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Keep it Simple

by christian on November 5, 2009

You know, it’s been said that the U.S. Army is the best equipped force in the world but I’m really more amazed by what we don’t have that other armies do than what we do have, or what we want to have that others don’t.

Take, for example, the four shot 25mm XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System currently in the works (the XM25 is itself an offshoot of the doomed XM29 OICW thingie).  It’s supposed to be effective out to 500 meters against point targets, will have a built in multi-spectrum electro-optical sight, and will have the ability to individually program the burst time on the launched projectiles so that they explode behind or over the target, thus defeating any frontal cover the target might have.

Sounds good on paper, and I’m sure there’s no other Army out there trying to develop a weapon specifically designed to attack a target behind cover, but the reality is, we haven’t got one of these either (yet, and I don’t see these getting issued soon either), and there are a lot of really simple weapons currently in service which could just as easily perform this mission. 

Rifle grenades:  What’s wrong with rifle grenades?  We, the American army, used the hell out of them in WWII and Korea, but they went away after that.  Were they not high tech enough, or was this one of those “no guns on jet fighters” decisions, where we decided that the types of wars we’d be fighting in the future would render these weapons obsolete?  There are any number of designs out there now that could immediately enter service with the US military as short range (<300m) anti-personnel, anti-tank (ok, anti-APC), dual purpose, individually fired munitions, yet we haven’t got any.

I understand that we have dedicated grenade launchers like the M203 now that can fill the role of the rifle grenade, but the 203 is an individually assigned weapon, and in the standard infantry squad there are only two (one per team) and in the Army’s table driven organizational scheme, if your unit isn’t authorized any (like mine) then you just go without.  With a rifle grenade, on the other hand, everyone in the unit has the capability of carrying one or two, and they can be fired by anyone (this capability would enable a commander to stockpile the grenades in a defensive position, or with a support by fire element, without disrupting unit organization by shifting grenadiers around.)

Shoulder fired weapons:  Next to the AK-47, the most common weapon carried by the insurgents is the RPG-7.  Introduced as a shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon in 1961, it is now the most prolific such weapon in the world.  What is the US equivalent?  The single shot AT-4 (M136.)  The US used to have a reloadable shoulder fired weapon, the M1-M20 series rocket launchers (a.k.a “Bazooka” and “Super Bazooka”) but the Bazooka was retired from service during the Vietnam war and replaced by the M72 LAW (tanks and the new ATGMs like the TOW and the Shillelagh would eliminate the need for a short ranged infantry based AT weapon) and later the AT4. 

While designed as anti-armor weapons, as the insurgents can attest to, they also serve admirably as “pocket” artillery, and what I wonder about is why we don’t use something similar. We have a number of similar weapons (the Marine Corps has the SMAW and the M3 Carl Gustav is in service with SOCOM forces) in our inventory.  The exclusivity of the M3 especially bothers me. Of a similar weight and size of the AT4, it presents a significantly greater capability in that you can reload it and you can fire a variety of munitions through it.  Again it would be a lot easier for an infantry platoon to carry a pair of M3s and 40 seven-pound HE projectiles than it would be to carry 40 AT4s.  Yet its use is limited to SOCOM, while the regular Army has to settle for the AT4.

Read the rest of this post at Military.com’s KitUp!…

– Eric Daniel

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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Moose November 5, 2009 at 10:42 pm

The M3 is one of the great weapons ever designed, that we don't use the hell out of it speaks very poorly of us. When the Mortar Pit at Wanat was pinned down and the HMGs were getting shot to hell, having an M3 pounding 84mm-shells into the hills would have been a great help to our soldiers.


Mang November 5, 2009 at 6:33 pm

Rifle grenades went out for a lot of reasons.

It’s an incredible hassle to eject your live cartridge out of the chamber and load a blank to propel the grenade. You can use rifle grenades with bullet traps, but the force of repeatedly firing rifle grenades is hard on weapons. Hard on the stocks, the receiver, the barrel - don’t expect the M4 to hold up well to this. Rifle grenades have nothing to guide them but fins - the 40mm launcher with a rifled barrel and a similar payload has the advantage.

I don’t see why the 25mm shouldn’t replace the 40mm for the grenadier. Obviously you’re worried about the fallibility of electronics, but even without the fancy air burst fuse you have a decent-sized warhead that you can stuff anything into, that’s lighter and smaller than 40mm shells, and that fires from a carbine-sized semiauto weapon. There’s plenty of potential for a good weapons system here.

Here’s a link to a pdf story on Barrett’s Payload Rifle using the 25mm round. http://www.smallarmsreview.com/pdf/payload.pdf


Dave November 6, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Modern designs have bullet traps and dont require ammo swaps.


Dave November 6, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Also since we're proposing new rounds and worried about "fin" guidance of round. The rifle grenade is still a better option as it is not size constrained by a barrel. Put a seeker on it and laze targets. Basically have it able to follow the beam in direct fire or pick it up and follow it on a ballistic trajectory. The types of warheads are limited by imagination. If a round duds out pitch it and you're out 1 round and a couple pounds. If a weapons system duds….well it's a lot more serious.


Daniel November 6, 2009 at 12:35 am

the xm 25 looks to be the cats meow when it finally makes it to fielding as long as they keep it simple. my only question is will it be able to fire smoke and loom rounds if not then i don't feel you can pull the 40mm. rifle grenades like the Refaim and simon rifle grenades are modern equipment which would seen to be very useful if you were to drop the 40mm then maybe a mix of rifle grenades for signal (smoke/lume) plus he when necessary with the grenadier carrying the xm 25 as an individual weapon would work. something like the panzerfaust 3 may serve well as a reusable rocket launcher there is a niche to be filled between the at-4 and the javelin.


stephen russell November 6, 2009 at 1:41 am

Love to have this weapon at home, time to revive the rifle grenade BUT more Oomph in the grenade.


Charles November 6, 2009 at 1:55 am

Maybe beat ourselves to the punch and move up in caliber to 30mm. We may simply discover that 25mm isn't powerful enough, and to stop and redesign again would simply delay the program even longer.


Scott November 6, 2009 at 1:59 am

You stated "I’m sure there’s no other Army out there try­ing to develop a weapon specif­i­cally designed to attack a tar­get behind cover…" Here in the Land of the Morning Calm the ROK Army is developing exactly something like that. In fact they are going with the full OICW concept. Its called the K11. It was sucessfully tested earlier this year.



Byron Skinner November 5, 2009 at 10:57 pm

Good Evening Folks,

I see your serving up some early turkey here. First off US troops are not facing or have engaged any hostile armor since Saddam went down, so where is the need for a US RPG. The Marines in fact have returned to the M-72, no longer an anti armor round but for taking out light vehicles and use on bunkers etc. and have placed their second order of 10K with Raytheon in Phoenix this past Summer. As far as I know development on a 20mm or a 25mm was canceled years ago, they couldn’t be made lethal enough, along with the XM-29 when the per unit price went over $10,000.00.

This is dead end technology, leave it dead.

Byron Skinner


Daniel November 6, 2009 at 5:22 am

you realize we are talking about the xm 25 which is currently under going trials…it has a caliber of 25mm


Colonial-Marine November 6, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Yeah the XM25 which uses 25mm grenades is still in development. The 20mm grenades weren't considered lethal enough, but the 25mm grenades should fix that. From what I have read this won't replace the M320 either.

The problem with rockets, recoilless rifles, and so forth is the trade-off between anti-armor capability and use against other targets. The military believes the best solution for light anti-tank weapons is a disposable system much like the M136 (AT4) and it's intended replacement the FGM-172 SRAW. While mufti-purpose variants of both are being produced, the FGM-172 is rather expensive to be used at a fast rate, and it is a heavier system. Sometimes it is better to have a have a lighter weapon that you can carry more of, than a heavier weapon even though it is more powerful. This is why the Marines are using updated versions of the 66mm M72 LAW, which isn't as powerful as the 84mm AT4 but is a very compact weapon.

The advantages of disposable systems like the M72, M136, and FGM-172 are that they don't require a dedicated weapons team, and the enemy has to worry about more than one soldier per squad armed with an anti-tank weapon. The problem is that the overall weight of 5 AT4s is going to be quite heavier than a single M3 with 5 shells. A squad could carry significantly more ammunition at a lower weight, even if somebody did have to carry the thing back to base unlike a used AT4. Plus a reloadable system means more variety of ammunition immediately available.


Valcan November 6, 2009 at 5:23 am

There is still the .12ga gernades usable with the AA12. Which from what ive seen we should have bought about 12k by now.

Dont see any need for any anti tank missiles for infantry atm. Were pretty much set with javalin.


Ed! November 6, 2009 at 12:51 pm

I actually have a thought that might just be simple enough to develop. I'm sure many of you have used a firework commonly called a roman candle. Why couldn't we just design something, about the size of an army flashlight, with a simple pin assembly in the rear to pull and fire the weapon.

I am betting you can easily create something that has low enough recoil to fire a 30 or even a 40mm charge 100-300 meters and if its a small item like I suggest and disposable like the AT-4, that they could use this as a next generation hand grenade. Or it can be used as another piece of equipment.


Sven Ortmann November 6, 2009 at 3:36 pm

That's close to the DM34 Handflammpatrone … http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handflammpatrone


Thomas L. Nielsen November 6, 2009 at 2:18 pm

Recoil depends, not on caliber per se, but on mass and muzzle velocity of the projectile. If you want a range of 100-300m (M203 territory), with an even marginally useful payload, recoil is goiung to be right up there with the M203 itself, the Neopup, the Metal Storm multishot grenade launcher etc. No such thing as a free lunch, after all.

The closest I’m aware of, that fits your description, would be a type of hand grenade supposedly made by Norinco (I can’t find it on their website, though) called the Type 79 Rocket Assisted Hand Grenade. It can be used as both an ordinary stick grenade and as a projected grenade, using a small propelling charge in the handle. Not sure about the range.

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Denmark (pressently Luxembourg)


ProjectThor November 6, 2009 at 1:26 pm

just a heads up… Airtronic USA China Lake has developed a pump action M-79 "Bloop Gun" … 3 rounds plus one in the pipe and a full American made RPG look alike, that they are busy developing some high tech rounds for…

Just a thought


Mickleado November 6, 2009 at 2:08 pm

While the RPG is a neat weapon AND reloadable, one still has to carry around the launcher and others carry the rounds. The nice thing about the LAW and AT4 is everyone can carry one or two and when you fire it, you get rid of everything and lighten your load. I believe that the RPG gunner is assigned the weapon just as is the M203.


Ed! November 6, 2009 at 4:02 pm

Yes Mickleado,

Standard Soviet dcotrine had the RPG gunner with the RPG-7, one loaded in the launcher, and 3 more reloads in a pouch carried like a backpack. He would also have a loader with him that carried an extra rpg round and more importantly had an AK to protect the RPG gunner in combat.


Mickleado November 6, 2009 at 7:49 pm

Also, as I remember from my time in the Army, the M-16/M-4 family IS capable of firing a rifle grenade. If you look at the base of the flash suppressor, you note three rings around the base. These are the rear gas seals for the RG. Slide it over the flash suppressor, insert your blank and fire. We just need to re-activate the production line or use NATO standard rifle grenades.


freefallingbomb November 6, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Just shoot the Web-designer responsible for this disgraceful new "Defense Tech" format!

(Ironically, the main article above complains precisely about good old stuff that was unnecessarily retired…)


Big Daddy November 6, 2009 at 7:12 pm

The Israeli army still uses rifle grenades. They have a special one for CQB, taking out a door at a distance.

Nothing wrong with a bullet trap rifle grenade. It's a short distance weapon that provides a nice punch at close range, much more then a 40mm and it's line of sight. Like I have said before here the Army does not have a simple weapon that destroys the enemy's cover. A WWII rifle squad did with the 30,06. The 5.56mm does not, it's a pea shooter. I think that was a huge problem in Iraq, they hid behind walls that we could not destroy unless someone had either a rocket launcher or an M-1 Abrams handy.

How expensive could a bullet trap rifle grenade be? Simple, effective and cheap, of course now I see, unless it costs a billion dollars and is like a swiss army knife the DOD is not interested.


Zandor November 6, 2009 at 11:33 pm

90% of the people posting here have no idea about what they are talking about.

They have no idea about weight.

Weight is what makes things ( Armies) move slowly.


For a soldier in the field, weight is a major concern.

Unfortunatly, for all of the Millitary Tech Experts posting here, weight it is not a concern.

That is probably because they have never had the opportunity to carry the weight.


freefallingbomb November 7, 2009 at 1:33 am

Hey folks, did you notice that "Defense Tech" erased all our former commentaries from the articles of the previous months? THAT was the true driving reason behind this new format here: The Führer is still alive!


Tad November 7, 2009 at 4:50 am

Come on, you know the answer to that question - only things that are super expensive and complicate can line the pockets of defense contractors enough. Remember Eisenhower's warning about the military-industrial complex? Well, guess what.


Big Daddy November 7, 2009 at 9:20 pm

Anybody who went to basic training will never forget about weight. Like carrying 100 pounds on my back and walking 20 miles over the rough terrain of Ft. Knox.

So to Zandor……no that's not a concern. I would have gladly given up a hand grenade and a magazine or 2 for a hard hitting rifle grenade. Make the thing out of aluminum or titanium and with mostly an explosive filler without any anti-personal filling it shouldn't weight too much at all.


Zandor November 7, 2009 at 10:34 pm

Dear Big Daddy;

Your last post is a laugh.

You carried 100 lbs for 20 miles?

To you, it might have felt like 100 lbs, but it wasn't 100 lbs.

Just what in the hell were you carrying? A pack of lead bricks?

In Ft. Bragg I carried 26 tons up a mountain and then back down again, with bare feet, with no water, and three broken ankles.

My story makes your story look plenty lame, doesn't it.?

Try sticking to the truth.


ProjectThor November 9, 2009 at 8:34 pm

Hmmm, Pandor… fully geared up a US solider is carrying close to a hundred lbs… why don't you take some time from be a pencil dicked Troll and studdy…


freefallingbomb November 8, 2009 at 1:10 am

To the poster "Zandor" :

You wrote: "Your last post is a laugh. You carried 100 lbs for 20 miles? To you, it might have felt like 100 lbs, but it wasn't 100 lbs."

It IS even possible. After all, there is something about U.S. Americans and mules:



Big Daddy November 8, 2009 at 4:48 pm

They told us our kit was 90 pounds in the Alice pack plus our steel pot and an M-16 at port arms for 20 miles twice while in one unit training at Fort Knox.

My Alice pack was filled with things like my extra boots and everything else they issued us. We also had to put a sleeping bag around it, rolled up on top. Inside was my shelter half, tent pegs, inside was cold weather gear, everything we were issued except dress uniforms and yes it weight close to 100 pounds. So I don't know what Army you were in Zandor but I was in the US Army, Ft. Knox one unit training to be a 19 Delta.

Hey Zandor have you ever carried an M-60 and a few hundred rounds of ammo, add that up in weight plus your kit…..LMAO. 100 pounds is nothing…….our troops routinely carry that much plus on patrols now. Zandor have you ever lifted weights? I guess not. Think in terms of 2-45 pound plates. When I was 20 something years old it was nothing.


Zandor November 9, 2009 at 12:56 am

You must be one of the biggest and baddest tough guys on this planet.

Or, you are a flat out bald faced liar.

The imagination can play tricks on people that wish and imagine that they were heroes.

Especially when they weren't!



Big Daddy November 8, 2009 at 4:48 pm

So that's what we did, we had 2 road marches. Both times we packed everything issued to us into our Alice pack and went for a hike. Those packs were very heavy and according to the army weighted in at 90 pounds, plus steel pot and M-16 to be carried at port arms at all times. Left side had their weapons pointed that direction if you were on the right side you pointed your weapon in that direction even if you were not a lefty.


Big Daddy November 8, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Come to think about it I routinely carried a pair of M-60's, 2 M-203's, a few m-16's and a few 45's from a few miles. From the motor pool to the barracks to clean everybody's weapons when we came back from the field when I was stationed in Germany. Since I was the new guy and only an E-2 I did all the dirty work. So I carried easily well over a hundred pounds, weapons straped all over me and the 45's in my pockets.

I also routinely carried 50 cal receivers which weight a lot too over my shoulder.

Zandor have you ever left your couch or computer chair? Or if you did serve was it a combat MOS?


Trent Telenko November 8, 2009 at 6:41 pm

The US Army already has a shotgun attachment for it's M4/M16 rifles that can use 12 gauge shotgun based grenades, in addition to the 40mm M320 grenade launcher.

This leaves precious little room for a really powerful bullet trap rifle grenade in an American infantry squad:



"The M26 12-Gauge Modular Accessory Shotgun System (MASS) attaches quickly beneath the barrel of the M4 Modular Weapon System (MWS) and fires lethal, less-than-lethal, and door-breaching rounds. The MASS enables soldiers to transition between lethal and less-than-lethal fires and adds the capabilities of a separate shotgun without carrying a second weapon. Features include a recoil-absorbing buttstock, box magazine, flip-up sights and an extendable standoff device for door breaching.


Colonial-Marine November 8, 2009 at 11:01 pm

Aww, look at the two terrorist loving morons patting each other on the back as they sling insults with horrible grammar.

Get a life you two homos.


Trent Telenko November 8, 2009 at 11:41 pm

The US Army already has a shotgun attachment for it's M4/M16 rifles that can use 12 gauge shotgun based grenades, in addition to the 40mm M320 grenade launcher.


Txzen November 9, 2009 at 12:02 am

I thought XM-25 was being field test as we speak.'


WarScientist November 9, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Counter-defillade fire is not impossible without the XM25. Major strides are being made in 40mm medium-velocity grenades (with rearward-facing warhead and programmable fuses) and the assosciated fire control systems.

The Aimpoint BR8 is the first step in making the 40mm much more accurate. Next step is to link the fire control system and impliment a fuse-programming so that airburst fires are a viable option.

The aimpoint BR8 is going into service these coming few months with the swedish army, and programmable airbursting medium velocity 40mm are only 1-2 years away.


Big Daddy November 9, 2009 at 3:37 pm

1-2 years, they can have a bullet trap rifle grenade, like within a few months.

It's amazing what the USA can do when we want to.


mushim November 9, 2009 at 4:16 pm

Why is it we spend so much money on camouflage studies and come up with the ACU, and Abdul just wears his Sunday best, and blends in so much better?


Big Daddy November 9, 2009 at 10:20 pm

Don't get me started on the cammo BS, it doesn't work, cammo is a waste of money. The Israelis do not use it because they found out that it doesn't work. Yet the DOD spends billions on something that doesn't work.

The best cammo is rubbing some of whatever is on the ground on your uniform. Which usually is not necessary, after a few minutes of laying in it you have it all over you. What's more important than color is breaking up your visual signature and outline.

Simple: Jungle is green, woodland is brown and green, desert is tan/brown.


Daniel November 7, 2009 at 1:21 am

there cause is to be able to execute people in soccer fields and have sex with 10 year olds


Eric daniel November 11, 2009 at 7:39 pm

Big Daddy,

I did a write up about the Barrett XM-109 payload rifle a couple years ago and thought it a capable enough defensive weapon, but the 5 shot, 25mm rifle weighs 33 pounds, which, to me, definitely takes it out of the realm of dismounted offensive operations. Where I do think something like this would excel is in the defense, where it’s range (2600m), accuracy, and HE warheads would prove very useful against light armored vehicles or troops in buildings.


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