Everyone who's fired one knows that the M320 grenade launcher isn't the most accurate weapon in the infantry arsenal.
Propelled with a standard charge, the 40mm grenade follows a ballistic arc that forces a trooper to lob the projectile onto its target rather than shoot it straight in.
But new technology has allowed some weapons makers to miniaturize the same guidance systems housed in air-dropped missiles into ones that can be easily carried by ground troops.
The Pike™ munition measures 40 mm in diameter, only a half-inch larger than the 25 mm rounds fired by some military machine guns. (Photo from Raytheon)
That's resulted in a missile small enough to be fired from an M320 or FN Mk-13 grenade launcher but with near pinpoint accuracy up to two miles away.
Built by defense manufacturer Raytheon, the Pike missile is only 16 inches long and weighs less than two pounds. The missile is guided to its target by following a laser pointed by a second shooter.
"Pike uses a digital, semi-active laser seeker to engage both fixed and slow-moving, mid-range targets," said J. R. Smith, Raytheon's Advanced Land Warfare Systems director. "This new guided munition can provide the warfighter with precision, extended-range capability never before seen in a hand-held weapon on the battlefield."
The Pike munition is the world's only hand-launched precision-guided weapon. (Photo from Raytheon)
The missile ejects 10 feet from the shooter before the rocket motor ignites and is smokeless in order to reduce the missile's signature and keep the shooters concealed.
The system was successfully tested in 2015 and weapons experts in the Army and special operations units are looking hard at using the system in combat, documents show.
Raytheon says future developments include giving Pike the ability to network with other missiles so more than one can ride the same laser, and company officials say the missile is being adapted for UAVs and small boats.
"Pike will become smarter and smarter as we continue to develop its capabilities," said Smith. "In the current configuration, the warfighter will enter programmable laser codes prior to loading Pike into its launcher. Spiral development calls for multiple-round simultaneous programming and targeting with data link capabilities."