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Old 12-13-2022, 09:40 AM
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Exclamation U.S. Army pushes ahead landmine that attacks from above, with European theater in min

U.S. Army pushes ahead with landmine that attacks from above, with European theater in mind
By: Ashley Roque - Break Defense News - 12-13-22 2-1/2 hrs ago

Textron Systems received two Army contracts in 2022 for anti-tank munition development and production. Eventually, the service wants to network such top-attack weapons with a bottom-attack landmine, a Textron exec told Breaking Defense.

Photo link:
A US Army soldier at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, with the XM204 top-attack munition. Textron Systems plans to begin delivering the weapon to the service in 2023. (US Army/Mark Schauer)

WASHINGTON — Billions of dollars of US weapons continue to flow into Ukraine as the land war nears the start of its second calendar year. But while much ink has been spilled about high-profile platforms like Stingers, Javelins and long-distance munitions, also included in these US aid packages are an undisclosed number of M18A1 Claymore anti-personnel landmines to help Ukraine control Russian troop movement.

Perhaps considered a relic in the popular imagination, such anti-personnel and anti-armor mines are not only applicable to modern combat, but the US Army is now moving full steam ahead with the development of new top-attack, anti-tank landmines, with the European theater in mind. This summer the service tapped Textron Systems to begin producing the interim XM204 weapon and then in early December the company announced that it had also been selected to design a more lethal version with a remote command-and-control function as part of the Army’s long-term Close Terrain Shaping Obstacles Increment 1 program.

Both versions of the weapon are designed to launch a munition into the air before it rains down on ground combat vehicles, rather than striking the vehicle’s protected underbelly from below like traditional mines. And if the production and development proceeds as planned, the interim XM204 weapon may be bound for European soil in the hands of US forces and potentially allies in the coming years — though not necessarily Ukraine. Since the Army wants to design the weapon to be compliant with the Ottawa Convention that prohibits the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel landmines, it could be easier for the US to field it or sell it other nations.

“There is a significant interest in Eastern European NATO allies that are familiar with the new system and are interested in acquiring some [XM204],” Henry Finneral, the company’s senior vice-president for weapon systems, told Breaking Defense in a Dec. 6 interview after the company provided new details about the latest contract. “There are no FMS [Foreign Military Sales] orders yet but there is a lot of interest, and we continue to anticipate that that would be a part of where many of these systems would go.”

Mines That Attack From Above

Army officials have been working on a multi-pronged initiative to replace what is known as the Family of Scatterable Mines (FASCAM) that they deem to be nearing the end of useful life. This plan includes the interim XM204 that was born, in part, out of a US Army Europe operational needs statement which led the service to issuing systems requirements in 2020.

In mid-2022, the service awarded Textron Systems with a XM204 production contract worth up to $354 million, and initially ordered 117 XM204 units and 38 trainers.

The company is now “pulling together” the first production run for the Army and expects to have the first units ready for product verification testing in mid-2023, Finneral said.

If and when this top-attack capability is fielded, the idea is for soldiers to hand place each XM204 module either alone or in a pattern on the battlefield. They then use a “control knob” to set the timer for how long the weapon will be active — either for four hours, 48 hours or 15 days. If the weapon has not been activated during this window, it self-destructs to minimize the risk of civilian deaths.

As for each module, they are approximately two feet by two feet in size, weigh 79 pounds, and each contains four common anti-vehicle munitions (CAVMs), sensors, a Doppler radar and the self-destruct mechanism.

The device is designed to use acoustic and seismic sensors to detect approaching heavy-wheeled and tracked vehicles within a 100 meter radius. Once detected, the radar determines where the incoming vehicle is located before one of the airborne submunition with an additional sensor is fired to help determine the best aim-point. The submunition’s explosively formed penetrator will then strike the top of the vehicle.

“Our systems have redundant capability to ensure that they detonate,” Finneral said. “If we launch a submunition and the target has changed direction or if it does not detonate. It’ll self-destruct before it hits the ground.”

Once the attack sequence is completed, the landmine module remains activated for the remaining amount of time and can repeat the attack sequence three more times with the remaining munitions.

V2.0: A Networked Approach

As the Army prepares to test out this new anti-tank device, its plan doesn’t stop there. Instead, it’s eyeing a longer-term project to network together a more complex top-attack munition with a future bottom-attack landmine as part of its incremental Close Terrain Shaping Obstacles (CTSO) program.

“The XM204 is kind of like the base building block for CTSO Increment I, which adds capability to XM204 in terms of command and control, it provides connectivity to the soldier so it has kind of a man in the loop,” Finneral said.

Under the Army’s long-term, the three-pronged CTSO strategy begins with an enhanced top-attack capability under Increment I, then adds in a new bottom-attack capability in Increment II before tying them together in Increment III. For now, though, the Army is focusing on CTSO Increment I and in early November announced Textron would develop the capability as part of a five-year $162 million contract.

“It’s going to be a new system,” Finneral explained. “The XM204 has its own set of requirements; it has its own performance capabilities. We take that as a basis, and we’re adding new capability to it.”

The initial vision is for soldiers to still set up the future top-attack modules like will do with the XM204, but these modules will also include “radio communication” so that soldiers using a “handheld device” can disable the munition box, he said. This is meant to allow “friendly forces” to move through the area or for soldiers to retrieve the modules and move them to different locations. But the added capability comes with added complications.

“The command-and-control piece will be very important,” Finneral added. “Whenever you introduce radios, you’ve got to make sure that you have protected them against external threats… . It’ll be critical to ensure that the software provides for a very safe system and it’s protected from cyber [threats].”

If development proceeds as planned, Finneral said the weapon could be ready for operational test and evaluation before the five-year development contract ends in 2027.

Looking further ahead, Finneral said the company is eyeing future opportunities to work with the Army CTSO Increments II and III, and explore alternative ways to place the weapons on the battlefield, perhaps via ground robots or aircraft.
Personal note: I thought that NATO & the US signed off on ridding land mines to
prevent civvies from walking on one. How do they remember where they are or
will they even post CAUTION Land Mines? Those are nasty critters and usually
ends up with leg blown off or out-right death from bleeding out. I can see mines
used to knock out tanks and or trucks - but stepping on one - well that's another
story in itself! Nam had the bambo spikes those were God awful as well.
Oh well nobody will say much I guess - but I never liked booby traps or land
mines. They will even kill anyone & civvies later if not removed. They spent
years in old battlefields locating and ridding them after the wars. But yet on
an occassion someone will step on one and if it doesn't kill him outright it will
be a real bleeder hard to stop. WWI & II they were everwhere and even our
own - will step on one if not marked off. Tank buster's yes - but in open
fields you gotta think real hard about walking through those areas.

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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