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Weapons: 25mm Grenade Launcher Rises From The Dead
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October 2, 2008: The U.S. Army has a new, lightweight (12 pounds) version of its XM-25 grenade launcher, that, after over a decade of development, is to be field tested to see if the new model works. This is an interesting development in light of the fact that three months ago, South Korea revealed that had developed a similar weapon, the XK-11. This weapon appeared identical (in concept) to the U.S. Army XM-29 (or OICW, for Objective Individual Combat Weapon) that preceded the XM-25. The South Korean version weighs 13.4 pounds and combines a 5.56mm rifle with one firing 20mm, computer and laser controlled, shells. The 18 pound XM-29 was developed, in the 1990s, as a replacement for the 40mm grenade launcher. The 40mm rounds weigh eight ounces each, the 20mm OICW round weighs 3.5 ounces and the new 25mm shells about five ounces each.

But there were several major problems with the OICW. It was too heavy and ungainly, and the 20mm "smart shell" it fired did not appear capable of effectively putting enemy troops out of action. So, in August, 2003, it was decided to take the 5.56mm portion of the OICW and develop it as a separate weapon (the XM-8) and develop the grenade launcher part that fired the "smart shell" as the XM-25. But the XM-25 would use a 25mm shell, which would generate 50 percent more fragments (and heavier ones at that) than the 20mm shell of the OICW. The XM25 was expected to reach the troops by 2008. But that didn't happen, as tests were disappointing.

The 20mm and 25mm "smart shells" use a computer controlled fuze. The XM-25 operator can select four different firing modes via a selector switch on the weapon. The four modes include "Bursting" (airburst). For this to work, the soldier first finds the target via the weapons sighting system. The sight includes a laser range finder and the ability to select and adjust the range shown in the sight picture. For an air burst, the soldier aims at an enemy position and fires a round. The shell is optimized to spray incapacitating (wounding or killing) fragments in a roughly six meter radius. Thus if enemy troops are seen moving near trees or buildings at a long distance (over 500 meters), the weapon has a good chance of getting them with one shot. M-16s are not very accurate at that range, and the enemy troops will dive for cover as soon as M-16 bullets hit around them. With smart shells, you get one (or a few) accurate shots and the element of surprise.

The 25mm shell in the XM-25 provided some more options, and, it is hoped, more lethality. The US has fired over 30 million 25mm shells from the cannon on its M-2 Bradley armored vehicles and was satisfied with the lethality of that shell against infantry. One of the new options with a larger shell is a fuel-air explosive (or "thermobaric") version for the XM-25. Such a shell would cause greater blast effect in an enclosed space, and actually suck most of the oxygen out of a cave or closed room long enough to make surviving troops at least a bit groggy. In combat, every bit helps. Other specialized rounds would be for breaking down doors (HESH), or penetrating armor (shaped charge).

The South Korean XK11 appears to operate the same way as the 20mm shell of the XM-29. The South Koreans say they will issue the XK-11 in two years, on the basis of two weapons per squad (an infantry unit containing 10-12 men). Each XK-11 costs about $16,000, which is 20 percent cheaper than the XM-29. It's unclear if the South Koreans found solutions to the problems the XM-29 and XM-25 encountered, or simply developed an improved XM-29 and decided it was useful in small numbers. The South Korean announcement made no mention of those American weapons.

The new version of the XM-25 has numerous design improvements over the prototype that showed up four years ago. Lightweight components got the overall weight down to a manageable 12 pounds (with a four round magazine, a ten round magazine is in the works as well). Improvements in the electronics and the ammo increased the range (500 meters for point targets, like a window, and 700 meters for area targets, like a group of men.) The actual "feel" of the XM-25 has been modified by thousands of hours of troop handling, and paying attention to what the troops had to say. The next goal is to see if the troops actually find it worthwhile lugging around in combat. The current plan is for one or two men per ten man squad would have an XM-25, but only if the weapon proves worth the weight on the battlefield. Useless weapons get left behind or "lost." Each XM-25 will cost $25,000. Each 25mm round costs $25. Even if the XM-25 survives more troop tests, it won't enter regular service for another six years.

 

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cwDeici       10/2/2008 10:50:44 AM
Fancy as it is, this new weapon is overshadowed by the tragedy of the US army not adopting the XM-8 because... I dunno, its made in Germany and/or something?
*sigh*

 
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JFKY    Dude...   10/2/2008 10:59:45 AM
I will only tell you that a large number of commenter's here will now jump on your back.  They will tell you, whether it's true or no, that the M-8 was a woefully substandard weapon, that tended to melt when fired often.  That it failed it's troops trials, with the Rangers IIRC, for that very reason and so it was RIGHTLY rejected.  Is it true, I don't know, but that is what you will now hear...
 
And of course it was going to be built in the US, in Georgia I believe.
 
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Whispering_Death       10/2/2008 2:48:27 PM
If this weapon enters service is it going to be the primary weapon of a soldier?  Combined with a 5.56 weapon like the M203?  Or will a soldier carry the XM-25 in addition to his M-16?
 
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WarNerd       10/3/2008 5:26:18 AM
The XM-25 is bigger and heavier than an M-16, and looks to be a re-engineered version of the grenade launcher portion of the OICW.  The OICW concept was not a rifle with an attached grenade launcher, but a grenade launcher with an attached rifle.  It was rejected because of weight (around 18 pounds loaded) and overall length that made it less acceptable for combat in the built up areas where most of the action was in Iraq.
 
They might look at attaching one of the PDW concepts to XM-25, but it will probably push the weight over 16 pounds.
 
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StobieWan       10/3/2008 8:34:37 AM
The XM-25 will be sole weapon of a grenadier or equivalent - probably one per squad or thereabouts.
 
It'll be a replacement for the 203 in that position in some units I gather, at least at first, and will probably be very useful to people operating in built up areas (counter sniper work with one of those puppies will be interesting) and VCP's - an incoming truck bomb will stop if hit in the engine block or crew cabin with a 25mm round I suspect..

Someone did ask what would happen if someone popped up inside the minimum arming distance of the grenade - I suspect they'd just shoot the bad guy in the chest anyway - the grenade won't detonate but a 25 mm cannon shell in the chest travelling at several hundred meters a second should prove discouraging.
 
Ian

 

If this weapon enters service is it going to be the primary weapon of a soldier?  Combined with a 5.56 weapon like the M203?  Or will a soldier carry the XM-25 in addition to his M-16?


 
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Wanderer       10/3/2008 3:33:37 PM
Why did they have to go to so much expense and a decade of effort when they could have modified existing systems.  Singapore already has programmable fuse 40mm munitions, they could have used a pump action arm derived from conventional shotguns and kept the weight down with modern materials.  Just port over a stripped down version of the Singapore FC unit on a pump-action weapon.  Then it can use all the existing 40mm munitions and if they still need a step down produce a marked reduced charge warhead.  That way you're only developing some special ammo and adapting existing components for most of the design to reduce cost and lead-in.
 
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doggtag       10/3/2008 8:09:52 PM
Some of the reasons they (US Army's research eggheads) spent so much time and money one the project:
-The Mk19 40mm MGL and M2 50-cal HMG are just that: heavy. Too heavy for infantry unless you have vehicles to carry them and their heavy ammunition loads. Tests and demonstrations have shown a two-man team can fairly easily manhandle (minus 50+ pounds of personal gear) either the M307 or M312 and its ground mount tripod, in addition to a couple cases of ammo for either. Try getting two people to lug an M2 or a Mk 19, tripod, and 2 boxes any measurable distance.
 
-The 25mm grenade design that was settled on offered some preferrable benefits over the 40mm.
 
Its higher velocity gave it a flatter trajectory, quicker time to target, and made it less susceptible to crosswinds than the Mk19's grenades,
and the exploding rounds had much less chance of over-penetrating or ricocheting in a bad direction when compared to 50-cal ammo,
plusd, the flatter flight of 25mm grenades makes for easier aiming at doorways, windows, and other hidey-holes at various elevations above or below from where you're firing.
 
Its ammo boxes would've allowed more rounds for the same weight than Mk19 ammo, but I think it fell pretty close in comparison to a box of 50-cal ammo, maybe slightly heavier (these aren't 25x137mm Bushmaster cannon-class shells, after all).
 
The idea of the fire control computer to combine data from the laser range finder and program the individual grenades to detonate accordingly at the correct distance downrange, justified the idea of having a reduced rate of fire,
which in turn allowed the weapon to be lighter yet as it didn't need as much sheer weight to handle recoil.
And in the case of the lower rate of fire (app 230-260 rpm in either caliber),
one of the ideas behind that was the aimed-beats-auto argument: what good is sending twice as many rounds downrange if you're only using them as area effect?
The lower rate for the M307/312 means gunners could more accurately keep the gun, and the rounds, on the intended target.
So in effect, the idea was to go from a rapid fire area weapon to a lower rate of fire precision weapon, ideally (at least in theory) achieving equal or better on-target results.
 
And there's still the issue of ammo weight.
Yeah, for any of the guns, you still need a vehicle to carry any really useful amount of ammo to sustain an operation,
but at least the lighter M307/312 could actually be moved to another fighting position a lot easier, with its ammo, than either of the other two.
 
Advances in explosives designs and powder chemistry were anticipated to give as lethal an explosion, and a better fragmentation pattern, than the 40mm grenades that were designed in the 1960s-1980s timeframe.
 
 
These have just been my observations on it,
and I'm sure others can chime in with additional pluses and minuses (more than welcomed to).
 
The actual replacement that the US Army is pursuing to replace the M203 series is the new M320 grenade launcher.
 
US Army PEO Soldier pdf on the M320: http://peosoldier.army.mil/factsheets/SW_IW_M320.pdf
 
It loads via swinging the tube's breech end to the side and inserting the round there,
rather than sliding forward like the M203.
The new design supposedly allows for more growth potential (length, launch power) for the next generation of 40mm grenades.
But generally, those grenades will still be designs that need to be "lob-aimed" onto the more distant targets, which will then suffer, even if slightly reduced, the same shortcomings of the current 40mm grenade families (low velocity M203 grenades and medium velocity Mk19 grenades), namely more of a crosswind and time of flight susceptibility as compared to the 25mm higher velocity grenades.
 
Another interesting design that's along the same lines as the higher velocity 25mm launcher is this thing from South Africa's Denel group called the Neopup PAW (Personal Assault Weapon), a 20mm system.
 
The link here from WorldGuns.Ru shows the original model with the boxy clip magazine, but the newest development features a rotary magazine instead.
The Wiki article isn't bad, b
 
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WarNerd       10/3/2008 8:45:48 PM

It'll be a replacement for the 203 in that position in some units I gather, at least at first, and will probably be very useful to people operating in built up areas (counter sniper work with one of those puppies will be interesting) and VCP's - an incoming truck bomb will stop if hit in the engine block or crew cabin with a 25mm round I suspect..

It is a grenade launcher, not a cannon.  The armor piercing round will be a shaped charge about 2cm in diameter, but technological improvements seem to give it nearly the same penetration as the existing 40mm dual purpose round.  In a front on shot you would have to penetrate the radiator, which will probably do a good impression of slat armor provided you are not going very far afterward.  In a side shot the car body will act as spaced armor and detonate the grenade around a foot from the engine block and the jet will probably dissipate too much to be effective.
 
Go for the windshield with a short delay to let it pass though before detonation.
 
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nyetneinnon       10/4/2008 3:20:41 AM
Man I'm no expert in this field but it will be annoying if after 16 yrs in development the program is finally canceled, while 6 other militaries around the globe in fact deploy an effective derivative.  Crazy..
 
And another thing.. how many years does it take to develop an initial block, Precision guided 120mm mortar round??  15?
 
Just a question though, since I'm not in the army or not a gun buff.. but after a couple minutes of wiki search, couldn't in the short term they just develop a cheap laser guided 40x46 and 40x51(ER) for existing 40mm hand-held launchers such as the M203 and MGL?
 
Sure, a couple high-velocity fancy $25,000 25mm systems per platoon maybe a potent addition to the infantry fires, but in the meantime (prior to 6 yrs, c'mon) can't a cheap round be delivered en masse, to every existing 40mm launcher already deployed in the field?
 
Every squad could over-night be able to engage with precision guidance out to 800m instead of spraying and praying with .50 cal, etc.
 
Further, my analysis would support feasibility and unprecedented fires at a grunt platoon level, of a laser guided shoulder launched 2.75" rocket?  Maybe a 60mm Recoilless rifle round too?  The objective therefor should be for infantry units at the squad level to be able to affordably, effectively and decisively engage combatants at beyond 600m with MINIMAL rounds and without relying on Air support or heavy artillery to do so! 
 
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cwDeici       10/4/2008 9:30:40 AM

I will only tell you that a large number of commenter's here will now jump on your back.  They will tell you, whether it's true or no, that the M-8 was a woefully substandard weapon, that tended to melt when fired often.  That it failed it's troops trials, with the Rangers IIRC, for that very reason and so it was RIGHTLY rejected.  Is it true, I don't know, but that is what you will now hear...

 

And of course it was going to be built in the US, in Georgia I believe.


   I hear it was blocked in Congress due to economic issues. 
  All I know about tests is it did exceptionally well in extreme dust environments and something about good performance in Iraq. I understand if it was abandoned due to melting down, but I'm not sure if I believe it... It melted? OK, it is a plastic weapon, but that sounds like a vicious rumor. Maybe I'm being very biased, but its hard for me to imagine HK botching their job THAT badly. They're a good company.
Of course, I'm taking your comment heavily into account... I'm not sure if it should have been adopted any longer.
 
 
Does anyone have a detailed report on what came back from live test?
 
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