US Army To Begin Acceptance Testing Of XM25 Airburst Grenade Launcher

The US Army is soon to conduct qualification and acceptance testing for the radical XM25 Counter-Defilate Target Engagement System, informally dubbed “the Punisher” during operational trials in Afghanistan. DefenseNews reports:

According to XM25 maker Orbital ATK spokesman Jarrod Krull, in spring the Army will conduct qualification testing and contract validation. If the weapon fulfills the Army’s requirements, the Army could see fielding in early 2017, Krull said — assuming budget decisions also line up in the weapon system’s favor.

“It provides combat overmatch; the ability to engage the target in defilade (shielded),” Krull said.

When a soldier aims the weapon at a target, a laser finder gauges distance. The soldier can add or subtract from that distance with the push of a button and then, after setting the distance, can aim and fire. The fire control also shows a soldier how high to aim the weapon to account for gravity’s pull on the grenade based on the laser-determined distance. The company says the range is 500 meters to a target point, and 600 meters to an area target.

The weapon itself, made by Heckler & Koch, consists of lightweight material composites. Brashear made the fire control and Orbital ATK produced the munitions and integrated the system.

XM25 carries a magazine of five 25mm grenade rounds and a fire-control system that lets the soldier instantly program how far the grenade will travel before it explodes. That means a soldier can engage an enemy hiding behind a target — only he doesn’t need to hit something to ruin the enemy’s hiding place and his day.


The Army is also testing a Small Arms Grenade Munition round, a 40mm round that can be used with current M203 and M320 grenade launchers. That round itself can detect a wall it passes and explode shortly after. The Army has said SAGM was meant to compliment, not replace, the program to develop the XM25; it sees potential uses for both.

From ArsTechnica:

Early next year, the US Army will begin acceptance testing of a weapon that seems like it’s straight out of Call of Duty Advanced Warfarethe XM25 Counter Defilade Engagement System, a “smart” grenade launcher from Orbital Sciences subsidiary Orbital ATK. The XM25 is designed to be an “anti-defilade” weapon—its purpose is to allow soldiers to hit targets shielded by cover.

The XM25 has a built-in “target acquisition and fire control system” that allows any soldier with basic rifleman skills to operate it effectively—the soldier points the weapon’s target selector down range, and a laser rangefinder determines how far away it is. The soldier can add additional distance to clear obstacles, and the fire control computer gives the soldier a new aiming point to put the round on target, as well as setting the fusing of the grenade in the chamber. The grenade doesn’t have to strike anything to explode, so it can detonate in the air over whatever or whoever might be hiding behind a vehicle, wall, or entrenchment.

The XM25 has been in development since the middle of the last decade. It was originally developed by Alliant TechSystems, which was acquired by Orbital Sciences. In 2010, the Army’s PEO Soldier program office sent prototypes of the XM25 to Afghanistan for “forward operational assessment”—use in actual combat to see how it performed. PEO Soldier’s Lt. Colonel Chris Lehner said in a post about the field tests that the “introduction of the XM25 is akin to other revolutionary systems such as the machine gun, the airplane, and the tank, all of which changed battlefield tactics. No longer will our Soldiers have to expose themselves by firing and maneuvering to eliminate an enemy behind cover. Our Soldiers can remain covered/protected and use their XM25 to neutralize an enemy in his covered position. This will significantly reduce the risk of U.S. casualties and change the way we fight.”

The XM25 is one half of the original system envisioned by the XM29 Objective Individual Combat Weapon, where a similar 20mm grenade launcher was mated to a short-barreled assault rifle unit, which itself was later spun off into the XM8 program, cancelled in 2004.

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at


  • Shmoe

    Wow, they’re actually doing it. Looks like they actually learned something from the CAWS program, too. (As cool as a grenade launching 10-guage shotgun with brass cased ammo would have been.)

    OICW was started shortly after ACR was cancelled, right? Maybe the G11 still has a shot?! Go German space magic!

    • Phillip Cooper

      What was the CAWS and what did they apply from it?

      • Shmoe

        Close Assault Weapon System; basically an auto combat shotgun.

        Having refreshed my memory, it looks like I conflated it in my memory with XM29 (the 20mm version) program. My point was, that you can only make a concussion munition so small before it becomes ineffectual.

        I guess, it’s easy to get mixed up with all of H&K’s military prototypes. Still, a cool (as in: “Gee wizz that’s neat!”) program from the ’80s.

    • Edeco

      Yeah, I’m surprised this went somewhere.

    • nobody

      >Maybe the G11 still has a shot

      They’re still working on the LSAT, which took a lot from the G11. Although they will most likely go with the polymer cased version (ammo looks like a round version of what the G11 used, bullet is completely inside the polymer casing). The polymer cased ammo weighs 40% less than current 5.56 (and the caseless 51%) and due to the method of feeding eliminates the problems of stovepipes and problems related to casings getting stuck in the chamber such as torn off case rims, some double feeds (those due to worn extractors), and having to use a cleaning rod to punch out spent cases as the new feeding mechanism uses the next round to push the previous through and out of the chamber (in the even of a stuck casing you just pull the charging handle harder).

      • Shmoe

        Yeah, I have mixed feeling about the LSAT: It would certainly be a potentially invaluable development, but it looks like it’ll be quite a few years before it bears fruit; if ever. But I’m glad they keep plugging away at it.

        However, even the caseless version of LSAT is pretty conservative when compared with the G11.

  • Major Tom

    I thought the XM-25 was dead after one of them literally blew up in the face of one of its shooters in Afghanistan.

    I guess not.

    • Gjert Klakeg Mulen

      Wasn’t that due to a problem with the ammunition?

      • Major Tom

        From what I recall, that was mostly the case. A bad round cooked off way too early. But the launcher wasn’t entirely blameless.

        • Simon Spero

          Primer and propellant detonated after a double feed (payload safety did not fail at least). This happened in test, rather than in the field.

        • Drambus Ambiguous

          I could have sworn that the XM25 had a decent field test. The accidents that happened in Afghanistan were with the Daewoo K11 that the Republic of Korea was testing.

        • Joshua

          No, a primer was ignited during a double feed in a test.

          Had nothing to do with the gun.

      • aka_mythos

        It’s imprortant to consider that despite reaching this stage of testing only about 35,000 rounds of ammunition for have been produced… An intial 15k and then an additional 20k when they brought it to Afghanistan. There may have been additional lots, but those are the two I heard about.

        The 25mm round was designed to be assembled by machine, but because of the relatively low volume of ammunition these two lots were built by hand and the Army accepted a higher potential failure rate to keep costs down and testing on schedule. Important, it isn’t safety failure but overall statistical failure… a bad primer here or there sort.

  • Old Fart

    I thought it had already been tested and got cancelled? As much as I like the idea, I’d rather see the Raytheon Pike being added to the arsenal because it makes use of an already established platform (M320, although the GL-06 is a much better solution hands down).

    • nobody

      The Raytheon Pike doesn’t even fill the same role (it’s intended for taking out things like light vehicle, not as an airburst grenade to take out people who are behind cover) and even if it did it would be much worse for the role as the Pike weighs 4 times as much as normal 40mm grenades (7 of them would weigh 14 lbs, the same as the XM25 launcher) vs the 25mm grenades that weigh less than current 40mm grenades, the Pike requires a second soldier to mark the target, and the Pike no doubt costs significantly more to manufacture than the 25mm airburst grenades as it actually has a guidance system and the necessary actuators to steer the grenade in flight in it instead of just being programmed to explode after it rotates X amount of times.

      • Old Fart

        That’s not the point. The XM25 brings yet another tool to an already complex logistics chain. I am aware the Pike is a whole different breed, but my point was that there are alternatives in the established arsenal that do the same or similar job: Pike fits the 40mm bill (yes it has a diifferent mission), latest gen M72 series which is absolutely superb, and the vast array of 40mm shells -including ABM- that can be used with the M32 MGL. Why add another platform to an already amazing and proven arsenal? The US dismounted arms inventory is superb as it is. I don’t see the need for the XM25, a skilled M32 gunner can perform the same/similar job with the 40mm rounds that are already there. Adding yet another tool adds to training and logistics costs. Besides, there are physical limits to the burden of weight even the strongest of troops can bear. This has already been proven in Trashcanistan where Taliban insurgents routinely outpaced coalition troops simply because their combat loadout was significantly smaller. Speed kills, mobility is extremely important on today’s battlefield. The trick is to keep everything basic and simple and reduce wight as much as possible. The 40mm is the wonder round/diameter that can do 75-90% of the more destructive-intensive tasks nowadays. Anything from air burst, direct assault on a fixed position, light vehicles. You can do amazing things with a 40mm launcher.

        • nadnerbus

          I think in the end, your line of reasoning is probably right and will win out. But if the funds are there, it never hurts to explore multiple avenues to see which ones pan out. Options are nice to have.

          • Old Fart

            Off course. For the sake of keeping arms development alive experimenting is always a good thing.

        • n0truscotsman

          I would like to see something like this for the Gustav.

          • Old Fart

            Have you looked in to the latest gen M72 series? Amazing piece of kit I must say.

          • n0truscotsman

            I heard it was. I haven’t read much about it though.

    • Cornelius Carroll

      They’re very different weapon systems with only a bit of overlap. The XM-25 would be ideal for engaging soldiers behind cover (say perhaps in a building) at 200-500m. The Pike is better suited for taking out a snipers, light armored vehicles, and fortified HMG positions at longer distances.

      • Old Fart

        One word: M32 MGL

  • MPWS

    Another missed opportunity; this could have been first functional case-less. It would make so much more sense in combination with bull-pup layout. This way it remains caseless, just like pile of junk (aka OIWS) made before.

    • MPWS

      To address the issues of cook-off, here is the thought – make barrel of no-metallic based (ceramic/ composite). The shot is of low-pressure sort, so there is the opportunity. With that type of material it would be possible.

    • nobody

      Have you seen pictures of the XM25 ammo? The case is tiny, the only way to effectively make a caseless version would be to go with something like the Russian VOG grenade, but that would make the 25mm grenades less aerodynamic as it would remove the boattail at the back (yes the grenades actually are boattailed) and would most likely make it heavier.

      • Jon

        You can take the VOG grenade as a base and develop it to your needs. It shouldn’t be so difficult, specially if we think about how technology has advanced since 1978.

    • mechamaster

      I imagine something like caseless 30x29mm AGS-17 grenade, and straigh-pull bolt action or pump action XM-25 would be a nice combo.

      • MPWS

        Exactly: to avoid complications with feed th manual function is best for that.

      • Jon

        It’s stunning how Soviet achieved to have a bigger killing radius in a smaller grenade with roughly the same range and accuracy.

        • iksnilol

          Not really, they’re just smarter than they look like. I think they do it on purpose, to make you underestimate them. Just like North Korea’s saber rattling and stupidity distracts the world from all the atrocities happening there.

    • If I remember correctly, AAI’s OICW submission used a caseless round for the grenade launcher.

    • noob

      one thing with functional caseless, or case integrated into the projectile is that engineers still like to include some way to clear the chamber of a failed round.

      the easiest way would be to have an ejection port so you can rack the charging handle and eject the misfired round, but I guess there could be other ways (break open the weapon only in case of squib round, normal operation has the weapon functioning in caseless mode with no ejection).

  • 11B

    Whats interesting to me is that Ranger Batt took these out for a spin and concluded they weren’t very useful. They found that the soldier using it could only carry very limited ammo and, once he ran out, had no other weapon. Carrying a separate M4 isn’t feasible, especially with it’s separate ammo because of weight and simply it being too cumbersome. Furthermore, crossloading ammo onto other guys for the XM25 just increases their already overburdened loads and reduces the squad’s combat effectiveness (too much weight=slow=dead)

    In the end, the reverted to giving that XM25 soldier his M4 back because it was more useful to the squad.

    • Simon Spero

      I believe the Rangers decision was taken at a lower echelon (possibly due to mission requirements). Not worth the tradeoff with an M4.

    • Squirreltakular

      Could that be more to do with the fact that Ranger battalions tend to do more direct action missions than traditional ops? I can see this getting adobted by the Marines and big Army. At 14 lbs plus ammo, the thing is pretty weighty, but much less so than an M240 with its ammo accompanyment. It would be nice if they dropped a few pounds off of the thing, though. I’m thinking an underbarrel, single-shot version with an integrated optic would be lighter and more acceptable.

      • CommonSense23

        Its probably cause the Rangers were actually using good tactics and not getting engaged in broad daylight well outside their effective ranges. Its amazing what happens when you use good tactics.

  • ReadyOrNot

    How did the XM-25 do in Afghanistan? Any links to reports?

    • Drambus Ambiguous

      There was a whole thread on it’s test deployment in Afghanistan on militaryphotos . net before that forum went under in April. It looked good. It didn’t have all of the mishaps the Daewoo K-11 20mm rifle had that the ROK Army was testing.

    • nobody

      Supposedly engagements that would take 15-20 minutes were over in only a few minutes. The air bursting grenades supposedly made it much easier to take out anyone manning a stationary machine gun (air burst grenades have a casualty radius of about 5 meters if I remember correctly, how hard can it be to get one within 5 meters of a target that’s 1000 meters away, especially if they aren’t moving at all). Consider the current strategy of long range fire that the insurgents over there normally use and how you have to sit in one place to keep a machine gun steady and accurate enough to be effective at longer ranges.

      • noob

        It always looked like black magic for it to be able to kill with fragments that were coming backwards out of the base of the projectile. How did the fragments overcome the forward motion of the projectile that they would inherit?

        Then I found out that muzzle velocity for the XM-25 is quoted at ~690ft/s and the detonation velocity of high explosives is >20,000ft/s.

        I think body armor would have a hard time dealing with that.

        • RandomScout

          From guys who were there, they hated it. Too heavy and no battery life for the sight. They called it the Punisher because it was a punishment to carry it.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    I volunteer my services to the TRADET as I am Weapon Level 30 on these.

  • Vitsaus

    Wow, they must be building forts with stacks of tax payer money at the Pentagon.

    • Rock or Something

      It’s a far cry from the F-35 boondoggle…

      • tts

        Yea but still at ~$50K a shot this thing isn’t really practical right now for mass use.

        I’m expecting by the time they get the costs down to something reasonable the platform and ammo will be obsolete.

        • iksnilol

          I doubt it costs 50k for one shot.

      • Uniform223

        if you track the XM25 “Punisher” all the way back to its original inception… its no better.

  • Matrix3692

    I’m rather curious about what kind of TO&E the army is going to use when add the XM25 into the infantry squad.

    • Raven

      Wild guess, it’ll be something like how M79s were distributed, but in smaller numbers (probably one per squad, instead of two). The guy who would’ve been designated as a grenadier with an M203 on his rifle gets the XM25 instead, and a sidearm. Though you could make the case for issuing something along the lines of an MP9 or a PDW to XM25 gunners, it’s practically what they were designed for.

  • Bacon Chaser

    Anyone else notice the random Harris bipod under the XM25 in the top picture? Like that will do anything for this…

  • Rufus

    You thought I was gone….. but now I’m back! HEYYYY!!!!#

  • Lance

    Like the idea of a 40mm smart grenade. Though Still hope that one day the XM-25 will be available to fire 40mm grenades.

    • LCON

      Not likely the scale difference between the two is massive. a better bet would be to adapt something like the Milkor 40mm multishot grenade launcher with the FCS interface and fire smart 40mm rounds

  • iksnilol

    Wonder how light a M203 could be made from modern materials chambered for 25mm grenades.

    • Sianmink

      Lightweight 25mm single shot underbarrel launcher for infantry rifles?
      I can see a role for that.

    • LCON

      Key issue with M203 is the pump opening and the Trigger action. if you want a new 25mm under barrel might as well base it on a break open action like the HK M320. but now with systems Like Pike I don’t see this as a this or that situation M320 will continue in the squad with a XM25 being fielded by another member.
      The Versatility of the 40mm Grenade will keep it in service as will advances and it’s larger HE punch. Well the smaller blast effects of the 25mm combined with it’s rapid follow on will nitch it in along side.
      The Key issue for the 25mm weapon is how does the user defend himself when not using the XM25? It is as indicated a heavy weapons system so the user would need a secondary Personal defence weapon for those time where the grenades would be overkill. M4 is now the standard for the army and soon the Marines but lugging both would be a burden. I think it’s over due for the Army to look at a PDW class weapon.

      • HK has patent for a replacement 25mm barrel with integrated electronics for their M320 EGLM.

      • Uniform223

        Never had any problem with the pump opening and trigger action.

        That said you do make a good point between the 40mm and 25mm. The 40mm for the M203 is an “impact action” explosive. If the 40mm of the M203 had an burst function it would have even greater anti-personnel effect. The 25mm from the XM25 as I understand it is capable of being either air burst or impact detonation. Its programmable air burst effect (even from a smaller round) adds more “punch” for its size. I still don’t want to be on the receiving end of either of them.

        I would assume that the person designated to carry the XM25 would be armed with and M4 just like everyone else (excluding the SAW and 240 gunners. If you think the XM25 is heavy and bulky think what the person lugging around the Javelin feels.

        IMO PDWs are more suited for personnel protection details, vehicle crews, and base/post security. As I understand it they offer the same “punch” and penetration as carbines at short ranges but beyond that they quickly fizzle out. Besides there is little a PDW can offer over an SBR or M4A1 carbine. All in my opinion of course…

      • A B&T MP9 or HK MP7 in a drop leg holster would offer a lightweight and easy to carry “sidearm” for defending themselves out to 100 yards. Combined with the 25mm, I think they would be more than adequately armed for most engagements.

  • Nipples

    “Early next year, the US Army will begin acceptance testing of a weapon that seems like it’s straight out of Call of Duty Advanced Warfare”


  • mechamaster

    Glad to see the good news of 25mm smart grenade rise again.
    But really.. the XM25 is still looks big and cumbersome. Maybe some lightweight, mechanically simplified derivative “manual operated pump action / straigh pull bolt action XM25” is nice idea in the future…

    • Sianmink

      I understand their reason for semi-auto in the XM25, I just don’t agree with it.

      • Uniform223

        rapid and better fire suppression…

      • iksnilol

        Recoil reduction?

  • Mr. Kill

    Why not use an M4 with M203 and commercial rangefinder, then manually adjust the airburst grenade with a timer to calculate range?

    • CommonSense23


    • noob

      it’s a lighter, faster 25mm projectile, so you can either exploit the flatter trajectory for easier shots or go ballistic for increased range. The integrated electronic airburst feature allows you to set the range on the projectile while it’s in the chamber with the push of a button instead of messing with the head of a 40mm with a wrench.

    • nobody

      The XM25 is effective at much farther than the M203. The XM25 has
      an effective range against point targets of 500 meters vs the M203’s 150
      meters and a max range against area targets of 1000 meters vs the M203s
      400 meters.

  • USMC03Vet

    This is my favorite weapon in Battlefield 4.

    • TJbrena

      I’d use it more, but the forced IRNV bothers me. That, and the fact that the detonation distance is set the moment you ADS.

  • Jon

    Oh! I missed it. When did US armed forces heal from their bullpup allergy?

  • William_C1

    Looks like the improved XM25s they’re going to be testing feature a more compact fire control system with higher magnification.

  • noob

    so, in 2060 how are returned soldiers and people in the civilian marksmanship program going to get anything like this to practice with?

    Is there some kind of bullet button-like adaptation we can use to make it compliant with the law?

    eg .45 caliber inert projectiles that accurately simulate recoil and trajectory?

  • Peadair

    I’ve been looking at that 25x40mm grenade for a while now. Are the dimentions wrong or is that incorrectly labelled? I am thinking that is the 25x59mm version not the 25x40mm version.

    • Remember that the second dimension refers to the case length, not overall length.

      • Peadair

        Thanks for that.

  • mig1nc

    You got one thing backwards, the XM8 was spun out of the OICW, not the other way around.

  • FormerEnlisted

    I’m astounded that the army’s still pushing this pig!
    1. Heavy – what is it, 15 pounds at this point? They lightened it up using composites – so now it kicks that much worse.
    2. Cost per shot – $50-$100 or more? How much ammo can we buy and how much will have to be cut from other allowances?
    3. Exposure time: how long are you willing to stick your upper body above cover to get the right laser range solution? Remember, the other guy’s shooting at you and he doesn’t have to wait.
    4.Itty-bitty frags. The 25mm warhead throws frags the size of grains of sand. With luck, you get it close enough to lightly wound your target. And make him mad enough to really hurt you.

    Another “war-winning super weapon” brought to you by civilians who never served in uniform much less combat.

  • TJbrena

    “Early next year, the US Army will begin acceptance testing of a weapon that seems like it’s straight out of Call of Duty Advanced Warfare”

    Obviously, ArsTechnica never played Ghost Recon 2: Summit Strike.

    Goddamn casuals.

  • carlcasino

    I only hope the suppliers of this magnificent weapons system builds in an auto defeat/disable function. If they can give my modem for internet a hit form Colorado to reset. surely they are smart enough to build a disable for the lost or “surrendered” weapons. China and Russia already know 100% of what we know, the least we can do it keep it out of the hands of the mullah nut jobs.