RIP: Army Finally Cancels XM25 'Punisher'

Matthew Moss
by Matthew Moss

The US Army has officially cancelled its XM25 ‘Punisher’ Counter Defilade Target Engagement weapon system after years of development and funding problems. The program first ran into trouble back in 2016, when the Department of Defense Inspector General published a damning report stating that the handle of the program had been mishandled.

The XM25, a bullpup air-burst, direct-fire weapon for engaging targets behind cover, originally began as an offshoot of the Army’s Objective Individual Combat Weapon program, which itself was an offshoot of the abortive Advanced Combat Rifle program. Production of the XM25 had been continually delayed since 2014, with problems stemming from both the Army and also Heckler & Koch and Orbital ATK, the manufacturers. After almost 20 years of development work the program ground to a halt in 2017, with the Army terminating their contract with Orbital ATK failed to deliver 20 prototype weapons for field testing and evaluation.

XM25 in Afghanistan c.2010-13 with ISAF (DoD/US Army)

Since 2017, the program had all but ceased to exist with no contractor able to produce the complex weapon system. At the time Product Manager Individual Weapons, the department heading up the program, said “there is a requirement within the Army to have an air-burst, direct-fire capability within our formation. The Army is reassessing the actual requirement itself, and we are pursuing material solutions.”

Following the cancellation of the contract Orbital ATK launched legal proceedings against their project partnet Heckler & Koch, blaming the German company for their failure to deliver on the contract. In July 2018, the two firms settled their dispute with Heckler & Koch paying ATK just $7.5 million in compensation.

According to Stars & Stripes the Army have now formally terminated the XM25 program, as part of a waste cutting exercise, with an official memorandum being signed on 24th July. Despite the termination of the program the Army has received the rights to the programs research and development data and assets from ATK and Heckler & Koch as part of a negotiated settlement for the failure to fulfil the production contract. Stars & Stripes estimate that the program’s cancellation could save the Army as much as $970 million.


Matthew Moss
Matthew Moss

Managing Editor: & Overt Matt is a British historian specialising in small arms development and military history. He has written several books and for a variety of publications in both the US and UK. Matt is also runs The Armourer's Bench, a video series on historically significant small arms. Here on TFB he covers product and current military small arms news. Reach Matt at:

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5 of 249 comments
  • Mikial Mikial on Aug 14, 2018

    More Rube Goldberg nonsense. Better to buy guns off the rack and quit wasting billions of our dollars on projects that never seem to get finished.

  • Ahead22 Ahead22 on Aug 14, 2018

    I know the real problem is how to get the right distance value of targets.

    In 1990s, I got a similar idea and gave it to PLA. The key idea of it is a time fuse inside the grenade,shooter measure the distance and set its value,I didn't think PLA had the ability to put a laser ranger on such a small device,so shooter will have to try several times to get his target destroyed.

    Now the same problem occurred,in many circumstances you can't get the correct value of your target,even with a laser ranger.

    There might be some methods to solve this problem.
    One method is to use a scanner to get a small digital map including your target,then pinpoint it out.
    The scanner can also be mounted on a drone.
    I think this method can be used by mortars too.

    • See 2 previous
    • Ahead22 Ahead22 on Aug 16, 2018

      @Andy Skibba There may be another way to ignite the grenade at the correct place,and you don't need to get its accurate velocity. Using a radar or even a laser ranger or any other means to monitor the outbound grenade and send a signal to ignite it when it reach the place you preferred.