The Army is looking to type-classify the XM25 as the M25 and go into low-rate production late next year. The XM25 is a “smart” grenade launcher that fires a 25mm shell twice the range of the current man-fired 40mm grenade launchers fielded. It does this by coupling a ballistic computer, laser rangefinder and programmable round. The gunner “lazes” a target. The computer positions the reticle to achieve the correct elevation. The gunner selects a point, air or slightly delayed detonation and fires.  An air or slightly delayed air detonation allows for the grenade to explode over the target, defeating frontal cover.

The XM25 was withdrawn from testing in Afghanistan due to an overabundance of caution after a double feed caused a primer to detonate (the warhead did not detonate as the safeties were engaged). The weapon was damaged and the firer suffered superficial burns.  This incident, along with sequestration fever and a general proclivity to cut military spending, was enough, though, for the Senate to withdraw all funding in late June, which cancelled any chance of a FY2014 purchase. The Army is not going along quietly.

I’ve been following this system for years and got to talk to some PEO Soldier representatives last year, and they allowed me to use the training system when I visited Ft. Benning’s Maneuver Conference. The “Punisher,” as the troops nicknamed it, received glowing reports from its combat testing in Afghanistan. Across nine engagements and 55 rounds fired in anger, it consistently caused the Taliban to break contact and withdraw. As evidence of its popularity at the end of the testing period, units requested they keep the weapon until all rounds had been fired.

On the other hand, it’s been reported that the 75th Ranger Regiment felt the weapon was too heavy and cumbersome to take on patrols, and the 25mm didn’t justify giving up an M4. Ft. Benning’s Maneuver Center of Excellence CSM James Carabello didn’t agree.  Carabello, a veteran of the 75th Ranger Regiment, 82nd Airborne and 10th Mountain, referred to the XM25 as “a game-changer.” Carabello’s troops from the 3rd BCT, 10th Mountain, engaged insurgents several times with XM25s during a 2011 Afghanistan deployment.

Describing Afghan terrain, insurgents tactics and XM25 employment he said, “They (dirt walls) are about three-to-four feet in height, usually separated by about five-to-six feet. The enemy did use that to their advantage, where they could hide and engage our soldiers. These walls were often two-to-four feet thick, so it made it difficult for M4s, M249 squad automatic weapons and M240 machine guns to penetrate them.”

“Well, I’ll tell you that the XM25, when employed, was a game-changer. We absolutely defeated any enemy force that we deployed the XM25 against… It’s a devastating weapon system and it absolutely changes the face of battle when we were in direct-fire contact with enemy forces.”

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The XM25 weighs about 14lbs loaded with a six round magazine. In comparison, a SAW with 200round ammo box weighs 22lbs, and a loaded M203 weighs about 12lbs. The XM25 also has a thermal sight. With low rate production as opposed to current hand tooling, the cost should drop to about $35k each and $55 per round. Again, in comparison, one GPNVG-18 Quadeye (the night vision gear likely worn by the SEALs on the Bin Laden Raid) cost about $40k each.

The XM25 has a range against point targets (e.g. a window) of 600m, and 700m for area targets. The M203 has a 150m/350m range for point/area targets. Maj. Shawn Murray, Soldier Weapons Assistant Product Manager at PEO Soldier said, “Our studies indicate that the XM-25 with HEAB (High Explosive Air Burst) is 300 percent more effective at incapacitating the enemy than current weapons at the squad level.” The M203 and M32A1 are squad level weapons. Check out this video for weapons effects, and notice the recoil of the weapon.

The BOI (Basis of Issue) being discussed is one M25 per rifle squad.  The system will be fielded to conventional Infantry and SOCOM units. From now until next year around this time the Army is improving the fire control system, magazine size, battery life and weight. If Congress funds it the M24 should go into low rate production late next year of about 1,100 systems and ammo.

(Featured Image Courtesy: U.S. Army)