Home » News » Army Sending Precision Grenade Launcher to Afghanistan

Army Sending Precision Grenade Launcher to Afghanistan

by Greg on May 6, 2010

Yesterday, I spent the day at the Aberdeen Test Center, firing the Army’s latest batch of small arms and observing a demonstration of that wicked looking thing above: the XM-25 weapons system.

Here’s the story I wrote for Military​.com about the new weapon:

ABERDEEN TEST CENTER, Md. — The Army is set to send its high-tech “counter defilade” weapon to the war zone in the next few months, the first real-world deployment for the much-anticipated XM-25 Individual Airburst Weapon.

Officials announced May 5 that a group of Army Special Forces Soldiers will take the weapon with them to Afghanistan sometime this summer.

During live-fire demo here, Soldiers shot the Heckler & Koch-made XM-25’s high-explosive rounds through the window of a simulated building, showering “enemy” mannequins inside with lethal metal fragments.

Afghanistan veterans who fired the weapon for the first time this week predicted it would be a “game changing” weapon, a gun that can engage Taliban insurgents using distant ridge-tops, thick mud walls and tree lines as cover.

“It brings, right now, organic to the squad, the capability to defeat targets that we’re seeing everyday in Afghanistan — targets that we can’t currently hit,” said Col. Doug Tamilio, project manager for Soldier weapons with the Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier. “It will save Soldiers’ lives, because now they can take out those targets.”

While labeled a grenade launcher, the XM-25 is much more than that, Army officials say. It’s a precision direct, and indirect, fire weapon system that combines an array of sophisticated sensors, lasers and optics with a microchip-embedded 25mm high explosive round.

Tamilio pointed to the example of the Taliban attack on Combat Outpost Keating last October in eastern Afghanistan where some 300 Taliban insurgents swarmed a remote American base, killing eight Soldiers and wounding 22. The XM-25’s long-range, precision fire could have tipped the firefight in the Army’s favor, he said, because Soldiers could have targeted insurgents firing down on the base from distant ridgelines with high explosive rounds.

Firefights in Afghanistan take place at much greater ranges than in Iraq, typically beyond 300 meters. At that range, even skilled marksmen are hard-pressed to hit a fleeting target ducking behind cover — a bullet is only lethal if it hits the head or vital organs, which equates to about a six-inch-wide zone from the forehead to the groin, Tamilio said.

With the XM-25, Soldiers don’t have to actually hit that vital area to dispatch the enemy, they only have to aim the launcher’s air burst fragmentation warhead nearby. The warhead’s blast is equivalent to a hand grenade.
The enormous firepower advantage is obvious — Soldiers don’t have to get within throwing distance, they can drop the 25mm rounds directly into an enemy’s lap from up to 700 meters away, officials say.

“In the last area we were in, there were a lot of rolling hills, so maybe three or four hilltops away there are [insurgents] setting up on an outpost. … All they have to do to keep you from hitting them in a direct fire engagement is to get behind that hill,” said Army Sgt. Christopher Shupe, who recently returned from a combat tour in Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division.

“When you have something that you can set the distance where it explodes — that takes their defenses away — it’s essentially like carrying a mortar tube, but it’s in a rifle format and it’s something that any Soldier can use,” he said.

Even if troops are patrolling within range of the mortar tubes located back at their base, it can take up to ten minutes to call in a fire mission, said Lt. Col. Christopher Lehner, program manager for individual Soldier weapons at PEO-Soldier. Calling in artillery or airstrikes takes even longer. It took 65 minutes for Apaches to arrive over COP Keating, he said.

“With XM-25, in under five seconds I could lase, put the reticule on target, and pull the trigger,” Lehner explained. “At 400 meters, it takes another two seconds to get there and explode.“
The weapon’s ease of use is a huge advantage, he added.

The XM-25 gunner aims the weapon’s laser rangefinder at the wall or window behind where the enemy is hiding. The distance to the target is displayed on an optical lens with cross hairs that automatically account for air pressure, temperature and the ballistics of the 25mm round.

When the Soldier pulls the trigger, that data is fed into the warhead that then detonates either above or behind the enemy. The 25mm round actually has two warheads that provide more explosive than the current 40mm grenade launcher, Lehner said. He expects it to force the Taliban to change their tactics.

That precision firepower will come at a high price: It’s projected to run $25,000 per weapon. Yet, in Afghanistan today, Soldiers are forced to use much more costly systems like Hellfire missiles fired from Apache attack helicopters to hit a distant and embedded enemy with pinpoint accuracy, Lehner said.

The Army plans to spend $34 million on further development in 2011 with a production start slated for 2012, according to service budget documents. The service had planned to buy 12,500 XM-25s, but a final decision is awaiting a program review by senior Army officials.

Officials said today that the XM-25 is a specialized weapon that will be doled out selectively.
“It’s potentially an arms room weapon, where you go in and say I’m going on this type of mission, I therefore need this type of capability,” said Brig. Gen. Pete Fuller, the commander of PEO Soldier. “So, you take [the XM-25] versus something else.”

The XM-25 weighs 14 pounds with a four round magazine. But Soldiers here said the XM-25 will provide such increased lethality that the extra weight doesn’t bother them.

“I’d carry it as an extra weapon,” Shupe said, in addition to his M-4 carbine.

– Greg Grant

Share |

{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Marcase May 6, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Sure, the XM-25 is nice. But why not equip every squad with an M-32 six-shooter? Able to lay a barrage of 40mm would come close to the airburst munitions of the XM-25, but without the cost and 'exotic' 25mm rounds, which of course will forever be in short supply.

Btw, there are time-fuzed 40mm grenades (among others), so airburst munitions are (nearly) off-the-shelf available to the warfighter(s).

Reply

Brandon May 7, 2010 at 3:24 pm

You would be lucky to get 300 meters out of a 40mm round.

Reply

Doc Hug May 11, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Reminder, that XM25 is good for 700 meters. The M32 or an M203 or M320 I have fired don't have that, leaving you totally dependent on manual azmith and elevation, firing for effect.

Reply

JanZizka May 6, 2010 at 8:39 pm

Big difference between ordinary timed fuses and what the XM-25 wil do.

It times it's fuses to detonate precisely where you want them (say through a window and into a room) and gives the troops the ability to kill BEHIND and INSIDE structures and/or cover.

This weapon will really be a game changer…..can't wait to hear reports from the troops on how well it works.

Plus, easier to carry more 25mm ammo than 40 mm ammo…..smaller and lighter.

Reply

Thunder350 May 6, 2010 at 8:54 pm

This thing always reminds me of the rifle rocket attachment in Battlefield 2142 (just alot bigger). But things are always getting smaller and better..

Reply

Nadnerbus May 6, 2010 at 9:05 pm

I wonder what the battery time requirements are, it's sensitivity to dirty and getting banged around, that kind of thing. The concept is surely sound, and I know I would want that capability if I were deployed, but it will be interesting to see how much up time these things actually have when in the field. Can the round be fired as a regular impact detonating round if all the electronics fail? I bet it can, H&K are no dummies.

Reply

Doc Hug May 11, 2010 at 4:01 pm

I agree with your concerns. You would think if Army spent that much for a weapon system, they could make a easy to use carrying case to deploy, then shoulder carry.

Reply

Myles May 6, 2010 at 10:26 pm

This is excellent. Anything to help our troops. I liked how they mentions the use of hellfire missles for the same application. Although 25K per weopon sounds like alot, what is a soldiers life worth? As well as all the wasted ammo trying to kill these guys. Finally a review that seems promising. I too, cannot wait to hear the results on this new addition. Frankly, I think they should consider ever unit having one in addition to the other light/heavy weopons they carry.

Reply

Assange December 13, 2010 at 3:04 pm

The life of the soldier is worth nothing. Otherwise your govt wouldn’t have sent him there in the first place.

Reply

Brian Mulholland May 7, 2010 at 1:10 am

The photo shows something that consistently puzzles this civilian, in images of modern soldiers with shoulder arms. Only the bottom tip of the butt is against the user's shoulder. The axis of the barrel projects over the soldier's shoulder, not into it. You'd think he were firing a bazooka with a backblast.

If he were really about to fire, would the weapon be lower and more centered into his shoulder?

Reply

xsf May 7, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Centering the stock-lip to the shoulder rather than the barrel axis is fine for single-shot weapons.

Reply

Brian May 7, 2010 at 6:34 pm

Just getting the range reading?

Reply

siconik May 7, 2010 at 3:41 am
Raraavis May 8, 2010 at 8:05 am

You would rather haul a weapon that ways 35lbs empty and has iron sights and fires dumb rounds vs a day/night 14 lb rifle that has a 4x scope and fires programmable more powerful rounds?

Reply

MadMike May 7, 2010 at 3:52 am

With an effective range of more than 1,500 meters, and a 60-rpm rate of fire, the 40-mm MK-19 is an awesome weapon. But at 72-lbs. (gun only) it is not well suited for infantry use unless mounted on a vehicle. At a mere 12-lbs., the X-25 would be a welcome addition to any 11-B unit. It would be nice if it were belt-fed, though. A six-round magazine doesn't seem like enough to me. And fielding the X-25 Army-wide will take years, I would think. Twenty-five Grand is a lot of money, too. I'd hate to forget one in the crapper during an FTX.

Reply

Brandon May 7, 2010 at 3:28 pm

M4s with all there gadgets cost around $23,000.

Reply

kristian May 6, 2010 at 11:56 pm

40MM M203 range is about 300-350 for an area target. XM25 range is 500 meter point and 700 meter area. So as far as range goes, it is a no brainer that this weapon is a game changer. Add in the intergrated thermal with 4x power scope and it is a pretty bad ass package. Question is, will it hold up.

Reply

Matthew G. Saroff May 7, 2010 at 1:42 am

Shades of the Russian experience in Afghanistan, where they came to rely heavily on AGS-17 repeating grenade launcher.

Reply

Stan May 7, 2010 at 1:50 am

I remember reading about this system as being a part of the next gen rifle developed for FCS. There was no word of a German weapons manufacturer as being involved? Why isn't this a 100% American system?

Reply

TMB May 11, 2010 at 4:10 pm

This weapon has been in development for a decade. H&K is one of the best small arms manufacturers in the world.

Reply

WarScientist May 7, 2010 at 8:59 am

I'm really glad they stuck with this weapon, at one point it looked pretty close to getting cancelled.

The ability to provide accurate counter-defilade fire out to 700 metres is going to be a very significant capability which really is going to make a big difference, especially in a country like Afghanistan where finding a rock or ditch to hide behind/in is easy as pie. Suplement this with the new rearward-facing 40mm Medium Velocity grenades and as soon as a threat is detected there is going to be frag flying around the guys like.

As for the weapon itself its made by H&K so it'll survive a few bumps, and the optronics from L3 (AKA insight technologies) features a very impressive package in terms of capabilities Vs. Weight/size/cost.

A much better program than most of the crap they spent billions on in the FCS.

Reply

Andrew May 7, 2010 at 5:23 am

Brian Mulholland:
The position of a weapon's stock relative to one's shoulder is really shooter dependent. having the entire butt of the weapon seated against your shoulder can provide a more solid base, but a lot of soldiers (and civilian shooters) find that this forces the optics too low to be comfortable. In the end, comfort will win out because you can't hold a weapon steady for very long if you're craning your neck around trying to get a good sight picture.

With my M4, I tend to have just the very bottom of the stock against my shoulder, but this does vary depending on my body position (standing, kneeling, prone, under / around cover, etc.)

source: 10+ years of shooting many different weapons, Army and civilian.

Reply

jason May 9, 2010 at 8:55 pm

i agree but you also have to think about the IBA not allowing the end user to shoulder the weapon

Reply

Jeff M May 7, 2010 at 11:15 am

Yeah we need more of these individual weapon improvements. I've also visualized a backpack mortar system that uses a hearing safe launch system composed of a 2 or 3 stage rocket, you have 2-4 oil-filter sized canisters mounted atop your pack and a laser designator mounted on your gun sight, laze the target, the aiming device sends angle info to the rocket canister on your pack, you fire and it "pops" off the pack with a low-impulse charge, and then 15 or 20 feet in the air it fires the main rocket motor and guides itself to the target. Little more expensive than this system but it'd pack more of a blast in.

Another simple improvement would be a switch to a high caliber bullpup rifle like the kel-tec RFB, a .308 weapon the length of an M4 with the stopping power of an M40 sniper rifle, without sacrificing any maneuverability.

Reply

Trent Telenko May 7, 2010 at 4:16 pm

I may be reading this wrong:

“When you have something that you can set the distance where it explodes — that takes their defenses away — it’s essentially like carrying a mortar tube, but it’s in a rifle format and it’s something that any Soldier can use,” he said.

Even if troops are patrolling within range of the mortar tubes located back at their base, it can take up to ten minutes to call in a fire mission, said Lt. Col. Christopher Lehner, program manager for individual Soldier weapons at PEO-Soldier. Calling in artillery or airstrikes takes even longer. It took 65 minutes for Apaches to arrive over COP Keating, he said.

…but did we just spend a lot of money to re-invent the WW2 Japanese 50mm Knee mortar as a rifle?

Reply

The_Hand May 7, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Near as I can tell the XM25 has 2-3 times the range. It still seems like there would be a place for a 'dumb' launcher with that range, though. Then we could afford for everyone in the squad to be effective, not just the guy with the XM25 and the guy with the M14. Both of whom are likely to attract a lot of insurgent attention.

Reply

blight May 8, 2010 at 12:05 pm

I think the issue is that the knee mortar requires significant training to hit a point target, and depending on circumstances might not be convenient to put a "round through the window".

I suppose it is not unlike the knee mortar. But that's a sweet idea! An indirect fire version? But 25mm is a little small…

Reply

Raraavis May 9, 2010 at 12:31 am

The knee mortar wasn't really fired from the knee it was simply a light mortar whose base plate gave allied troops the incorrect impression it was fired from the knee. Some troops tried this and broke their leg.

Reply

citanon May 7, 2010 at 3:04 pm

This is a fantastic weapon system.

The $25000 cost is for the gun, not each grenade.

Reply

Brandon May 7, 2010 at 3:29 pm

I heard the rounds are going to be approx $60 to $125 a piece.

Reply

Jeff M May 7, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Yeah we need more of these individual weapon improvements. I've also visualized a backpack mortar system that uses a hearing safe launch system composed of a 2 or 3 stage rocket, you have 2-4 oil-filter sized canisters mounted atop your pack and a laser designator mounted on your gun sight, laze the target, the aiming device sends angle info to the rocket canister on your pack, you fire and it "pops" off the pack with a low-impulse charge, and then 15 or 20 feet in the air it fires the main rocket motor and guides itself to the target. Little more expensive than this system but it'd pack more of a blast in.

Another simple improvement would be a switch to a high caliber bullpup rifle like the kel-tec RFB, a .308 weapon the length of an M4 with the stopping power of an M40 sniper rifle, without sacrificing any maneuverability.

Reply

blight May 7, 2010 at 3:20 pm

I imagine XM-25 and M-32's would make life interesting for the enemy. If the fighting is really long-ranged, shouldn't the army consider switching back to full-length rifles?

I imagine issuing M-14's to more of the troops is not going to happen.

Reply

Brandon May 7, 2010 at 3:31 pm

There starting to issue M-14 EBRs to squads 1 per. My personel opinion is that we should just completely go back to the M-14 for mountain fighting.

Reply

blight May 8, 2010 at 12:03 pm

My only issue with full-length rifles with larger cartridges is that at close range, the AK-47 is likely to be more effective. Maybe a 50/50 mix of full-length M16's and M14's would be the maximum effective, but maybe the services will look into it.

Reply

TMB May 11, 2010 at 4:13 pm

They just increased it to 2 per squad.

Reply

Roman May 8, 2010 at 12:26 am

I like it. I imagine an air-bursting round with that range and accuracy could change the tactical situation in any firefight – open field or urban combat. I'm certainly curious about the "two warheads that provide more explosive than the current 40mm grenade" assertion. Would like to see that in action. If true, it would be pretty impressive. Maybe more explosive, but not as much fragmentation. But heck, even a good m203 shooter would probably have a hard time banging anything very accurately over a couple hundred yards on any consistent basis, right? If this can reach out that far accurately, you'd have to say that's an advantage over direct-fire only or an m203 – or even an RPG for that matter.

Reply

Roman May 8, 2010 at 12:26 am

But really in any static or defensive position, you'd probably feel a little better with the XM 25's big brother, the XM307 OCSW – right? That's probably the majority of situations in Afghanistan, you’d think. They both seem to compliment each other though – one being crew served/defensive and the other being an individual combat weapon that can go offensive and maneuver/flank, etc. The advantage with the OCSW over the Mk-19 seems obvious at half the weight. But as always, my skepticism of a smaller round never allows me to ‘believe it till I see it’. And always brings me back to question of when the heck are we’re going to replace the M-16/M-4 with something that can knock someone down at distance again? Seems much more pressing that introducing a new niche weapon like XM-25.

Reply

Raraavis May 8, 2010 at 8:23 am

I believe the OCSW was canceled or at least defunded.

Reply

Brian Mulholland May 8, 2010 at 12:59 am

Andrew, thank you. My firearms experience is limited to a .22 Mossberg bolt, not quite adequate a base of experience to visualize what a proper mount for this weapon would look like. I do wonder if the solution wouldn't be to mount the sights higher above the bore, to permit a more complete mount to the shoulder. Are stocks designed on the assumption that the user will wear body armor? It seems reasonable that they should be …. the other thought that crosses my mind is that this is a weapon that Chinese or Russian arms designers would kill to obtain. It might be worth their while to send special forces of their own to wipe out a unit carrying such a weapon, despite the risks that this would entail, in order to do so. I wonder if the weapon will carry a GPS transmitter (in the butt?) to permit its' location, or whether it can receive a signal to fry its' own processors …. might be necessary to delay the reverse engineering of the weapon.

Reply

Kristian M Lewis May 8, 2010 at 8:00 am

I good shoulder weld with a M4 is diffcult in body armor. And with a CCO at short to middle ranges it is not so important. Just put the dot on the target and squeeze the trigger, if your zero is good, you are going to hit. At longer ranges, body position, shoulder and cheek weld, breathing and trigger squeeze become much more of an issue.

Reply

Johan W May 8, 2010 at 4:37 am

I definitely think this system could be a game changer – especially in Afpak theater – shame is that it might not make it there before the supposed pullout/drawdown in 2011/12 – this is something that should have been a much higher priority much earlier.

The 5 other things that the troops there should already have but don't because money has been poured into other FCS boondogles:

1.The NLOS Missile in a box idea should have long ago been adapted as Auto mortar in a box ( I think the Finns or is it Bofors has something along these lines) with both standard ammo as well as a decelerated descending guided round fitted with a nose camera like the walleye missile. Much of the problem with indirect fires is they can't be called for fear of collateral damage. A mortar shell with a camera and a lmited ability to correct course on a decelerated descent would seem to me to be a far more quickly attainable goal than either NLOS or even the hideously expensive excalibur guided artillery round which has to deal with being engineered to withstand the extremes of being fired from modern rifled artillery. Ideally it would include an option abort either by airbursting at sufficient height to be harmless or by disarming if too low so that at worst it might kill if it lands clean on someone but is otherwise inert. Like the Israeli Spike it could provide final confirmed recon and attack in one package. Aditionally if the first one or two rounds from the mortar provide close overhead recon that the target justifies more intensive treatment the rest of the fire mission could be carried out by the same automortar using cheaper dumb ammo vectored on the co-ords supplied by the first round, with perhaps the final round of the mission performing an immediate BDA.

2. A man portable boomerang or similar firefinder or at the least accelerated devel of the vehicle born ones – they should be ubiquitous. A big part of securing against insurgents is killing insurgents rather than allowing them to so often shoot and scoot.

Reply

Johan W May 8, 2010 at 4:38 am

3. Although I am a big fan of the Boston Dynamic Robot dog and and the R&D pursuing a robotic mule will I think eventually payoff, for this war, right now perhaps the requirement for a robot mule given the mobility penalty imposed on heavy equipped troops needing to operate on foot against a nimble opponent, might have prompted someone in the DOD to remember that the pursuit of a robotic mule is based on , you know, the flesh and blood ones, which the US Army used to operate in large numbers. I would wager a small part of the FCS various robotics programs would have been enough to revive a mule or ass program that could have dramatically enhanced the mobility, capability, firepower and persistence of foot mobile patrols, both Coalition and ANA.

4. And one of the things that those mules would be carrying would be Manportable UAV's like the dragon eye and plenty of batteries for it. Overall there would be far more persistent overhead surveilance, accesible to each patrol in real time, including staring camera arrays on Balloons or powered gliders mostly circling on thermals, silently and difficult to spot only occasionally needing to enage power to get altitude – with endurance of weeks. Every company on patrol should be able to access real time overhead imagery 24/7. UAV's have been a big success story but over near a decade of war they should have become far more ubquitous so that it would be impossible to still talk about the enemy being ghosts able to break contact and escape at will. Just simple versions such as combining a popular afghan pastime with the advantages of over the hill and around the corner imagery – have a Kite that can mount a sensor package/camera. Persistant overhead imagery portable enough for Platoon level patrols and simple enough that it can enhance ANA capabilities whilst relying on an ubiquitous local skillset.

5. Again something that soldiers already have – even if not actually officially issued- and vastly underused. I am talking about portable video cameras and cameras. It is shocking how something that the Coalition should be massively at and an advantage in is an area where the enemy is to often making the running – PR/Psyops/Propoganda. The average Coalition soldier is vastly more tech and media savvy than his average Taliban or AQ or Iraqi insurgent counterpart. Vastly better equipped as well – with many going to battle with high quality DV cameras and with access to DV editing programs and the requisite hardware. In addition the coalition is fighting one the most outright despicable, villainous and perfidious enemies – as well as incompetent – to appear outside the pages of a comic book – one that with a little directed effort should offer the coalition an near endless source of propoganda/pr victories just by getting a clear look at the enemy and what it does and how it fights in the most arresting way possible – pictures and video. And yet it the coalition that is almost constantly on the defensive. Relying on a treacherous, vacuous, tendentious western media is a recipe for disaster. Soldiers should be encourage to get the best imagery of the use of civilian sheilds, playing possum, dropping and picking up arms, the use of child soldiers, and graphic imagery of every Taleban atrocity, every school destroyed, every girls face destroyed by acid and be entirely unaplogetic in doing everything to positively encourage utterly murderous hatred for the Taleban.

And even though it's over the quota I will add one more thing – bring back Napalm.

Reply

howard May 12, 2010 at 4:31 pm

why not fight fire with fire?
if the Tals use RPGs and they have a range
of 1100m ,… why don't our guys/girls have
RPGs with the same range and a 100 m
more added?
geezus… who wants an up close and personal
fight in the field? we always preferred cooking
their butts as far from us as we could.
by the way, why AREN'T our patrols
running with 24/7 air cover above?
you'd think the Air Force couldn't manage
to provide some integrated air superiority
cover in that part of the world.
you throw up a and have a fly boy
or girl standing by to pop the bad guys
hiding behind the hills our troops haven't
even seen yet.
it grinds me to hear reports that the
backup is 10 – 65 minutes rear of the
front line.
anyone hear of RC-135 or AWACS?

Reply

pheyjay January 2, 2013 at 5:44 pm

what a nice new weapon go us soldier kill all the goddem terorist!!!

Reply

Brandon May 11, 2010 at 4:04 pm

WATCHING CNN what but cnn gives you all the new you would ever need or ever want and there definatly not biased. (sarcasim)

Reply

Adam Foerster May 11, 2010 at 4:52 pm

The M-32 would help, but it would need a diferent aiming system. The m203 and m320 have a effective range of only 160yd.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: