U.S. Army Continues Development of New 25mm Weapon for Soldiers
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The U.S. Army relies on the M4/M16 family of assault rifles using the standard NATO 5.56mm round to provide the personnel weapons for its soldiers. These have seen some evolution since the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan started with the addition of improved sights, reliability and upgrades to ammunition but they remain basically the same weapon that was introduced in Vietnam almost fifty years ago.
Starting in the Nineties a development program for a new rifle was begun that led to the XM8. This went through several years of testing and development before being canceled in 2005. Since then the Army has looked at beginning again while making upgrades to the M4. One part of the XM8 program did continue though which was a 25mm version which has seen limited testing in Afghanistan as the XM25.
The XM25 fires an air-burst round that may be programmed prior to firing so that it detonates at a specific range from the shooter. This allows engagement of foes that are behind cover as the round attacks them from above. In the original XM8 program the 25mm launcher would have been mounted under the barrel but due to weight issues a specific version was built and the plan was to equip one soldier in each squad to provide fire support.
In the last year a limited number of XM25 were issued to troops in Afghanistan and tested. The reported results were very encouraging and the Army has decided to continue work on the system. ATK (ATK) was awarded a contract to conduct Engineering, Manufacturing and Development (EMD) work on the weapon. The thirty month contract has a value of just under $70 million.
The XM25 provides long range suppressive fire and has proven accurate and effective so far in combat. The decision to move into EMD shows that the Army is interested in moving the weapon into large scale production. When combined with other systems such as the Individual Gunshot Detector (IGD) developed by QinetiQ it allows engagement of the enemy at ranges much further then standard infantry weapons.
Photo from The U.S. Army’s flickr photostream.