Futuristic XM-25 Airburst Weapon deployed in Afghanistan
The US military has deployed at least five futuristic Individual Airburst Weapon Systems in Afghanistan capable of firing specialized rounds that explode at precise locations in enemy territory.
"The XM-25 makes our forces more [deadly], it makes them more effective and it keeps them safer," Lt. Col. Christopher Lehner, the project manager for individual weapons at Program Executive Office Soldier, told ABC News.
"This is the first time that we've put smart technology in the weapons system for the individual soldier."
According to Lehner, US soldiers typically fire highly explosive 40mm grenades or mortar rounds at enemy forces in fortified positions.
However, while generally effective, such munitions are frequently inaccurate.
Of course, troops can be ordered to break cover and maneuver to fire direct shots - but this puts American lives at risk.
Fortunately, the XM-25 could potentially change the battlefield status quo.
"We're talking about seconds to neutralize the enemy, versus minutes," said Lehner.
"Our soldiers can stay behind cover and shoot this weapon at the enemy who's behind cover and we can take him out. But they can't take us out because we're behind cover and they don't have this weapon."
So, how does it work?
Well, the firing process is initiated by activating the Target Acquisition Fire Control Unit - a 2x scope assembly which includes a laser range-finder and other atmospheric sensors.
Once operational, the laser precisely determines the distance to the enemy, or the wall he is concealed behind.
Subsequently, the unit calculates adjustments to compensate for the fall of the round over distance, target elevation and atmospheric conditions.
Once the sights are set, the gunner decides whether to detonate the round before or after passing the target.
"Determining range is one of the hardest things soldiers have to do in the battlefield scenario," Lehner explained to Warren Peace of Stars and Stripes.
"Our soldiers are used to electronic type of gaming and it is actually not very hard for them to adjust to a sight system that is high-tech but not very hard to operate.
"[Clearly], [this is] a game changer. From the dawn of direct-fire weapons, soldiers have always been taught if you're getting shot at or something is being thrown at you, get behind cover, whether it is your shield or a wall. [And now], we are essentially taking cover away from the enemy forever with this."
He added that the Army plans on purchasing more than 12,500 XM-25 systems at approximately $25,000 - $35,000 per unit beginning in 2012.
Meanwhile, future smart rounds are being developed to pierce armor, breach doors with a bigger, fragmentless explosion and perhaps even disseminate tear gas.