The news that the XM25 grenade launcher will be tested in Afghanistan is splattered all across the blogosphere and the rest of the internet lately. And frankly, it’s getting a lot of hype.
The XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System fires 25mm air-bursting shells up to 2,300 feet, making it most closely related to the grenade launcher, but with a range greater than most rifles used by the Army, AFP reports.
Let’s say enemy fighter pops up from behind a wall to fire at U.S. troops and then takes cover before they can respond. An XM25 gunner can then use the laser range finder to get the distance to the wall, program the explosive to go off a few feet behind it, fire over the wall, and then watch as lethal shell fragments rain down from above.
While it is certainly an impressive capability, it won’t fundamentally change the way fights happen. I think it is great that we’re making our infantry more lethal, and less reliant on supporting fires. Don’t get me wrong.
But for every weapon, there is a countermeasure. Good tactics would already mitigate some of the effectiveness of this weapon. Shoot and scoot isn’t unknown in that part of the world, you know. And while engaging troops in defilade will be a little easier (and this will also address some of the deficiencies of rifle fire at longer ranges such as we’ve seen in Afghanistan), it doesn’t mean infantry firefights will suddenly undergo some magical transformation. It’s hard enough to determine with any accuracy where small arms fire is coming from. And while this might defeat troops under cover, it doesn’t really do much to expose troops under concealment. You have to know within just a couple meters exactly where your target is before you can successfully engage. And the laser rangefinder is going to be vulnerable to inaccuracy due to vegetation or battlefield smoke,which will grossly effect the fuzing of the round.
By all means, let’s get this out there, try it out, learn how to use it, and kill some jihadis. But don’t make the mistake of thinking one weapon will end the war. That’s asking too much from hardware in what is fundamentally a people problem.