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ARDEC's airburst round to begin evaluation this summer

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Dec. 08, 2014) -- The Small Arms Grenade Munition round -- a 40mm counter-defilade, air-bursting grenade designed for both the M203 and M320 launchers -- will undergo evaluation in July 2015.

The SAGM round has been under development by the Joint Service Small Arms Program at the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or JSSAP-ARDEC, since January 2012.

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If the SAGM round is successful in the demonstration, it will transition to Project Manager-Maneuver Ammunition Systems, or PM-MAS, by the end of fiscal year 2015 for integration into an official Army program of record.

To do that, said SAGM Project Officer Steven Gilbert, "We must demonstrate a certain level of functional reliability over selected target sets."

PM-MAS is evaluating all possible material solutions and critical technologies as they develop the acquisition strategy for the development of a material solution, which will satisfy the Army's requirements. The JSSAP-ARDEC team's concept will be included in this evaluation.

The SAGM allows a Soldier to target an enemy who is protected behind a barrier -- "in defilade" -- and have the munition explode, in the air, above the target.

"The SAGM cartridge, which is compatible with the Army's 40mm grenade launchers, provides the small unit grenadier with a higher probability of achieving a first-shot kill against enemy personnel coupled with the ability to defeat personnel targets in defilade positions at increased ranges with greater accuracy and lethality," Gilbert said.

The weapon is similar to the effects of the XM-25 weapon which is already in development by the Army. (The XM25, a direct-fire weapon, launches a programmable air-burst round that determines the distance it must travel. The system includes both the weapon, ammunition rounds, and fully-integrated day/night fire control. A direct-fire weapon, the XM25 is complementary to SAGM which is indirectly fired.) The SAGM doesn't require the Soldier to conduct any kind of pre-fire programming sequence. Gilbert said the Soldier aims the weapon and fires, and the round detects where a wall is and then explodes, in the air, after passing the wall.

"It has a sensor that will sense defilade or walls or anything that somebody will be hiding behind," he said. "And basically detects it without the need of a laser range finder. 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."

The system does require some skill on the part of the user, however.

"All the Soldier would need to do is aim the weapon and fire it," Gilbert said. "He'd have to have good aim ... or the round won't detect the wall. You have to have some sort of accuracy."

Right now, Gilbert said, the approximately 10-person engineering team is still integrating the fuze in the SAGM with other technology components so that when the time comes, the system will demonstrate the appropriate level of technology readiness to be accepted by PM-MAS.

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