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XM-25 US Military photo

Two items in the last week arrived almost on the same day and, I felt, made interesting bedfellows.  The first was a piece in politicaldog101 on November 29th that the United States Defence Budget had risen 119% since 2001 and now stood at $700 billion.  That’s a year.  Every year.  The budget now is the same as all defence spending by all other countries on the globe put together.  It is an almost incomprehensible amount of money

Astonishing as this is, it raised some questions.  The first being what on earth do they spend this on, and how come it costs so much?  The next being if the United States spends so much money on defence why does she not win any of her wars?  And are they connected?

The other item went, I think, some way to answering these questions.

The picture above is of the snappily named XM-25, or to give it its full Sunday name a Counter Defilade Target Engagement System.  Defilade is a French term for something you hide behind when being shot at.  So this gun is used to strike at enemies behind cover.

It has a laser target acquisition system that calculates the distance between you and the target, which can be the equivalent of nine football fields away.  Its more a spec-ed up grenade launcher than a rifle but is being punted as such by Alliant Techsystems (ATK) who manufacture this little baby for the US Government.  It comes complete with sophisticated computer guidance and laser aiming, specialized ammo, batteries and other components.

It’s weight, considering western soldiers now wear body armour routinely, makes it a bit heavy and the cartridges are not light either.  As any distance over say 200 meters is not relevant to your average soldier this is really a bit of kit for the specialised sniper or special forces boys.  Not that this is stopping the manufacturers from supplying one to every squad.  That’s, oh, say 12,500 of the things. 

And the cost?  A mere $25,000.00 a pop.  The cartridges are $24 each.  You do the math.  Scary eh?

So that helps answer the question of how the money gets spent.  Never mind that it would help if you can actually see well enough to tell the difference between your allies, the enemy and locals celebrating a wedding at that kind of distance –  the guys at ATK say this gun is going to be the game changer in Afghanistan.


The picture above is of its rival in the battlefields of Afghanistan, and indeed everywhere else.  It is, of course the universal, the ubiquitous, the AK47, or one of it’s children.  Invented by Avtormat Kalashnikov a 29 year old Russian tank commander in 1947.  Today it is used by radical armies, national armies, drug gangs and guerrillas.  And the ex-mujahidin or Taliban in Afghanistan.  Of all the arms in the whole world, one in five is a AK47.

It’s a short gun, so is easy to use.  It fires medium powered cartridges but is lethal at the range at which most battles in the real world take place.  I.E. that 200 metre distance I mentioned above.  It can be set for automatic or single fire.  There is little recoil and above all it is reliable.  You can soak it in a muddy bog and it will fire, drop it down a sand dune and it will fire, it fires in the heat or the cold and it is almost impossible to jam.  There are no complicated computerised gizmos or batteries to go flat.

Basic training is minimal and anyone can use it.  A child can strip it and re-build it in under 30 seconds. And it’s light enough for that child to fire.

 The AK47 as a Samuel Jackson character said in a film role “ when you absolutely, positively got to kill every mother-fucker in the room”

And its cheap and easy to make.  It can be run up by the local village blacksmith.  And you can buy them for $30.00.

Which do you think is the real  “game-changer”?

 Copyright David Macadam 2010