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Army Considering New Capabilities for Infantry Including Precision Grenadier System, Medium Machine Gun & Mortar for Airborne Units

Yesterday at the Future Force Capabilities Conference presented by the National Defense Industrial Association in Austin, Army acquisition officials provided information about future weapon capabilities for the service’s Close Combat Forces.

Two of Program Manager Soldier Lethality’s focus areas are engaging targets in defilade and future Medium Machine Gun capabilities.

Precision Grenadier System

In the past, the Army has worked to develop a system which could effectively engage targets in trenches and fighting positions. Referred to as the XM25 “Punisher,” it was the result of the XM29 Objective Individual Combat Weapon envisioned in the mid-1990s as a weapon which combined a 5.56mm kinetic energy carbine tied to a 20mm air burst system, essentially a programmable grenade launcher. The OICW’s two systems were untethered with the carbine becoming the ill-fated XM8 carbine and the grenade launcher ,the XM25 Individual Semi-automatic Airburst System. Despite being tested in Afghanistan, this counter-defilade weapon wasn’t quite ready for prime time.

The Army still wants the capability but it became a lower priority for a time as the Next Gen Squad Weapons program went through down select. However, the Maneuver Center of Excellence is working on a requirement for a Precision Grenadier System. PGS is envisioned as a man-portable, counter-defilade, target engagement system that enables the squad to organically destroy enemy personnel targets in defilade with quick and precise engagements. PGS is a flat trajectory, high velocity, semi-automatic, multi-shot weapon system, with a firefight ending lethality and precision compared to the legacy M320 GL.

This slide shows how PGS enhances engagement over troops equipped with the M320.

PGS just completed the Commanding General Assessment Board on 31 August, moving it forward for requirement development which is expected to be published in 2024. It will be evaluated as a full system including ammunition, launcher and fire control. The requirement will be caliber non-specific but rather concentrate on effects on target.

The Army is also working to field Individual Assault Munitions. This slide depicts how the Army plans to field both PGS and IAM and how they will be used.

Medium Machine Gun

Now that the Army is on the path toward fielding new Squad Weapons and ammunition, it is looking at how it equips the Platoon. It is conducting the Platoon Arms and Ammunition Configuration Study which will inform decision makers on how best to proceed regarding a new Medium Machine Gun capability. It examines the full trade space of feasible combinations fire control, weapons and ammunition capable of performing in a dismounted and platform mounted configuration. The PAAC study should be published by 4Q23 with a decision on MMG in 2024.

Although it’s still a way out for the Army, USSOCOM is working on a Lightweight Medium Machine Gun program in .338 Norma Mag with the Marine Corps monitoring. The Army is holding off committing to any course of action until the PAAC study is complete. Options include a new caliber and weapon or perhaps just a new weapon in 7.62mm NATO or 6.8 Common Case as is used in NGSW.

Battalion Mortar System

An additional new capability that was briefed is the Enhanced 81mm Mortar which will be employed by units weighing Mobile Brigade Combat Teams within the 11th, 82nd, and 101st Abn Divs. The Battalion Mortar System’s E81C will replace the 120mm mortars one for one and offer increased mobility with less similar performance to the 120mm systems they are replacing. The goal is to provide greater range and lethality at H-hour rather than at H+4 as is now the case. E81C will be mounted on the Infantry Squad Vehicle.

6 Responses to “Army Considering New Capabilities for Infantry Including Precision Grenadier System, Medium Machine Gun & Mortar for Airborne Units”

  1. Don says:

    Question – What is the capabilities of the PGS against small aerial drones? Based on the current hostilities in Ukraine, a counter drone capability is needed down at the company/platoon level. Maybe not detection, but at least a way to hit them once they are seen. The demo at the NTC seemed to make it clear they will be on the battlefield in a large way.

  2. Seamus says:

    I am not entirely convinced that this is technically achievable. 40mm already has issues with lethality. If the Army were to scale down a 40mm to a 25mm (as in XM25) flatter shooting projectile I highly doubt it will retain lethality.

    Truth is that 40mm already has questionable lethality. The fragmentation is basically spooled wire and a 5m lethal blast radius is probably a bit aspirational, even against dudes in pajamas. More if, as the Army believes, we are to fight against a future near-peer enemy in body armor, then the 40mm is even less lethal.

    So naturally their proposed “fix” to fighting an enemy in armor is a smaller fragmentation projectile with less fragmentation?! Not sure how that is gonna answer the mail for the army.

    Additionally the best part of the 40mm was that is was NOT flat shooting and you could lob it up and over things. The M320 is a really good grenade launcher, lightweight accurate and the sighting system is very useful. Replacing that with a giant flat shooting exploding bullet kinda defeats the point of a counter-defilade weapon. I mean if I can hit the guy with a giant flat shooting exploding bullet, why not just shoot him with my rifle?

    Also didn’t NGSW talk about simplifying the logistics for the Infantry platoon? Everyone shoots 6.8mm wasn’t that the pitch? Wont adding an additional separate weapon and ammunition type, on top of the existing M320s just further complicate this from both a logistics and training lens?

  3. Dan says:

    69 rounds for the E81C Mortar? Nice.

  4. FRANK says:

    ONE CAN ONLY NOTE THE COMMUNISTS WERE USING A MUCH MORE DEADLY ROCKET LAUNCHER AGAINST US IN VET NAM, AND IT IS STILL EQUIPPING OUR ENEMIES AROUND THE WORLD.

  5. Roguetechie says:

    Keep In mind we’re still using very old 40×46 grenades that were type classified during Vietnam. Much better could be done now without any trouble at all. Hell they’d even be cheaper to make!

    As far as the 25mm thing though, I tend to agree and think we should look at Russia on this one.

    In the early 90’s they built and used sporadically a weapon called the tkb-0249 arbalet/crossbow which fired full power HV 30mm ags17 AGL grenades to full range and weighed about the same as an m240 with a 50 round belt with it’s 12 round drum loaded.

    Hell even 40×53 is aging and not very gracefully and could use replacement.

    IMO the worst thing we can possibly do is let ourselves get stuck either continuing with 40×46/53 or going with a 25mm that’s just not going to have the punch necessary on a modern battlefield.

    Modern battlefields where $1200 and some judicious AliExpress purchases can kit you out in chi cryes with a ballistic 3a helmet, serviceable electronic ear pro, and 3a soft plus level 3+ plates front back and sides…

    With $2000 per guy you can do even more… Shockingly a lot more.

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