Inside the XM-25 After Action Reports from Afghanistan

Kit Up! obtained information late Thursday regarding the true numbers behind what the Army is calling a “game changing” weapon that leaves the enemy “no place to hide.”

We ran a story on Military.com the next day that reflected the Army’s enthusiasm for what Soldiers are calling “The Punisher” and illustrating how the counter-defilade gun can stop firefights in their tracks.

Kit Up! learned, however, that while the XM-25 is impressive, the weapon had been fired a few more than 50 times in less than 10 engagements and had chalked up only two suspected kills.

After getting the brush off from PEO Soldier Weapons initially, they later set up an interview for us to talk to Col. Tamilio (PEO Soldier Weapons), LtCol. Lehner (XM-25 PM), Maj. Christopher Conley (XM-25 field evaluator) and Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Smith (XM-25 field evaluator) to “tell the American people” whats really going on with the weapon.

So, here’s the straight dope (and this is verified by another source not connected with PEO Soldier — and NOTE: I do know at least one of the units who has used the XM-25 in Afghanistan, but I agreed not to reveal the information for OPSEC reasons).

The XM-25 has fired 55 rounds in nine firefights between Dec. 3 and January 12, when the formal Forward Operational Assessment ended. Officials say the weapon “disrupted” two insurgent attacks against an observation post, destroying one PKM machine gun position in one of those attacks. That is where the “usually our engagements last for 15-20 minutes. With the XM-25 they’re over in a few minutes” line came from.

The XM-25 also “destroyed” four ambush sites during engagements on foot patrols or movements to contact. In one instance, the 25mm HE round exploded on a PKM gunner and he was either wounded and fled or scared and fled, but dropped his machine gun, which Soldiers later recovered.

Two units within the 101st Airborne have used the XM-25 since November. The first unit fired 28 rounds in four TICs, the second unit fired 27 rounds in five TICs.

Keep in mind, however, these numbers reflect the AAR from the formal forward operational assessment. Both Lehner and Conley are heading back over to The Stan in a couple weeks to get more data since the weapon is still being used as we write this.

Contrary to what we’d heard on Thursday, both Conley and Smith said Soldiers usually carried the XM-25 as their primary weapon when on patrol with no personal weapon at all. Typically on patrol, the XM-25 gunner is used for overwatch, so he’s not kicking in a door or searching a qalat.

Here’s how SFC Smith described one of the attacks on an OP where the XM-25 knocked out the bad guy:

If you know anything about Afghanistan you know that the enemy likes to hide behind stuff and we really can’t shoot through boulders and stuff like that. On the first engagement we were engaged by PKM fire up on the OP. And what happens is you receive fire and you return fire. …What happened was when we initially received the PKM fire, you reengage with your 240s and your M2s and your M4s, and after we figured we really weren’t getting to the enemy enough, the Soldier was directed to fire with the XM-25 … and like I said before, the enemy likes to hide behind rocks and boulders and we really can’t shoot through stuff like that. After [the Soldier] engaged with four rounds of the XM-25, the firefight just ceased. We really couldn’t go out and do any BDA or anything like that. But you could tell that when the XM-25 brought the difference to whether they would stay there 15 or 20 minutes shooting, taking pot shots at us where the actual fight ended after using the XM-25. That was due to the ability of the XM-25 to shoot beyond targets and behind targets.

Smith said it turned a 15-20 fight into a 5-7 minute fight. Might have been a nice weapon to have at Wanat or Keating

So while the body count racked up by The Punisher isn’t great — those with experience in Afghanistan know fights are usually at a range where BDA is impossible. But what really matters is that the shooting stops. PEO officials pointed out that in the nine TICs where the XM-25 was used, not one single Soldier was injured or killed.

Lastly, Col. Tamilio said that the XM-25 will likely stay with the unit that has it now in Afghanistan through the winter. Around March they’ll bring the five weapons back, see what kind of wear and tear they endured and refit them to “like new” condition. Then they want to give the five Punishers to a unit who’s spooling up for deployment and have them take the XM-25s over with them.

“We really want them to train up with it in the US before they go,” Tamilio said, adding they’ll keep the weapons in the field as long as they hold up.

One interesting vignette Maj. Chris Conley told me:

The troops are very excited to carry it. We’ve limited who can carry it based on the number of folks that we’ve trained. But within that group of Soldiers that are trained on the operation of the XM-25 it’s definitely a case of — I heard a Soldier say ‘Hey he carried it yesterday so I get to carry it today…’ There’s certainly some posturing and whatnot between the Soldiers to try to get to carry it. We trained a guy on Christmas and he was literally thanking me saying “Wow, this is the best Christmas ever!”…

I’m sure that Soldier’s mom wouldn’t be pleased to hear that…but some of the rest of us can understand his enthusiasm.

  • LTGrumbles

    Loving to hear that this thing is stopping firefights early and effectively despite a small body count (for now). Still, I just can’t get around the idea of sensitive batteries and electronics strapped to field weapons and have a hard enough time as it is getting over the 3-4 lbs of batteries, with more to com, for e-gear already issued. In FOB-COP situations in AStan, maybe, but I’m almost certain (correct me if I’m wrong) that without that computer it is functionally useless…I don’t see backup iron sights, rangefinder do you? On the day they find a way to put that Aimpoint 40,000 hour “always-on” technology into a system like this, I’ll hurriedly change my mind.

  • Brandon

    Now if only this tech could somehow be applied to the 40mm 203s under many M4s downrange.

  • jshrake

    sounds encouraging……

  • Patrick

    no m203’s are being replaced by, m320

    • Tim

      That just means more 203’s for my Corps, so I’m ok with it.

    • He’s saying that he’d love to see smart fuzing applied to underbarrel grenade launchers.

      • A.Lentz

        Metal storm already has them for the MS 3GL, the same munitions are used on a automated defence system that can engage RPG’s mid-flight.

  • Stefan S.

    Still hope they don’t drop it. Oops punisher broke!

  • Strike-Hold

    Whether its M320s, M32s, M203s, Mk.19s or M79s – it is definitely a worthy question to ask why this range-finding, programmable technology hasn’t been implemented in the existing arsenal of 40mm grenades.

    Why do we need the loads of cash and R&D time for a whole new weapon system and ammunition?

    • Ozone

      Now you know why the DOD budget is so high. Look at how many times the BDU’s have been reinvented.

  • Dan

    Don’t forget every round costs $1000.00, bean counters might think that’s too much for grunts. damn politicians.

  • subutai

    Now if we only had a strategy to win this war, to go with our shiny new death ray guns. Endless foot patrols and drone strikes still haven’t yielded an Afghan army fit to defend themselves, and Pakistan is still off limits, just like Cambodia and Laos during the Vietnam war. But I’m a big fan of anything that makes Pashtuns nervous, so ENGAGE that bad boy!

  • Uncle Willie

    To answer some questions:

    The reason this hasn’t been applied to 40mm weapons systems is 2 fold:

    1. The 40mm grenade is not a flat trajectory weapon, it arcs quite a bit. This style of system works best with a relatively flat trajectory.
    2. 40mm grenades weigh a lot. These 25mm grenades weigh less, and are smaller, which means gunners can carry more of them loaded into magazines. This means they can fire them faster, and reload quicker. This isn’t an option with 40mm rounds. More ammo and a higher ROF means more suppressive fire, and longer engagement times.

    Yes, at $1000 a round these things are insanely expensive. That’s because at the moment they are being hand made. If this weapon gets cleared for mass issue, production will ramp up and costs will go down considerably.

  • d-man

    what if the enemy will get one. What happens then.

    • Uncle Willie

      They quickly run out of ammo and batteries, and are left with a hi-tech boat anchor.

      • Silent8541

        sounds like a real option in both ambushes and frontal engagements. Wish they had them when I was active Marine Corps

        • Candy Man

          The fact that a soldier is enthusiastic about carrying a heavier weapon would seem to be a good testimonial. Seems like it provides a mini artillery option at the unit level. How would it work at shorter ranges say out to 200 yards?

  • I doubt Habib will have much more luck operating the rangefinding and such than his camel will.

  • howard

    another longer range weapon for the soldiers
    in a hot firefight to use.
    heck, position 155’s up there and let
    them take out the over 500 meter threats.
    the product website had a nice graphic on
    optional ammo variants. https://peosoldier.army.mil/factsheets/SW_IW_XM25

  • firebouy

    Seems like a lot more wound potential in the open areas.Enclosed inside buildings, the blast effect would be devastating.
    Hopefully they can get this technology on some larger weapons.
    As far as cost,I would not care,raise my taxes a penny or two. Anything saves you young folks in that
    turd town is ok by me and most Americans.

  • Pete Sheppard

    Scaring is not killing. If the thing doesn’t score kills, the fear will go away; all you have is an expensive firecracker.
    How much blood was around that dropped PK? Enough to indicate a mortal wound?

  • bbb

    $50,000 for two kills is a bargain compared to firing Hellfires at $80,000, or ~$50,000 in small arms ammunition if you go by Vietnam numbers.

    And when you consider the reduced number of friendly causalities (at what, $500,000 a pop for injured, $1,000,000 for a fatality?), $1000 a round is nothing.

  • Dan

    There are air-bursting 40x46mm LV rounds and FCS’s for underbarrel grenade launcher. The MPRS from IMI (Israel) is one. ST Kinetics also has a version. The nature of the 40mm round limits its range and accuracy but increases the payload significantly over the 20mm or 25mm round of the XM25.

    • jin

      why not add a thermobaric round

  • Uncle Willie

    Dan, the XM’s 25mm round does more than airburst, it airbursts at a selected distance.

    Lets say the gunner is taking fire from a guy behind a wall 50m away, The XM gunner uses his weapon’s range finder to get the distance to the wall, presses a button to add 1m to that distance, then shoots the 25mm grenade. The grenade blows up 1m behind the target, automatically.

    It’s not just that it airbursts, it airbursts exactly where you tell it to.

  • SGT Dan

    Kit Up, if you’re going to be all OPSECish about who in the 101st was testing it in combat, maybe you shouldn’t have used a pic where the 2nd Brigade’s black heart helmet patch was visible. Just sayin’.

    My old first sergeant had the opportunity to fire it over there in one of those TICs. He said it flushed the guy out of cover and wounded him a little and the guy next to him with an ACOG-topped M4 finished him off.

  • OriginalK

    If they’re going to ramp up, they should build up a large number of the weapons and release them in a large group. Dribbling a few here and there will give time for the enemy to find countermeasures. Like making sure their hides have some kind of a roof.

  • Guest

    When it comes to close range contact… maneuvering.. and cover behind rock formations… IT IS A GAME CHANGER!____And every operator doesn’t need to have one to make the difference.____Think of instant precision direct/indirect fire with a cluster munition effect. Snipers are trained to strike the target… imagine if all they have to do is get the round close to the target.____Appreciate on that a bit.

  • Peter

    Hasn’t the South Korean Army had a weapon much like this for some time? Y’all pardon me for bein’ a pore dumb redneck but wouldn’t it be cheaper to buy a few dozen of these SoKo ones for testing and, if they work, pay them a fee for producing them?

  • Anthony

    all u’d really have to do is keep it in a gun case until ready to fire. computer would be safe and sound. so simple lol

  • JasonW1415

    Are we considering 2 kills in 55 rounds to be a small body count? Because that’s crazy talk.

  • Johnno

    A $1000 a “pop”………. What is the price of one American KIA ???. If your in a war, the aim is to win it , That my friends is the name of the game. Anybody out there remember Vietnam ????

  • geckcgt

    Those are having problems at the moment, they’re also bolt action =/

    • bbb

      The 25mm airburst round has been in development for over a decade. Don’t you remember the OICW?

  • Chieftain

    Late to the dance.

    We had a low tech option to be able to hit bad guys hiding behind rocks. Mortars & Howitzers. They worked, but were a bit heavy.

    I hope this is worth the money, time, weight, and reduction in rifles. To be continued…………

    Go figure.

  • whiterchocolate

    2 possible kills for 55,000 in ammo alone. not to mention all that R&D money and the weapons themselves. I just dont see how they could fit enough explosives and shrapnel in that little thing with all the microchips and fuse. just another excuse for the military to throw money away . Hooray!!!

  • TFI

    Q? Does the shooter continue to laser the target after firing? Or is it a fire and forget system? Rationale: the shooter would be exposed longer?

  • Richard

    Once the target is lazed, the user can adjust the round to explode 3 meters shorter or longer. The round is actually programmed to measure its distance through how many spiral rotations it makes; once the programmed distance has been traveled, the round explodes. The moment that trigger is pulled, the round has already been told what to do and the shooter can get back into cover.

  • Jack

    You read my mind. Strap the fuse to something more lethal

  • X-Grunt

    The jury is still out on XM25. The problem is the size of the frag from 25mm round is not sufficient to cause serious injury or death unless you use a lot of them. This is primarily the reason why there hasn’t been a lot of BDA. The gun has a lot of fanncy gadgets on it for the soldier to play with, but in the end, the only thing that matters is what kind of body count does it produce (lethality vs. high tech).

    • Jack

      Good point, “we” Stated the same thing to the PM years ago when they asked us if “we” wanted to sign up for this requirement. The technology has existed in the MK47 ALGL for years. The MK285 40mm with an effective range of 2000m +, measures range, programs the round and fires. “We” have folks that have multiple confirmed kills with one round at 1700m using just the fire control on the MK47. The fuse system and Fire Control on the XM25 has dazzled the big army, yet it can’t yield significant BDA. Some higher up personalities are slowly beginning to understanding they have been doped by the “Game changing” capability that has existed in the 40mm package for years and it is much more lethal. The caliber is not the issue, the programmable fuse is. Due to the amount of money already invested in this program, it is almost “Too big to fail.” My curiosity rests with the material developers (GS) and how they obtained funding for this concept. The required comparative analysis and justification for a new capability would have been included the MK47’s 40mm MK285 programmable airburst round. Like you said, “The jury is still out.” I wouldn’t want to be the one to answer questions like “Why did we give you millions of dollars to create something that already exists?”

  • Slag

    It all depends on how many of them can read, let alone read english…

  • Slag

    @Johnno, We remember all to well, All to well

  • Slag

    I know! The next gen should be thermo-nuclear warheads!
    Mini-mushroom clouds for everyone!

  • X-Grunt

    What amazes me the most is how we have all been wow’d by weapons like the XM25. Newer is not necessarily better. Smart weapons will never replace a smart soldier. soldiers that are trained to think on their feet and adapt to an ever changing enviroment will win the battles (current and future). Warfighters equipped with weapons that we have in our current arsenal (with improvements and minor upgrades) are capable of effectively taking out threat targets. Training is paramount to making our Warfighters more survivable and lethal. Spend our money to improve training facilities, training systems and training doctrine. Once we have mastered training, then we can look at building better weapons. Building and fielding better weapons before you have improved training is like placing the cart before the horse.

  • AD

    probably blow himself up

  • Dave Schulz

    In respect on how to fill Infantry units with XM-25s, consider this. Give the ammo bearer in an Infantry heavy weapons squad an XM-25 in exchange for the M4 (2 total XM-25s per Infantry platoon). As a former Rifle Infantry Company Commander, I know that most Infantry units do not have enough men to fill the Ammo Bearer position. However, if units do fill the ammo bearer AND assistant gunner, then the ammo bearer is more than capable to carry and employ the XM-25. This way, rifle platoons maintain the M203 capability in the Infantry squad while adding this new precision weapon system.

  • Like the earl model star light scopes in Vietnam, US troops seldom let the ARVN troops get their hands on this “state of the art” night vision piece of technology for fear they would eventually wind up in the hands of VC or NVA troops.
    So too, should the XM-25 “Punisher” NEVER be allowed access to ANY AFGN security forces for the exact same reason. Both pieces of weaponry had “game changer” capabilities as part of their design and for that reason, deserves to be used only by US troops now and in the foreseeable future.

    • Joe

      They should hand this weapon out to the Taliban. In all the years it has been deployed, it has not created one confired KIA yet. The only great thing about this weapon is the fire control and fusing. We told the big army years ago, “There is not enough NET explosive to create lethal effects.” It is on par with a cherry bomb. They have a contact were they engaged a machine gunner while being firing. The round struck the machine gun and THE GUY WALKED AWAY. A 40mm Would have killed this guy instantly. These are the issuers not being exposed. It doesnt kill the enemy, let the program die and salvage the technology.

  • doc Young

    Hey man, the politicians gotta eat too! They can barely live on their lowly $180,000.00+ salary and free cars and salary kick backs from their families.

  • doc Young

    most of them can barely read their own language,much less english. They have to get someone else to translate for them and hope and pray to allah that he tells them the truth!!! maybe 1 in 250 can speak english and then only 1out those250 might be able to READ it so the possibility of them reading what the weapon and ammo are to do is nill to none.

  • doc Young

    YEAH I REMEMBER IT!!! EVERY F***ING NIGHT!!!! Isee all my Marines that I couldn’t saave over there and some that I did save PHYSICALLY, but their minds are as gone as mine is!!!!!!!

  • Those quotes are priceless! The one about Christmas and the one about the one about Christmas! CLASSIC!

  • Agreed re: training.

    However, the smartest most well trained soldier in the world cannot make a bullet go around a boulder. Don’t miss the forest for the trees. That’s the beauty of this thing, it will neutralize a threat without having to flank the enemy or call in artillery or air support. It does it right now. Boom. Done. It’s a game changer if ever there was one.

    And at $1,000 a piece, this really isn’t some fancy expensive flashy “smart weapon”. I mean, if we could make an m203 grenade launcher do what this thing does, I imagine they would have done it by now…but they can’t. IMHO.

  • Joe

    Your comment is just good old fashioned double talk. The XM25 has already been taken out of theater without killing a single enemy combatant, let alone neutralize one. The truth is already leaking out. Pick a title, new or old, OICW or XM25, they do not work. They worked great on balloons in the demo’s, not so well on people. Many of the comments here comparing 40mm to this XM25 are purely misleading. Unlike the XM25, the M320 actually kills. 40mm/M320 has a burst radius of 5m and double the explosive of the XM25.
    Q: How does reducing the overall explosive weight, caliber, then add more fuse create greater lethality?
    A: Accuracy? Again, what’s the body count after all of those FOA’s? Zero
    The comment that this system is a good alternative to artillery is ridiculous. This concept or line of BS was barrowed directly from the multiple Carl gustaf ONS’s coming from theater. (A genuine alternative to artillery)
    Is this a forum of “has bean’s” or just marketing guys/PM’s?
    “XM25, Too big to fail”

  • Joe

    The technology has existed in the MK47 ALGL for years as well as compatible 40mm x 46mm rounds. (203) The MK285 40mm with an effective range of 1700+, measures range, programs the round and fires. There are folks that have multiple confirmed kills with one round at 1700m using just the fire control on the MK47. USASFC/USASOC

  • Paul

    Israelis have just announced a conversion of the M203 40mm that does the same thing. Cheaper to make the kit and the rounds, keeps an individual weapon in the fight. USMC is looking to buy it.

  • DAVID PEDDLE

    Well I have read all the posts wrt the new Army Experimental XM25 and the one about the Marines M 32 and the current issue M203 and the XM320, the replacement for the M203. By the way what is the min safety range for a round? Maybe 30m? So if the grenadier has to use his wpn he is firing a slug at that range.
    I took particular note of the costs mentioned, about $40,000-00. The rounds I believe cost about $1,000- each.
    My point is the US Marines bought the M203 which is a copy, jazzed up version of the old South African 40 mm MGL which came out in 1987! However they are happy with the low vel weapon which fires out accurately to 400m. The new South African 40 mm Multiple Range Grenade Launcher (MRGL) using medium vel ammo fires accurately and I mean all 6 rounds landed within 5 m, out to 800m! A company has 9 guns which when coordinated in the defensive fire plan, can put down a devastating belt of fire out to 800 m within 13 secs, landed, all 6 rounds per gun on the target. Reload in up to 8 seconds depending on skill. The fire control orders are similar to a mortar pl and thus all guns seen as part of the Pl Coy Bn defence fire plan. Not just a souped up squad gun but a support weapon of note. The proximity fuse the XM 25 is struggling to construct is available in 40 mm. The RSA gun is available at ZAR 50,000- each. That’s about $4,700- each. 5 rounds later with the XM25 and you have bought a gun! South African Infantry grenadiers carry their R4 5.56mm rifles as well as the MGL. How about a joint venture and we will build a factory there for less.