The XM204 Top Attack Munition Could Replace Landmines on the Battlefield

Photo Credit: Mark Schauer / U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground / DVIDS / Public Domain
Photo Credit: Mark Schauer / U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground / DVIDS / Public Domain

The XM204 is a portable anti-tank munition that provides the launch of up to four top-attack munitions. By hitting the enemy from a top-down position, it not only ensures better accuracy in hitting a target, but also reduces the possibility of accidentally hitting friendly forces. Above all, the XM204 could effectively replace landmines altogether.

The XM204 could potentially replace landmines

De-miner hovering a mine detector over the Shahr-e Gholghola archaeological site
Afghani de-miner using a mine detector to search for landmines at the Shahr-e Gholghola archaeological site, 2009. (Photo Credit: Paula Bronstein / Getty Images)

The XM204 interim wide area top attack munition was developed to deny enemy forces the ability and freedom to maneuver armored vehicles. The need for the system was identified by US Army Europe and Africa, with its main objective being to target and deter near-peer enemy vehicles in open terrain. This is because top attack munitions are more effective than front or bottom attack ones against armored vehicles and other such targets.

The device can be operated remotely, and once the munition detects the sound of threat vehicles, it begins to track them. When said vehicles reach a certain distance from the XM204, it launches a top attack munition that shoots a submunition into the air to fire a warhead at the targets.

“It can ‘hear’ tracked vehicles and feel them coming,” said Steve Patane, a test officer at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.

The device itself is also equipped with a self-destruct system with a variety of settings to prevent the possibility it will lay dormant for years (or decades) after a conflict has come to a close. This is a vast improvement on older landmine munitions, as those lost in the terrain remain dormant, ready to detonate.

The XM204 could save soldiers’ lives

American soldier standing beside an XM204 top attack munition unit
An American soldier standing near an XM204 top attack munition unit, 2021. (Photo Credit: Mark Schauer / U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground / DVIDS / Public Domain)

One of the intended benefits of the XM204 is its ability to provide sufficient defense when a small unit of soldiers faces being outnumbered and out-maneuvered. Should the enemy be heavily equipped and manning heavy tracked vehicles, the group can deploy the easily-portable XM204 to help them hold down their position until reinforcements arrive.

The device itself is the size of a large suitcase and has been redeveloped to feature handles for easier transportation. This was determined through feedback provided by combat engineers during a soldier touchpoint at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

“The butterfly design for the battery box came from the same Soldier touch point,” added Lt. Col. Isaac Cuthbertson, the product manager for Terrain-Shaping Obstacles, when speaking about what else resulted from the feedback.

Yuma Proving Ground

Four US Marines running through Yuma Proving Ground while two helicopters fly overhead
US Marines conducting an air assault exercise at Yuma Proving Ground, 2009. (Photo Credit: Cpl. Laura A. Mapes / United States Marine Corps / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) has allowed for the testing of various weapons, including the XM204. There, weapons undergo a series of tests to determine their strengths, weaknesses, durability and their ability to perform in real-world situations.

For the XM204, operators drove vehicles, such as infantry fighting vehicles and main battle tanks (MBTs), across the testing track using various speeds and paths to determine the top attack munition’s accuracy. Using its sensors, it tracked the vehicles and determined an algorithm to deploy munitions at the most favorable time. It took into account the size and speed of the vehicles, in order to determine the optimal deployment.

As the vehicles were driven by real people, the purpose of these tests was to determine the accuracy of the munition’s sensors. Instead of detonating its high explosive (HE) top attack rounds, the XM204 used a camera to take pictures of what would be the point at which the munitions would hit, if deployed. When HE rounds were tested, the Army used remote-controlled vehicles.

Contract awarded to Textron Systems

Textron Systems employees at a trade show booth
The International Land Air Defence and Security Exhibition is a defense and security industry trade show organized in partnership with the French Ministry of Defence. (Photo Credit: John van Hasselt / CORBIS / Getty Images)

On July 21, 2022, the US Army Contracting Command awarded US defense firm Textron Systems with a $353,980,000 firm-fixed-price contract for the production and delivery of the XM204. The Army has ordered 117 of the top attack munitions, as well as 38 trainer units and any necessary spare parts.

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Delivery of the first XM204 units is scheduled for fiscal year 2023. Speaking about the contract, Henry Finneral, the senior vice president of Textron Systems, said, “We are supporting the Army’s urgent need with an anti-vehicle munition that helps soldiers control the physical landscape. XM204 is a modern solution at a time when modernization is a top priority for our customer.”

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!