Nowhere to Hide

Nowhere to Hide

Nowhere to Hide

Published in the April 2012 issue of Defense Technology International.

The XM25 Individual Semi-Automatic Airburst System (ISAAS) offers a new solution to one of the perennial challenges in combat: how do you hit what you can’t see? One of the defining features of the war in Afghanistan has been a hard-to-hit enemy that uses the terrain to provide cover for pot shots – or worse. Before the XM25, a pinned-down squad had to call in – and wait for – close air support or indirect fire, which requires additional fire integration and the hope that those assets aren’t otherwise engaged. Soon, however, soldiers will be able to hit targets hidden behind boulders or walls in the five seconds it takes to aim, fire, and deliver a high-explosive airburst (HEAB) round above a target.

After a year downrange, the XM25 has proven itself indispensable – so much so that the soldiers who had been testing the five prototypes requested to keep them after the forward operational assessment (FOA) was complete. The rifle went on nine operational missions during the FOA, and while there were few confirmed kills, the “Punisher,” as the XM25 is colloquially known, was effective at ending small arms fire engagements – no small feat. “The XM25 brought the difference to whether they would stay there 15 to 20 minutes shooting [and] taking pot shots or the actual fight ended after using the XM25,” said Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Smith, Soldier Requirements Division, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, Ga., according to a February 2011 Army report.

The concept of the airburst round is at least a decade old, but it’s only in the past few years that the technology has advanced to allow proof of concept. Initially conceived of as a dual rifle and 20mm grenade launcher, the XM25 quickly became single-purpose to reduce the weapon’s weight and to allow for a more lethal 25mm round. In March 2011, ATK received a $65.8 million, 30-month Engineering and Manufacturing Development contract from the Army’s Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier division to further develop and manufacture the complete system. A November 2011 $24 million contract modification will allow ATK to produce an additional 36 prototypes and ammunition for further field tests.

It’s a remarkably simple system to learn to use; two days of training is enough to establish basic proficiency. Advanced target acquisition and fire control systems take the guesswork out of the process. The XM25’s laser rangefinder calculates the distance to the target out to 700m, then allows the soldier to adjust that figure by up to 10m to account for the depth of the shielding object. The gun takes into account environmental factors, then programs the round and arms the fuze. Once fired, a proprietary turn-counting system tracks the number of revolutions the round makes; it then explodes into shrapnel above or to the side of the target.

Read more at Defense Technology International.