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XM-25 courtesy Wikipedia Commons

XM-25 courtesy Wikipedia Commons

XM-25 ammunition courtesy Wikipedia Commons

XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System

Here is a bullpup that's nobody's idea of anything but a full-grown dog, or rather Dawg! Not to be confused with the XM-25 sniper rifle.

Technically, its not a rifle; it's a grenade launcher. But it's a bullpup, as the side view here clearly shows. And although it's a grenade launcher, it shoots and handles far more like a rifle.

The ammunition is a 25mm projectile with two explosive charges, one that bursts forward, the other backward. In between is a slick electronics system that counts how many times the projectile has rotated since it was launched, computes from that the distance traveled, and detonates the charges when it reaches the desired distance.

And how does it know the desired distance? The shooter uses a laser range-finding system--that big box on top of the weapon--to determine the distance to the target, and can then adjust that value in small increments. The value set by the shooter is the range at which the charges will explode. Is the enemy shooting from behind a wall? The shooter determines the range to the wall and then adds a bit so that the charge explodes over the enemy's head or just behind the enemy. That pretty well erases the value of cover.

The concept of a range-finding rifle sight has been around for a while, and is even available in the civilian market in units such as the Burris Eliminator. The innovation here is to apply that concept to a grenade launcher, and couple it with intelligence in the shell.

The sight has thermal night-vision capabilities. Daytime or nightime, same principle--a powerful explosive shell, accurately placed.

The weapon seems to have a pretty heavy recoil as shown in action in several video clips posted on YouTube, seemingly about like a magnum slug load. It's fairly heavy, about the weight of an M-14. However, it's short at about 29 inches, so even at that weight it should be fairly handy in action.

The ability to place a powerful charge in front, above, behind or beside the enemy is defiintely going to be a real tactical advantage. It means that in many situations, ordinary cover becomes useless; ducking down behind a wall, for example, doesn't help you much when the XM-25 operator can detonate the charge just behind you.

The system also offers a political advantage. Having weapons like this available should make it possible for ground troops to handle many situations that would otherwise call for air strikes or mortar fire. That should mean better ability to avoid collateral damage and civilian casualties, since this weapon is much more precise and is directed by troops on the spot.

Some of the YouTube clips have to be taken with a grain of salt. You would think a U. S. Army colonel would know better than to claim that the XM-25 shell can turn corners, but hey.... And some of the coverage has definitely been a little breathless. Yes, this weapon will be a great advantage whenever US troops engage enemy who are using traditional fire-from-cover tactics. No, this isn't a panacea. The enemy has a wide variety of tactical options that don't involve shooting from cover, such as roadside bombs.

The weapon system has been in development by Alliant Techsystems for several years. Successful test-firing took place in 2009, and the weapon system is now (December 2010) being deployed for live-combat testing in Afghanistan.

Want one? I sure do! However, since the system is military-only, and costs about ten times more than a high-end target rifle, and the ammunition, at $25 a round, isn't exactly cheap, I don't think we'll see too many of these at the local range--which will save a lot of wear and tear on the ranges! The plan is to acquire about 12,500 of these and get them into the field in 2011. That will cost about three million dollars--dirt cheap by today's military standards.

But think about this: what happens when these things show up in Call of Duty? This could be a "game-changer" both in Afghanistan and in the living room!

Robert W. Bethune