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PEO Soldier Unveils Light And Lethal Weapons Systems

The XM-25 is a leap ahead because it's the first smart weapon system with a smart round in small weapons. Copyright: US Army
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) May 27, 2009
Two weapons in development are expected to be more precision-oriented, lighter and lethal: the laser-sighted XM-25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System and the Lightweight .50-Caliber Machine Gun.

The XM-25 will undergo field-testing this summer while the LW50MG is already being tested by Soldiers.

Program Executive Office Soldier at Fort Belvoir, Va., opened its doors earlier this month to give the media a look at the two weapons and other new gear in development that will lighten a Soldier's load yet improve survivability, lethality and comfort.

XM25: First shoulder-fired 'smart' weapon
The semi-automatic, shoulder-fired XM-25 with a five-round magazine of 25mm dual-warhead ammunition weighs in at about 14 pounds (about the same as an M-16 with a 203 grenade launcher) yet it's only a few inches longer than an M-4 Carbine with the shoulder stock extended. Decked out in Army Combat Uniform camouflage, its toy weapon appearance belies its expected lethality.

Richard Audette, deputy program manager for Soldier weapons, said the technology behind the XM-25 is a leap ahead because it's the first smart weapon system with a smart round in small weapons.

"The way a Soldier operates this is you basically find your target, then laze to it, which gives the range, then you get an adjusted aim point, adjust fire and pull the trigger," he said. "Say you've lazed out to 543 meters... when you pull the trigger it arms the round and fires it 543 meters plus or minus a one-, two- or three-meter increment, then it explodes over the target." That, he added, makes it a full-solution fire control weapon.

Audette said the evaluations this summer will test accuracy and effectiveness, and because it's a completely different type of weapon system its use will call for different tactics.

"For example, in Iraq we had many instances where there was a sniper firing from a rooftop and you have a squad trying to engage that target, but the Soldiers couldn't get to him with the weapons they had, so they'd call in the Air Force to drop a JDAM (joint direct attack munition)," he said. "We can take out the target at $25 per XM round as opposed to a $20,000 to $50,000 JDAM."

According to Audette, ranges in Afghanistan are longer than in Iraq. He said the XM-25 has an effective range of 750 meters, which is longer than an M-16 and M-4 and outperforms the 40mm M-203 grenade-launcher range by more than double.

LW50MG: Less weight, better accuracy
The MK-25 doesn't offer a Soldier any weight-savings, but the Lightweight .50-Caliber Machine Gun definitely will coming in with tripod at 64 pounds - half what the M-2 .50- caliber heavy machine gun weighs.

With the addition of a modified M-145 machine-gun optic, the LW50MG will be more accurate and quicker to reach its target because it will also have 60-percent less recoil than the M-2, which has been an Army staple in some form or another since 1921.

Col. Doug Tamilio, program manager for Soldier weapons for Soldier lethality and weight reduction, said the Army has more than 34,000 of the M-2s, each weighing in at 128 pounds with 256 moving parts, but the prototype LW50MG has not only half the weight, it also has only 128 moving parts.

"The M-2 is a great weapons system, but before you fire it, you have to set the head space and timing and if you want to change a barrel out, you have to unscrew it, pull it out, then insert and screw in a new barrel; then you have to open the feed tray cover... if you fail to check it or do something improperly, you could have an issue with a round going off because it doesn't have a safety on it," he said.

To fix that problem, PEO Soldier developed a quick-change barrel kit which allows Soldiers to simply pull out the barrel without having to screw in a new one. They simply insert a new barrel, lock it in place and start firing - the barrel moves but not the carriage which allows the LW50MG to carry the M-145 machine-gun optic, which is the one used on the 7.62-caliber M-240 medium machine gun.

"It has a lower cyclic rate, but because it has much less recoil and can fit a sight, it allows a Soldier to get a hit on a target much quicker and to hold that target with the sight," Tamilio said. "It's still in the development stage, but it has proven out to be very, very durable and accurate firing the same .50-caliber rounds the same distance."

Another plus to the lightweight machine gun low recoil is that the tripod spade grips won't have to be slammed into the ground and sandbagged to hold the weapon in place.

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