After years of delays and technical problems the Army is finally beginning to deploy a new weapon to Afghanistan. A battalion of the famed 101st Airborne (Air Assault) is to receive the first shipment. Unfortunately this is not the long hoped for replacement of the M-16 and M-4 known as the Objective Individual Combat Weapon. This was to be a combination of a conventional rifle that would fire the standard 5.56 mm round as well as a new air burst 25 mm round and be issued to all infantrymen. Technological and financial concerns killed the ambitious project, but it has been partly resurrected as the Counter Defilade Target Engagement System or the XM-25. This weapon only fires the air burst 25 mm round and a squad will probably get only one.
This is being touted as good news for the troops and it is as much as any effective weapon in the hands of our troops is a good thing, but is this the best we could do? The Pentagon is drawing up plans for all kinds of futuristic weapons and IT technology but a all knew rifle for all of our grunts is just a bridge too far? I cannot help but wonder if the military has put too much emphasis on standoff weapons like UAVs and big ticket items like amphibious assault ships and left those at the tip of the spear with less than they could have otherwise had?