Nowhere to hide: Military developing grenade to target enemy behind barriers
By JON HARPER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 6, 2015
WASHINGTON — Enemy fighters ducking behind walls or trees might soon wish they hadn’t.
The U.S. military is creating a new high-tech grenade programmed to detect a barrier and explode just after passing it, inflicting at least some damage on a concealed enemy.
With the Small Arms Grenade Munition, U.S. troops could take out fighters behind a wall or trench — or a natural obstacle — who, in military parlance, are “in defilade.”
The SAGM is being developed by the Joint Service Small Arms Program at the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center, in Picatinny, N.J.
The technology “provides the small unit grenadier with a higher probability of achieving a first-shot kill against enemy personnel … in defilade positions,” SAGM project officer Steven Gilbert said in a Picatinny Arsenal news release.
Another advantage over conventional 40mm grenades in use the SAGM could offer is greater accuracy over longer distances.
“Warfighters currently lack the ability to achieve desired accuracy and incapacitating effects against personnel targets in defilade at ranges from 51 to 500 meters,” Gilbert said.
Despite its high-tech components, the SAGM is a relatively simple system to use, developers say. The 40mm, low-velocity round is designed to be fired from M203 or M320 rifle-mounted grenade launchers, which are currently in service.
“All the soldier would need to do is aim the weapon and fire it,” Gilbert said in the Army release.
However, the munition still needs to be headed in the right direction to detect the defilade.
“You have to have some sort of accuracy,” Gilbert said.
The SAGM has been under development since 2012.
“The biggest challenge has been maturing the SAGM sensor’s robustness to ensure proper functionality against the plethora of available defilade structures in a battlefield environment,” Gilbert said in the Army release.
During testing in 2013, the sensor technology was able to detect defilades and airburst the fuze over the target. The engineering team is now working on improving the sensors and integrating them with a live warhead.
Officials hope to demonstrate the system’s effectiveness in July. If the full-system demonstration is successful this summer, officials plan to integrate SAGM into an official Army program of record by the end of fiscal 2015, a critical step in the acquisition process which must be reached before a weapon system can be fully funded and go into mass production.
Officials did not say when the SAGM is expected to become available to troops.