US Army Stocks Up on Auto-Grenade Firepower as FY 2008 Closes
As “Britain’s GMG Order Illustrates 2 Key Trends” discusses, 40mm grenades are a potent battlefield weapon.
Many of the current conflicts are essentially infantry battles, which makes firepower overmatch a critical goal. Whether fired singly from an M203 rifle mount, used in a remote-control vehicle system like CROWS, or as an infantry platoon’s crew-served heavy weapon, the 40mm grenade brings considerable firepower to the infantry fight. It’s also lethal against unarmored or lightly armored vehicles. Some companies are even offering shotgun-style repeating launchers, like Milkor’s MG-32 – or even weapons that can be fired around corners!
As FY 2008 ticked down to a close, the US military issued over $120 million worth of contracts for its staple 40mm weapon – the Mk19 grenade machine gun. It also got set to begin testing an interesting addition to infantry firepower – a programmable 25mm air bust weapon that offers comparable lethality, but can be carried by a single soldier…
Contracts and Recent Events
Note that the Pentagon’s Fiscal Year expires on Sept 30th, so FY 2009 begins on Oct 1/08. Hence the clarifying contract dates, alongside the standard DefenseLINK announcement dates.
Oct 2/08: General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products in Burlington, VT received a $56.7 million firm-fixed-fee price contract procurement of MK19 Grenade Machine Guns on Sept 26/08.
Work will be performed in Saco, Maine, with an estimated completion date of Feb 20/09. One bid was solicited and one bid was received by the U.S. Army Joint Munitions and Lethality Life Cycle Management in Picatinny, NJ (W15QKN-08-D-0459).
Oct 2/08: Alliant Techsystems Inc in Mesa, AZ received a $53.5 million multiple awards, indefinite-delivery order firm-fixed-fee price contract for MK19 Grenade Machine Guns on was awarded on Sept 26/08.
Work will be performed in Washington, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachussetts, and Rhode Island, with an estimated completion date of Sept 28/13. One bid was solicited and 3 bids were received by the U.S. Army Joint Munitions and Lethality Life Cycle Management in Picatinny, NJ (W915QKN-08-D-0460).
Sept 29/08: General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products (GDATP) in Burlington, VT received a $11.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for MK19 grenade machine guns.
Work will be performed in Saco, Maine, with an estimated completion date of April 30/10. One bid was solicited and one bid was received by the U.S. Army Joint Munitions and Lethality Life Cycle Management Command Acquisition Center in Picatinny, NJ (W15QKN-05-C-0621).
Sept 26/08: Military.com reports that The US Army is ready to begin testing the ATK/Heckler & Koch XM25 Individual Air Burst Weapon. L-3 adds a fire control system, whose laser rangefinder connects to a system that programs each 25mm grenade/shell to burst at a precise distance between 16m – 600m/ 50 – 200 feet. This means that instead of calling for GMLRS rocket support to take down a fortified building, a soldier can fire a shell through a window to kill the enemy sniping at his squad, or detonate the shell above a trench that holds enemy forces. Options like flechette rounds and thermobaric rounds can expand those options again.
This project is an outgrowth of the ill-fated and ill-conceived OICW (Objective Individual Combat Weapon), which burned development money to create something the soldier could not reasonably be expected to carry as a primary personal weapon. So what changed? A major weight loss diet, for one thing. The XM25 was broken out from the entire weapon, and lightened up from 21 pounds to a little more than 12 pounds. In size and weight, it’s close to an M4 carbine with the M203 grenade launcher attached, and carries the kick of a 12 gauge shotgun.
What didn’t change as much was the cost. XM25 will cost about $25,000 each, and each programmable round from ATK 25mm round costs about $25. These days, a fully loaded M4 can approach those same costs, but the ammunition is a significant step change in cost as well as capability. The XM307, which is touted as the M2 .50 caliber machine gun’s expected replacement, will use the same rounds – and their capabilities have created supporters in the Army.
Andy Cline, product director for the XM25, was not shy when he said that: “This should have the same impact as the incorporation of the machine gun,” which completely changed warfare in World War 1. Rich Audette, Army Deputy Project Manager for Soldier weapons, was more qualified when he said that the program had almost ended: “But the Army took a look at all the work that was done — and the testing that projected the kind of lethality increase that we could get — and they said ‘we’ve got to do this.'”