US Army Pulls the XM25 ‘Punisher’ from Action

The U.S. Army has halted operational testing of its shoulder-fired, 25mm airburst weapon after a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan suffered minor injuries when the weapon malfunctioned.

“An XM25 experienced a double feed and an unintentional primer ignition of one round,” Army spokesman Matt Bourke stated in a March 7 written release, describing the Feb. 2 incident. “The Army subsequently removed all XM25 prototype weapons and ammunition from the theater for a root cause analysis and corrective action.”

If you don’t know much about the XM25, its official name is the Counter Defilade Target Engagement (CDTE) system, better known by its field name “the Punisher.” The term “counter-defilade” means this weapon system targets enemy fighters hiding behind walls, cars, small mounds, or other obstacles.

The XM25 fires radio-controlled smart bullets, which are more like grenades. The rounds explode when they have traveled a programmed distance, detonating in a lethal spray of shrapnel. The XM25 is a shoulder-fired semi-automatic weapon. A soldier sights the distance to the target through an attached laser rangefinder; he can then add or subtract up to three yards as he dials in the exact distance for the round to explode. This means that a round can be fired to explode directly over enemy troops that are entrenched or hiding in a room or behind an obstacle.

The 25mm round contains a chip that receives a signal from the gun sight as to the exact moment of detonation. Military experts familiar with the new weapon and its capabilities have called it a “game-changer” because it allows infantry to clear sniper sites and other trouble spots without having to call in artillery or an airstrike. The precision of the XM25 is expected to greatly reduce the collateral damage of modern warfare.

The XM25 already completed one 14-month battlefield assessment in Afghanistan and was in the early stages of a second assessment when the double feed and primer ignition occurred during a live-fire training exercise. Army regulars who fired the XM25 in combat say it is effective against enemy forces hiding behind the short mud walls commonplace across Afghanistan.

Army spokesman Bourke added that the actual XM25 round did not detonate because of safety features designed into the weapon. He reported the gunner involved in the mishap received superficial injuries, was medically evaluated, and returned to duty. The malfunction did ruin the weapon.

According to Army officials, the XM25 will continue through its current second phase, with the system being further tested, evaluated, and improved. The XM25 was originally thought to be field available by 2012. Its current schedule anticipates field availability in the fall of 2014.

With the latest “sequestration” cuts affecting the military, one can only wonder if this weapon will make it past the chopping block and into the military theater. The XM25 is not cheap, with an estimated per-weapon price tag of somewhere between $25,000-$30,000. The Army’s original intent was to purchase 12,500 of the weapons.

The XM25 already has its detractors who claim the five-shot, 14-pound weapon is more of a burden than a benefit to combat units. Ranger units using the XM25 reportedly found it heavy and cumbersome for the battlefield. They were also concerned that the limited basic load of 25mm rounds was not enough to justify taking an M4A1 carbine out of the mission, particularly the newer model, which has a fully automatic setting.

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