Some U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan are using a “smart weapon” rifle that the Army hopes will be a "gamechanger" on the battlefield.
About the size of a regular rifle, the XM25 Counter Defilade Targeting Engagement System has the potential to neutralize an enemy, even when the enemy is hidden behind buildings or other barriers, said Lt. Col. Christopher Lehner, project manager for the XM25 with Program Executive Office Soldier.
The weapon can be set so that bullets will explode either on impact, in front or behind an object, depending on the way the weapon is programmed, said Lehner.
A soldier can use it to target and kill an enemy hiding behind walls, in a home, or other barrier from nearly 2,300 feet away, he said.
"In the hands of a soldier trained for only a few minutes, he was able to adjust the systems, get the range of a target, launch it and hit them dead-on," he said.
"They were hitting a steel target silhouette at 503 meters away. They didn't even have to be that precise, but the weapon was that precise. And we found they were hitting right center mass, time after time after time."
The weapon also makes allowances for different outside conditions.
"One of the biggest challenges our soldiers face with our current weapons, at the squad level - they have a hard time determining range with their naked eye and adjusting their aim point off of the range and the wind and atmosphere," Lehner said.
"Whether it's cold or hot that day it will fly different. But this fire control system on the XM, takes into consideration all of these things and gives you a crosshair of where to aim."
The military hopes the precise nature of the weapon will mean less civilian casualties.
"It's not going to accidentally go to the next house down and mistakenly explode," Lehner said.
"There are times within the history of small arms and even large arms, that there's a revolutionary step, there's a leap ahead," he said. "When the British premiered their first tanks in World War I the Germans didn't even know how to defend against them.”
That kind of leap can sometimes be the thing that swings the battle, Lehner said.
“That's what we're hoping to do with this weapon.”