Heckler & Koch, www.hk-usa.com

Military platoons equipped with XM25 grenade launchers may no longer need to call in air strikes, artillery bombardments, or reinforcements to get them out of hot spots. Instead, they’d use the semiautomatic XM25 to rapidly fire 25-mm grenades that would explode directly over enemies up to 2,100-ft away and take them out.

The new XM25 uses a laser range finder to determine distance to the target, and a thermal sight helps locate targets at night or in bad weather. The operator can then use battlefield experience to add or subtract up to 9 ft from that figure at his discretion. A microchip in the round gets programmed with the detonation distance just prior to firing. Once fired, the round rotates uniformly, so a counter can tick off rotations until the desired range is reached, at which point the round detonates.

The $25,000-weapon weighs about 18 lb, and can carry four rounds in an oversized magazine. The standard munition is planned to be a half-pound high-explosive air-burst round (HEAB). It contains dual warheads and has a blast and fragmentation pattern about equal to that of a standard hand grenade. Compared to current squad-level rifles and grenade launchers, it is three times more effective at incapacitating enemy soldiers. There is also a 25-mm armor-piercing round that uses a shaped charge to penetrate over 50 mm of armor, letting it knock out light-armored vehicles. A fuel-air explosive or “thermobaric” shell disperses fuel when it initially detonates, then a second detonation sets the fuel vapor aflame. Such shells would cause greater blast effects in enclosed spaces and burn most of the oxygen. The military also plans to deploy flechette rounds for close-in fighting, nonlethal rounds for crowd control, and training rounds.

Though the XM25 is expensive, it costs less than using Hellfire missiles, which take an Apache helicopter to fire, for rooting out dug-in forces. The military plans on buying 12,500 of the weapons from the maker, Heckler & Koch, Newington, N. H.

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