fight is determining EXACTLY where the enemy is. Once you determine his position, killing isn't that hard, and hasn't been for a long time.

Well, point taken, and I respect that these guys are offering military-informed opinions, but so is the guy mentioned in the Fox article, and he thinks it will make a much bigger impact than Jean and XBradTC do.

"Rewriting tactics" and "the enemy will have no choice but to run away" are pretty big statements. Even discounting for this guy being in love with the product, it seems like the weapon will have more of an impact than Jean and XBradTC guess.

Old Top Ten: This weapon began as the under part of the over-under XM-8, a combined advanced assault rifle and grenade launcher. The advanced assault rifle part didn't work all that great, and it was heavy anyway to do the two-weapons-in-one thing, so they separated out the grenade launcher, which seemed to be working, and made it the stand-alone XM-25.

I did this Top Ten for the XM-8, back in the very early days of the blog.

(Actually, commenters seem to be telling me the XM-25 was not derived from the XM-8, but rather the XM-8 and the XM-25 together made up the OICW (objective infantry combat weapon or something). Anyway, look, this is an old top ten. It's about cool weapons.)

Top Ten Cool Things About the New XM8 Assault Rifle

10. First 1,000 weapons produced will come stamped with wicked-ass Batman logo

9. Thanks to top-secret design enhancement by Gary Gygax, weapon is +4 to-hit against half-orcs and Hill Giants

8. Integral stereophonic audiosystem lets troops march into battle while blasting music of their choice; prototype weapon lets users toggle between Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries, Mancini's Peter Gunn Theme, and Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart

7. Demanding military specs and impressive electronic failsafes make weapon easy to use, even in hands of retards, gaywads and/or spazzmoids

6. Sophisticated Battlefield Management System (BMS) indicates that a target has been eliminated by playing Howard Dean's "Yeaaaiiihhhh!" war-yip

5. Weapon can be used to open cans; can also be used to open up doors, light armored trucks, and enemies' chest-cavities

4. Pushing A, B, and C buttons simultaneously allows user to execute a Super Scorpion Kick finishing move

3. It's fun to note that the weapon which will be killing America's future enemies survived John Kerry's efforts to kill it

2. When out of ammunition, weapon may be used as a club-- the coolest frigging club in the whole wide world

...and the Number One Cool Things About the New XM8 Assault Rifle...

1. You just know Moby is already going apeshit over this

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posted by Ace at 12:08 PM

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