Words like “futuristic,” “computerized,” “explosive,” and “grenade launcher” really tickle our sensibilities, so perhaps it was no surprise that we honored the XM-25 grenade launcher – that futuristic-looking, computerized-targeting infantry weapon that hurls smart explosive rounds downrange – with a Best of What’s New award last year. But with so much defense tech falling victim due to cost overruns, impracticality of deployment, or simple bureaucratic indecision, we’re always pleasantly surprised to see new systems hit the battlefield. And that’s exactly where the XM-25 is headed next month.
The shoulder-fired XM-25 supposedly deployed with Special Forces in Afghanistan this summer, though we couldn’t tell you anything about that. The weapon packs 25-millimeter “smart” grenades that can be programmed to explode at a predetermined range. Each round contains a small magnet that generates AC current as it spins through the air, allowing a tiny on-board microprocessor to determine how far it’s traveled.The soldier can dial in the range on the weapon itself before firing, essentially giving him or her the ability to fire around corners. If an enemy combatant is hiding out of line of sight, the soldier can simply fire a round over the enemy’s head or around a corner, programming the round to explode near the target (a laser range finder mounted on the gun helps the soldier make precise distance measurements). The ensuing burst of shrapnel makes for an unwelcome addition to any combatant’s day.
The Army initially said it would incorporate some 12,000 of the weapons into its arsenal starting in 2012, but it appears the XM-25 made an impression on someone up the chain of command. Defense blog Soldier Systems reports five developmental XM-25 systems are bound for the 101st Airborne in eastern Afghanistan, slated for arrival in November. An additional 36 weapons will arrive to replace the original five sometime thereafter.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.