U.S. Army weapons officials predict that the long-awaited XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement weapon will be ready for fielding by late 2014. The weapon will be known as the M25.
"We'd take the X off," Lt. Col. Shawn Lucas, the Product Manager Individual Weapons, said in an Army press release. "It's no longer experimental; it'd be the M25."
XM25 is currently in the engineering and manufacturing development phase and not yet ready for fielding, Lucas said. Army officials halted operational testing in of the shoulder-fired, 25mm airburst weapon in February after a soldier suffered minor injuries when the weapon "malfunctioned" in Afghanistan. The weapon experienced a double feed and an “unintentional primer ignition” of one round, Army officials maintain.
The XM25 had already completed one 14-month battlefield assessment and was in the early stages of a second assessment when the double feed and primer ignition occurred during a live-fire training exercise.
Right now, Lucas said the Army is working to make more improvements to the design of the XM25, in particular to the fire control system. He also said there has been a lot of feedback concerning battery life, weight, and the size of the magazine. Army officials hope to complete the improvements by next August when the service hopes to move to a “milestone C” acquisition decision in the program.
“That will allow them to start low-rate initial production, or LRIP, and manufacture a little more than 1,100 of the weapons, along with the needed ammunition,” Lucas said. “The LRIP decision will help prove out manufacturing processes for the weapon, the fire control and the ammunition. Additionally, those systems would then be used to do operational and live-fire testing.”
The cost for the XM25 and the rounds it fires is expensive today, Lucas said, because the weapons and ammunition are being manufactured by hand. But with development of automated production facilities, he said the price is expected to come down to about $35,000 for the weapon and fire control system, and about $55 per round.
The XM25, which some troops call the Punisher, has created both excitement and skepticism in the infantry community.
The weapon features a target acquisition system that calculates the target range with a push of a button, and transfers the data to the electronic fuse built into the 25mm round. When fired, the projectile is designed to explode directly above targets out to 600 meters, peppering enemy fighters with shrapnel.
Despite its boxy shape, infantrymen who have fired the XM25 in combat say it's effective at engaging enemy forces hiding behind the short mud walls commonplace across Afghanistan.
Lucas said he expects the weapon will be fielded to all brigade combat teams, as well as units in U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Special Forces detachments, and the 75th Ranger Regiment.
But so far, the XM25 has also received its share of criticism from door-kickers who say the five-shot, 14-pound weapon system is more of a burden than a benefit to combat units. In March, elements of the Ranger Regiment refused to take XM25 with them for a raid on a fortified enemy compound in Afghanistan, sources familiar with the incident said.
After an initial assessment, Ranger units found the XM25 too heavy and cumbersome for the battlefield. They were also concerned that the limited basic load of 25mm rounds was not enough to justify taking an M4A1 carbine out of the mission, sources say.
XM25 is an offshoot of the Objective Individual Combat Weapon program the Army began in the mid-1990s to increase firepower effectiveness. It was then known as the XM29 -- an over-and-under system with a 5.56mm carbine on the bottom and the 20mm airburst weapon on top. The OICW program stalled in the face of technical challenges that made the 18-pound weapon too heavy and bulky. The program ended up costing about $100 million.
Weapons officials maintain that developing the airburst weapon separately will ultimately field a game-changing weapon to infantry units.
"It's a leap ahead, something that has never before been resident in the squad, or really our small tactical formations, squads, platoons or companies,” Lucas said. “That's the ability to engage, and have effects on targets that are in defilade."