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XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System
XM25 July 2009.jpg
XM25 in use by a U.S. Army soldier
Type Bullpup grenade launcher
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service 2010–2013
Used by U.S. Army
Wars War in Afghanistan (2001-2014)
Production history
Designer Alliant Techsystems, Heckler & Koch
Manufacturer Alliant Techsystems, Heckler & Koch
Weight 6.35 kg (14.0 lb) empty
Length 749 mm (29.5 in)[1]

Cartridge 25×40mm
Muzzle velocity 690 ft/s (210 m/s)
Effective firing range 550 yd (500 m) for point targets, 765 yd (700 m) for area targets
Maximum firing range 1,100 yd (1,000 m)
Feed system 5-round detachable box magazine
A soldier aims an XM25 weapon system at Aberdeen Test Center

The XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement (CDTE) System,[2] also known as the Punisher and Individual Semiautomatic Air Burst System is an airburst grenade launcher derived from the XM29 OICW. It was fielded to soldiers serving in the War in Afghanistan in 2010[3] and was planned to officially enter service in late 2015,[4] but malfunctions and program budget cuts pushed planned fielding to early 2017.[5]


The XM25 CDTE fires 25 mm grenades that are set to explode in mid-air at or near the target. A laser rangefinder in the weapon is used to determine the distance to the target. The user can manually adjust the detonating distance by up to 10 feet (3.0 m) shorter or longer; the XM25 automatically transmits the detonating distance to the grenade in the firing chamber. The grenade tracks the distance it has traveled by the number of spiral rotations after it is fired,[6] then detonates at the proper distance to produce an airburst effect. These features make the XM25 more effective than traditional grenade launchers at the task of hitting targets that are behind cover or dug into the ground (i.e. in defilade.) One of the weapon's developers, Richard Audette, believes that the XM25 is a big leap forward because it is the first small arms weapon to use smart technology.[7]

The system has been developed by Alliant Techsystems and Heckler & Koch, while the target acquisition/fire control is developed by L-3 IOS Brashear.

The M203 grenade launcher has an effective range for point targets of 150 meters, and a maximum range for area targets of 350 meters. The XM25 has an effective range for point targets of 600 meters, and a maximum range for area targets of 700 meters. Studies indicate that the XM25 with air burst rounds is 300 percent more effective at engaging the enemy than other squad-level grenade launchers.[8]

Alliant Techsystems has indicated that the rifle may later use projectiles with smaller explosive charges which will stun opponents rather than killing them.[9]

The US Army is working on a 40 mm autonomous airburst Small Arms Grenade Munitions (SAGM) round to give 40 mm grenade launchers airburst capabilities as a complementary system to the XM25.[10]



The XM25 began as an offshoot of the Objective Individual Combat Weapon program that began in the late 1990s. The XM29 was intended to be an individual combat weapon that combined a rifle and airburst grenade launcher. The XM29 weighed 18 lb (8.2 kg), far more than an individual rifle or grenade launcher. Its 20 mm airbursting grenades weighed half as much as 540 g (19 oz) 40mm grenades. Even though the grenades were lighter, as a grenade round it was less effective at suppressing the enemy or putting them out of action. In August 2003, the XM29 roles were separated into specific weapons, with the rifle pursued as the XM8, and the airburst grenade launcher as the XM25. The XM25 was part of OICW Increment 2 as the standalone airburst component. As a standalone launcher, it was intended to be a special applications and support weapon. It was able to fire larger 270 g (9.5 oz) 25 mm grenade rounds, which would generate 50 percent more, and heavier, fragments compared to the experimental 20 mm grenades. In 2005, six weapons underwent limited field trials and combat testing. Two years later, they were sent overseas for testing in combat situations. The XM25 was planned to be sent into theater in 2008, but minor suggestions from users and tests revealed things that need to be refined.[11]

Deployment to Afghanistan[edit]

In the summer of 2010, the United States Army began field testing the XM25 in Afghanistan, with an initial per-unit cost of the early models ranging from US$30,000 to $35,000.[12]

Five of the weapons were deployed with the 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan in October 2010,[13] along with 1,000 hand-made air-burst rounds. The soldiers reported that the weapon was extremely effective at killing or neutralizing enemy combatants firing on US troops from covered positions. US troops nicknamed the weapon, "The Punisher."[14] First contact was on 3 December 2010. As of February 2011, the weapon had been fired 55 times in nine engagements by two units in different locations. It had disrupted two insurgent attacks on observation posts, taken out two PKM machine gun positions, and destroyed four ambush sites. In one engagement, an enemy machine gunner was wounded by, or so frightened of, the XM25 that he dropped his weapon and ran away. The units with the XM25s had no casualties during the nine engagements. The weapon was called "revolutionary" and "a game-changer." One platoon leader commented that engagements that would normally take 15 to 20 minutes were over in just a few minutes. They performed flawlessly with no maintenance problems. Soldiers were so pleased that they carried it as their primary weapon without carrying an M4 carbine as a secondary. There were no complaints about its weight, but improvements to the battery life and a range increase to 1,000 meters were sought. Each round was hand built at a cost of $1,000.[15] The US Army ordered 36 more of the rifles in January 2012.[16] On 12 September 2012, Alliant Techsystems received a $16.8 million engineering and manufacturing development contract modification for the XM25. ATK was to support another Army XM25 forward operational assessment scheduled for 2013 with a 36-gun battalion set of new pre-production prototypes.[17]


On 2 February 2013, an XM25 exploded during a live-fire training event. The primer and propellant ignited as the result of a double feed, although safety mechanisms prevented the round’s warhead from detonating. The gun was inoperable after the explosion and the soldier received minor injuries. In response, the Army removed the XM25 from service in Afghanistan. ATK noted that there were nearly 5,900 rounds fired between failures.[18]

The misfiring caused the Army to delay the decision to move the XM25 into full-rate production, pending changes to the design of the weapon and ammunition, operating procedures, and training techniques. Testing continued at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, where developers incorporated 130 design improvements. Despite the incident, Pentagon budget proposals included $69 million for 1,400 XM25 systems. The Army planned on a total of 10,876 units, two per infantry squad and one per special forces team. The post-Afghanistan strategy emphasizes the effectiveness of "the soldier and the squad."[19]

Funding cut[edit]

In June 2013, the Senate Armed Services Committee eliminated all funding for the 1,400 XM25 systems the Army wanted to purchase from the 2014 budget. The malfunction in February raised concerns about the safety and effectiveness of the weapon. The "unreliable performance" of the weapon led to funding being cut, as well as the recommendation to review alternative airburst weapon systems.[20]

In August 2013, the Army announced that the XM25 may move to low-rate initial production (LRIP) by August 2014. The weapon was in the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase and not yet ready for fielding. By August 2014, it was expected to reach Milestone C, starting LRIP for 1,100 weapons and needed ammunition. Low-rate production would lead to type-classification, resulting in removing the "X" from its designation. Improvements were being made concerning the fire control system, battery life, weight, and magazine size. The XM25 was expected to be combat-ready by the end of 2015, and be fielded with all brigade combat teams, as well as the Army Special Operations Command, special forces detachments, and ranger regiments. Automated production will reduce the price of the system to $35,000 for the weapon and fire control system, and $55 per round.[4] The XM25 has had some criticism by users. One situation occurred where elements of the 75th Ranger Regiment refused to take the 14 lb (6.4 kg) weapon on a raid because they found it too heavy and cumbersome. They also felt its low basic ammunition load and magazine capacity of 25 mm grenades were not enough to justify the removal of an M4A1 carbine from the mission.[21]

As of October 2015, the weapon was in the second round of contractor validation testing. The Army will conduct a Pre-Production Qualification Test (PPQT) in spring 2016, which could lead to a Milestone C decision by August 2016. Since its first deployment, the XM25 has been updated by replacing the boxy 2X FCS with a more compact, streamlined FCS that has greater 3X magnification and improved weapon weight, accuracy, and reliability. If requirements are fulfilled and budgets hold, the XM25 could be fielded in early 2017.[5][22][23]

Program status[edit]

  • April 2005 - First prototypes are delivered to the U.S. Army for field-testing.[24]
  • September 2005 - Test firing by regular troops at Grafenwöhr Training Area.[25]
  • Summer 2009 - Field tests in Iraq or Afghanistan.[6]
  • November 2010 - Preliminary deployment in Afghanistan.[26]
  • 3 December 2010 - First contact.[15]
  • 12 September 2012 - EMD contract.[17]
  • 2 February 2013 - Misfire during live-fire event, XM25 removed from field in Afghanistan.[18]
  • June 2013 - Funding cut for XM25.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.bctmod.army.mil/news/pdf/USArmy%202011WSH.pdf
  2. ^ "XM25, Counter Defilade Target Engagement (CDTE) Systemm". May 2010. Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  3. ^ Piper, Raymond. "XM25 feedback demonstrates lethality." Army News Service, 7 October 2011.
  4. ^ a b XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement system may lose 'X' by next August - Army.mil, 9 August 2013
  5. ^ a b Soldiers Can Set When Grenade Explodes With New Launcher - Armytimes.com, 12 October 2015
  6. ^ a b Kleiner, Kurt (2009-06-06). "Radio-controlled bullets leave no place to hide". New Scientist. Retrieved 2009-06-14. 
  7. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/11876041
  8. ^ XM25 To Become The M25 - Sofrep.com, 20 August 2013
  9. ^ "No hiding place from new U.S. Army rifles that use radio-controlled smart bullets". Daily Mail (London). 2010-11-30. Retrieved 2010-11-30. 
  10. ^ Tilford, Robert (8 September 2014). "New grenade round doubles the lethality of the current 40 mm grenade against defilade targets". groundreport.com (GroundReport). Retrieved 11 September 2014. 
  11. ^ a b c Smart Grenades That Work Most Of The Time - Strategypage.com, 19 March 2013
  12. ^ Grant, Greg. "Army Sending Precision Grenade Launcher to Afghanistan". Defense Tech. Retrieved 2010-05-06. 
  13. ^ http://www.military.com/news/article/army-sending-new-airburst-gun-to-101st.html
  14. ^ Lowe, Christian. "‘Punisher’ Gives Enemy No Place to Hide". Military.com, 3 February 2011, retrieved 7 February 2011.
  15. ^ a b Bacon, Lance M. "‘Punisher’ gets its first battlefield tests" Armytimes.com, 14 February 2011. Accessed: 18 February 2011.
  16. ^ The Economist, "Magic Bullets", 14 January 2012.
  17. ^ a b ATK Awarded Manufacturing Development Contract for XM25 - ATK press release, 12 September 2012
  18. ^ a b Army removes XM25 from service after incident - Militarytimes.com, 5 March 2013
  19. ^ Special Forces, Army Infantry to Get New XM25 'Punisher' Rifle - USnews.com, 22 April 2013
  20. ^ a b Reed, John (25 June 2013). "The Senate Wants to Kill the Army's "Punisher"". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  21. ^ Army to Rename XM25 Airburst Weapon - Defensetech.org, 15 August 2013
  22. ^ Turnbull, Grant (14 October 2015). "Refined XM25 go for launch". Shephardmedia.com. Retrieved 27 December 2015. 
  23. ^ "Army’s XM25 Gets More-Powerful, Streamlined Optic". Kitup.Military.com. 14 October 2015. Retrieved 27 December 2015. 
  24. ^ ATK Delivers First XM25 Prototypes to U.S. Army for Testing and Evaluation
  25. ^ Soldiers test new weapons at Grafenwöhr - EUCOM
  26. ^ Miller, Joshua (28 November 2010). "U.S. Army Unveils 'Revolutionary' XM25 Rifle in Afghanistan". Fox News. Retrieved 2010-11-30. 

External links[edit]