Weapons for the Nintendo generation (free subscription required)
Here’s a little write up of the XM8 assault rifle and the XM25 grenade launcher. It’s pretty general in nature and doesn’t include any juicy details, but it still provides a good overview of these new weapons.
A sniper opens fire on a convoy from a second-story window and then ducks for cover.
Below, a U.S. soldier armed with a weapon that looks like a prop from Starship Troopers measures the exact distance to the window with a laser beam. The weapon’s ballistic computer programs a 25mm grenade to detonate one meter past the window. And in a lethal instant, the sniper discovers that evading U.S. firepower has become immensely more difficult.
Also noted is a guided 120mm mortar round and the CROWS remote weapons station.
A new precision-guided 120mm mortar shell that can maneuver in flight has vastly improved range and accuracy. And a remotely operated weapons system, the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS), is being tested in Iraq. It allows a soldier to identify and engage targets from the relative safety of the interior of a vehicle, such as a Humvee.
“He stays inside, looking at a computer screen or a video screen, and he’s basically using a joystick,” said Lt. Col. Rob Carpenter, product manager for crew-served weapons at the Picatinny Arsenal.
Soldiers, he said, adapt quickly to the new technology.
“I hate to say it, but they’re a Nintendo generation. So they’re very adept at operating all those thumb switches, versus an old guy like me who still gets cramps tying his shoes.”
The amount of information processing and decision-making that today’s soldier needs to make is staggering. Technology is bringing more-lethal and longer-reaching weapons to the battlefield, and situations need to be appraised and the response needs to be formulated in ever-decreasing amounts of time. An itchy trigger finger that in the past could have killed or wounded one man can now take out a squad in a split second. To be honest, I’m surprised that blue-on-blue fire hasn’t been a bigger problem in Iraq. There have been some tragic errors, of course, but the day to day operations seem to be pretty free of friendly fire.
The US military-industrial complex hums along:
There are still some hurdles, including additional testing and funding, but the XM-8 could be fielded to Army units by the fourth quarter of fiscal 2005. The XM-25 is tentatively scheduled to be fielded in early 2007.
The effectiveness of the military’s high-tech arsenal – including precision-guided bombs and missiles, stealthy aircraft and sophisticated armored vehicles – was emphatically demonstrated in the 1991 Persian Gulf War as well as during the most recent conflict with Iraq.
“Nobody can match us in the technology … ” said Dr. William F. Atwater Jr., a nationally recognized weapons expert and director of the U.S. Army Ordnance Museum. “Sooner or later, we’re going to be so far ahead of everybody else, instead of being a superpower, we’ll be a hyperpower.”
For what it’s worth, I think we’ve already reached “hyperpower” status. The only reason I don’t like to go on about this more is that using catchy tags like that is that it might raise expectations beyond realistic limits.
For all of our advantages in equipment, training, and motivation, it still all comes down to men who are willing to rush into unfamiliar buildings or patrol down streets with hundreds of perfect ambush zones. Nintendo generation they may be, but it’s not the video game reflexes or the technical savvy that sets our men apart.