A report from Jane’s has stated that the U.S. Army is putting fiscal priority on the Counter Defilade Target Engagement XM25 Grenade Launcher in this upcoming year, thus underlining the degree to which the service is committed to getting this weapon standardized. We’ve been reporting on the 25mm XM25 program for a while now, and throughout previous years the Army has ramped up testing and evaluation of the grenade launcher back in the States. If you recall, the XM25 was used in Afghanistan under a Limited Rate Production and T&E role, to which it performed very well, until one of the units accidentally exploded while in operation, almost killing the soldier behind it. The program was put on a standstill and this is where we are today. Currently the Army is requesting almost 10 million dollars for the upcoming fiscal year, with increasing fiscal requests up until 2021.
What is wrong with the current M203 and M320 40mm grenade launchers that the Army currently uses? Well for one, they are limited by their range as compared to the XM25 which seems to have an effective range out to 500 meters, while the M203 goes out to only 375 meters as per current standards. The Milkor Mk32 extends that to 400 meters because of the optical sight, as does the H&K M320 that goes out to 400 meters. These ranges were a drawback in Afghanistan where the Taliban knew that they could engage American foot patrols beyond 600 meters with PKM medium machine guns, and American troops were hard pressed to fire back as the T/O infantry squad doesn’t have anything that extends past 600. Granted M240s and sniper rifles come to that range at ease, but snipers can’t go out on every patrol, and M240s are usually integral to a weapons platoon and not a line platoon. But the biggest advantage the XM25 has is in the pre programmed air burst capacity, where the user can set the exact range and height they want the grenade to explode at. This gives a soldier the advantage of being able to explode a grenade behind an enemies cover. With a traditional 203 or 320, even if the target is in range, you’d have to get the shot placement just right to get a grenade to land directly behind some sort of defilade, which is pretty hard to do under the stress of a firefight.
The US Army has prioritised the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement (CDTE) weapon as its “number one materiel solution to mitigate a critical capability gap” for dismounted soldiers in combat, and is officially kicking off the programme in its fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget request.
Defeating defilade targets at 35-500 m is a crucial requirement for dismounted troops, as squad-sized elements have found firefights too often become stalemates once each side hides behind structures. The XM25 is designed to be a lightweight, squad-carried means of attacking defilade personnel without air support or fires support.
Accordingly, the army has requested USD9.764 million in FY 2017 for the programme and hopes for USD14.852 million in FY 2018, USD24.930 million in FY 2019, USD32.158 million in FY 2020, and USD25.798 million in FY 2021.