"There are certain aspects of a firefight or a gunfight that have not changed and probably will never change," Col. Rhett Thompson, director of the Soldier Requirements Division at Benning, said during a National Defense Industrial Association's Armaments, Robotics and Munitions conference Thursday. "One of our challenges continues to be counter-defilade because of one thing that happens when you start the firefight ... everybody goes down, everybody goes to ground."
Army officials hope to find a solution to the problem by 2028 with the Precision Grenadier program, Thompson said. Currently, two infantrymen in each squad are armed with an M4A1 carbine with an M320 40mm grenade launcher attached for engaging enemy in defilade or behind cover.
During the past decade, the Army tried to field the XM25 Counter-Defilade Target Engagement System to expand the infantry squad's effectiveness at killing enemies behind cover.
The XM25 was a semi-automatic, shoulder-fired weapon that fired 25mm high-explosive, air-bursting ammunition. The sophisticated weapon, known as the "Punisher," stirred excitement in the infantry community. But in the end, the complex system was plagued by program delays and became a target for Pentagon auditors.
The Army killed the contract with Orbital ATK in 2017, which led to the death of the program.
"We stopped the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System as a program," said Don Sando, director of Benning's Maneuver Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate. "That wasn't because we don't recognize the difficulty of the task at hand.
"We did pursue XM25 for quite some time. ... Prototype systems were deployed to Afghanistan, with some positive, some not positive results."
The Army has also developed and fielded precision mortar munitions in the past to destroy counter-defilade targets, "but it hasn't solved the problem," Sando said.
Maneuver officials did not discuss details about potential prototypes for the Precision Grenadier effort, but they hope to equip squads with a counter-defilade weapon in the "near term," Thompson said.
The Army is currently conducting the Platoon Arms and Ammunition Configuration Study, which will look at the enemy the service will face in the future and help inform the requirements for a new counter-defilade weapon, said Thompson, who did not provide details about how long the study is expected to last.
It will "also look at who might need this capability; it's not necessarily a one-size-fits-all" effort, Thompson said, adding that soldiers in combat support and sustainment units won't likely have a need for such a weapon.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.