Starship Troopers Meets G.I. Joe

Monday, September 29th, 2008

I’m not sure that I’d describe the XM25 Individual Air Burst Weapon as Starship Troopers Meets G.I. Joe — but it does look like a good choice for hunting xenomorphs:

Current infantry weapons can shoot at or through an obstacle concealing enemy threats, but the Army has been trying for years to come up with a weapon for engaging targets behind barriers without resorting to mortars, rockets or grenades — all of which risk greater collateral damage. After fits and starts using a 20mm rifle housed in a bulky, overweight, complicated shell, technology finally caught up to shave the XM25 from 21 pounds to a little more than 12 pounds.

If the XM25 does what its developers hope, it will be able to fire an air-bursting round at a target from 16 meters away out to 600 meters with a highly accurate, 360-degree explosive radius.

The XM25 is about as long as a collapsed M4, weighs about as much as an M16 with an M203 grenade launcher attached and has about as much kick as a 12-gauge shotgun, said Barb Muldowney, Army deputy program manager for infantry combat weapons.

The semi-auto XM25 comes with a four-round magazine, though testers are looking at whether to increase the capacity to as much as 10 rounds.

Brains are what really makes this Buck Rogers gun work — it has them. The weapon combines a thermal optic, day-sight, laser range finder, compass and IR illuminator with a fire-control system that wirelessly transmits the exact range of the target into the 25mm round’s fuse before firing.

A Soldier can aim the XM25 at a wall concealing a sniper, for example, but “dial in” or adjust the distance by an additional meter above the target. When fired, the Alliant Teksystems-built round will explode above the enemy’s position, essentially going around the obstruction, Muldowney said.

Military-grade weapons aren’t cheap — but the XM25 seems oddly inexpensive next to the M4 carbine:

The weapon costs about $25,000 each, but experts were quick to point out that a fully-loaded M4 for optics and pointers costs pretty close to $30,000. Each ATK-made 25mm round costs about $25.

As Heckler and Koch, makers of the weapon itself, and L3 Communications — which makes the fire control system — crank out more weapons, the Army plans to push them out to the field for testing beginning in March 2009. That could include the first use of such a weapon in combat, Cline said.

If all goes according to plan, Soldiers might have their first XM25s in hand by 2014, far sooner than the Army’s small arms community had predicted even last year.

(I have mentioned the XM25 before.)

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