The Advent of Truly "Smart Weapons?"

The advent of truly "smart weapons?" Perhaps.

The U.S. military this summer will equip special forces troops with a high-tech grenade launcher that has military experts in thrall. This is a different sort of infantry weapon - and not just because of the hefty $25,000 price tag attached to each unit coming off the production line. With built-in lasers and optics precision sensors, the so-called "XM-25 "Counter Defilade Target Engagement System" was designed to shoot around obstacles, and thus provide a solution for one of the age-old challenges faced by armies confronting dug-in opponents.

The weapon shoots 25 mm exploding "smart" rounds which contain embedded microchips, accurate up to 500 meters. The army says that the weapon can destroy targets which might otherwise be outside of a soldier's direct line of fire, such as a combatant who is crouching behind a window or below a wall. In other words, a solider will be able to take out opponents they can't see. (For more, see DefenseAerospace.com's write-up here as well as this piece in Popular Science, which offers the following summary:

The XM25 doesn't curve its bullets. Rather, it programs them to explode at precise distances. The soldier measures the distance to a target using a laser site and then dials in where the bullet should explode, such as at the corner of a building, raining down shrapnel. The bullet has a small magnet inside that lets it generate AC current as it spins and a microprocessor that measures those current oscillations to derive how far it's traveled.

If it works as advertised, the XM-25 may become a replacement for the M203,a decades-old grenade launcher  that gets mounted under an M4 carbine. Here's an explanatory video along with a brief demonstration of the system being deployed in the field:

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    Charles Cooper is an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet. E-mail Charlie.

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