XM25 Punisher: the army’s plan for the ultimate grenade launcher


Say Goodbye to My Boyfriend: The Short-Duration XM25 Grenade Launcher – “Say hello to my boyfriend.” This iconic scene with Al Pacino as Tony Montana in the classic 1983 crime drama scarface was probably the first exposure to portable grenade launchers for many members of the Hollywood public; the specific weapon in question was the M203 40mm grenade launcher.

Four years later, thanks to the late Stanley Kubrick’s Vietnam War film Full Metal Jacketthose same Hollywood audiences got to see the M203’s predecessor, the M79 AKA “The Blooper” shotgun, which is wielded by the character THE Rock (played by actor Sal Lopez).

However, as proven as these two weapons are, grenade launchers, like other weapon technologies, have not stood still in time.

With this in mind, the XM25 25x40mm Grenade Launcher was designed. However, the XM25 did not enjoy the long term success of the M203 and “The Blooper”. Let’s see why it failed.

“The Truth Is Out There, Scully”: Creating the XM25 Files

The XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement (CDTE) system, informally known as “The Punisher” and individual semi-automatic burst system, was originally designed in 2005 as a joint venture between Heckler & Koch (HK) and Orbital ATK (which was acquired by Northrup Grumman in 2018 and renamed Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems). It was built as a semi-automatic grenade launcher designed to fire “smart” grenades – aided by a laser rangefinder – intended to explode in the air or near a target, crushing enemy fighters with shrapnel. shell.

The ammunition tank was a 5-round detachable box magazine. For comparison and contrast, the M79 was a single-shot break-action weapon, while the M203 is a single-shot pump action weapon.

The idea behind “smart” grenades, or programmable grenades, is to defeat the cover used by enemy combatants more effectively, i.e. without having to outmaneuver that cover – wasting valuable time and risking the life of your own troops in the process – and/or having to resort to overkill by blowing up, say, an entire building. In other words, to quote Steven Gilbert, project manager for the Small Arms Grenade Munition (SAGM) project, ammunition would “provide the small unit grenadier with a higher probability of first-shot kill” at increased ranges. On paper at least, this equated to a whopping 300-500% increase in the likelihood of success.

Why the XM25 Failed

With this in mind, and with the budget blessing of the Pentagon, the U.S. Army began testing XM25 prototypes in September 2005 at 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr training area, followed by a preliminary combat deployment in the real world in Afghanistan at the end of 2010.

An XM25 air grenade launcher in July 2009.

In the latter environment, the marvelous theoretical capabilities of the weapon system unfortunately translated into disappointing results and impressions in practice.

For one thing, the launcher weighed 14 pounds (6.35 kilograms) empty, about double that of an M4 carbine. Once you factored in the main load of 36 rounds of ammunition, the total package weighed up to 35 lb (15.87 kg) – again, twice as much as the rifle.

Speaking of carbines, another complaint about the XM25 was that it meant one less rifleman available in the infantry squad – a stark contrast to the M203, which was specifically designed to be mounted under a rifle – and replaced this rifle by a weapon that is practically useless in close combat (CQB).

In fact, in 2013 a Ranger unit in Afghanistan raised quite a few eyebrows when they refused to take the XM25 along, preferring to stick with their trusty M4s instead.


The XM-25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System is the Army’s first shoulder-mounted “smart” weapon. It fires low-velocity, flat-trajectory, twin-warhead 25mm ammunition designed to explode above a target.

To make matters worse, in the same year, a soldier was injured in Afghanistan when the weapon apparently attempted to feed twice, that is, to load two grenades at once.

The design returned to manufacturers to improve user safety. As a result, three years later, the $41,000 weapon now offered US taxpayers a $93,000 price tag, $90,000 more than a fully customized M4A1. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back for the Pentagon and Congressional purse-string holders; in April 2017, the Army canceled the XM25 contract with Orbital ATK and officially ended the entire XM25 program in July the following year.

Alright, so what now?

“You can’t win them all,” the saying goes, not even HK with its long history of product innovation and knack for winning government contracts. The potential successor to the XM25 program is the army’s so-called “Precision Grenadier System” (PGS). Time will tell if this one proves more successful, so stay tuned, ladies and gentlemen.

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments in Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany and the Pentagon). Chris holds a BA in International Relations from the University of Southern California (USC) and an MA in Intelligence Studies (Terrorism Studies Concentration) from the American Military University (AMU). It was also published in The Daily Torch and The Journal of Intelligence and Cybersecurity. Last but not least, he is a Companion of the Order of United States Naval Order (WE).


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