Only five XM25 weapons exist today, but Soldiers lucky enough to have used them in Afghanistan are saying more are needed.

Two Soldiers took the prototype weapons into theater to link them up with requesting units. They trained troops on the weapon’s use and managed the Forward Operational Assessment to collect information about the weapon’s performance in theater and how Soldiers used it.

“The XM25 brought the difference to whether they would stay there 15 to 20 minutes shooting (and) taking pot shots or the actual fight ended after using the XM25,” said Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Smith, Soldier Requirements Division, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, Ga. “That was due to the defilade capabilities of the XM25 to shoot beyond targets and behind targets.”

The XM25 allows Soldiers to engage defilade targets — those behind a barrier, protected from oncoming weapons fire. The XM25 measures the distance to the enemy’s protective barrier, and can then program the round to detonate a user-adjustable distance past that — allowing Soldiers to put an air-bursting round directly above the enemy’s head, inside their protected area.

The round measures the distance it travels by counting its own rotations after leaving the barrel.

Both Smith and Maj. Christopher Conley, an assistant product manager for Program Manager Soldier Weapons, at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., were part of the team that brought those weapons into theater for Soldiers to use in actual combat. The five prototype weapons entered theater in November, and were first used in combat Dec. 3.

Since then, hundreds of XM25 rounds have been fired in theater, though only 55 of those rounds were fired as part of combat, on nine different operational missions.

“We disrupted two insurgents on an OP (observation point) and we silenced two machine-gun positions — two PKM positions,” Conley said, describing some of the scenarios he witnessed in theater where the XM25 had been used. “We destroyed four ambush locations, where the survivors fled.”

“And when we launched it at a longer range target, who was carrying a machine gun and it exploded near his target — it either badly wounded him or scared him good enough that he dropped his machine gun and ran away,” Conley recalled.

Overall in Afghanistan, the five XM25s have been with two separate units. The first unit used the weapon on four engagements and fired 28 rounds in combat. The second unit was able to use the XM25 on five engagements and fired 27 rounds in combat.

“The troops are very excited to carry it,” Conley said. “We’ve limited who can carry it based on the number of folks that we’ve trained. But within that group of Soldiers that are trained on the operation of the XM25, I heard a Soldier say ‘hey, he carried it yesterday, so I get it today.'”

Some Soldiers who’ve used the XM25 in Afghanistan had taken to naming the weapon — though there is no official name for the system yet.

“The kids are calling it ‘the Punisher,'” said Brig. Gen. Peter N. Fuller, who heads up the Program Executive Office Soldier. “I don’t know what we’re going to title this product, but it seems to be game-changing. You no longer can shoot at American forces and then hide behind something. We’re going to reach out and touch you.”

Conley said during the Forward Operational Assessment, the performance of the XM25, and Soldier response to the system, provided positive response to three questions about the system from Army leadership, including if the weapon gives “higher probability of effect,” if the weapon provides more survivability for the Solider, and how will the weapon be used at squad and platoon level.

“What our Soldiers have told us is, when we do fire this weapon, it does have a high probability of effect,” Conley said. “The enemy stops firing. They flee. They drag off their casualties. Essentially, a Soldier is very happy when the enemy stops firing at him.”

Soldier survivability is also increased with the XM25 because it allows Soldiers to fire on the enemy from protected positions, while the enemy themselves believe they are in protected positions.

“We have increased the survivability of our Soldiers because our Soldiers no longer have to maneuver from their cover position to gain an advantageous firing spot for the enemy,” Conley said. “We are able to stay behind cover, and we welcome (the
enemy) to stay behind cover — because we’ll get you.”

Conley and Smith also said that Soldiers were using the XM25 as their primary weapon — forgoing additional weapons like the M4, for instance.

When the Forward Operational Assessment ended in January, and the testing organization had enough data to send to the Army leadership, they expected to take the weapons home, but Soldiers thought otherwise.

Source: C. Todd Lopez for

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