The item at the top of plenty of military wish lists looks like it’s on it’s way to a battlefield near you with the long awaited XM25 is out of the prototype phase and due to begin field testing in Afghanistan and Iraq this summer.
Designed to eliminate targets in cover, such as snipers standing behind walls or entrenched in caves, the XM25 is a sort of high tech hybrid of carbine rifle and precision grenade launcher that fires High Explosive Air Bursting (HEAB) 25mm rounds. Courtesy of a laser range finder, infrared, built in compass and thermal optics, the rifle can tell it’s user, via a wireless signal, exactly how far away their target is. The user can then tell the rifle how at what distance from the target the 25mm high explosive round should explode in the air, eliminating whatever material, be it trench, cave or door frame, the target is using for cover, and in all likelihood, eliminating the target as well.
Right now, the only ammunition available is the standard HEAB round, but munitions for every situation are in development, including less lethal rounds. Details on ammo and the tech heavy aspects of the last available prototype can be perused at Gizmodo. But the fact is that if even one of these $25 rounds at some point prevents troops under fire in Afghanistan or Iraq from needing to call in artillery fire or air strikes, that are far more potentially hazardous to the lives and welfare of innocent bystanders, then it has served it’s purpose admirably. The XM25 is a gun designed to prevent collateral damage and save civilian lives, and that is fundamentally a good thing.
It also happens to be one of the only ways that the United States is going to come out of the current wars in the Middle East in a better position than we entered them. Whether you believe they’re necessary or not, we’re not going to come to victory in Afghanistan on the back of a Predator drone. We have to stop indiscriminately endangering and harming civilians, and until we do, the mission on the ground – to disable the roots of global terrorist cells, rob their leaders of places to hide and cripple their ability to attack the citizens of the United States – has to be seen as a failure.
In other security news, scientists in the United Kingdom have made a big step forward in detecting concealed weapons. Researchers have unveiled the prototype for a hand held microwave radar scanner that can detect gun like objects discreetly, from a distance and, to hear the inventors tell it, outside of a laboratory environment. What exists right now is a very early but promising iteration of the technology, which resembles in principle a portable airport security sensor that’s limited in what sort of objects in can detect – guns, but not knives – and isn’t able to paint the clear picture of the object that one would get from a larger machine. But more advanced versions of the device could be helping police in the UK get a read on suspicious characters sooner than later, though it’s perceived usefulness as less a security countermeasure and more of a predictor of accuracy in ‘stop and searches’ does have the troubling ring of Newspeak to it. Then again, this is the London Metropolitan Police we’re talking about, so maybe a lack of concern for privacy that shouldn’t be surprising.
Finally, this week also brought a reminder that while microwave radars and laser range finders are all well and good, these things are not what security is ultimately about. At the end of the day, it’s about whatever works for your situation. And if that entails smiting your gigantic enemies with thousands upon thousands of stinging insects, then so much the better.