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Farewell, “Punisher”

The US Department of Defense severed the contract with the manufacturer of the “smart” hand grenade launcher XM-25

Alexey Kurilchenko “Weekly Star”

“We are forced to report that we are breaking the contract with the Orbital ATK company for the supply of 20 grenade launchers XM-25, due to the company’s inability to fulfill its obligations and provide its armament for the army.”

This statement was made by representatives of the US Army in 2017. Then it caused everyone to doubt whether the producers will be able to correct the situation and save their offspring. And so, on August 10, 2018, an unambiguous answer was given: the XM-25 program was officially declared closed. The promising “smart grenade launcher” became a real nightmare for American generals: two years of delays in deliveries, excess of declared expenses and constant improvements made the final disappointment in the novelty. But attempts to create a new generation of infantry weapons have been going on for several decades.

“Punisher” against the Kalashnikov assault rifle

The beginning of the program to develop an intelligent grenade launcher complex was laid back in the 90s of last century. Developers had a difficult task – to create weapons that would significantly increase the firepower of each infantryman. At the same time, new weapons should be fairly compact and relatively inexpensive in production. Twenty years later, in 2010, American soldiers in Afghanistan received prototypes of the new anti-personnel grenade launcher complex XM-25 CDTE, which soon received a frightening nickname “Punisher”.

TTX characteristics XM-25 
Weight (without charges) – 6.35 kg. 
Caliber – 25 mm. 
The initial charge speed is 210 m / s. 
The aiming range is 500 m. 
The warfare is a 5-charge store. 
The copy price is $ 25,000. 
The cost of the shot is $ 35.

The key feature of the grenade launcher is its electronically stuffed sight with a built-in thermal imager, ballistic calculator and range finder. The weapon is designed according to the “leap-ahead” system (jump forward) and created specifically for “smoking” the enemy from the shelter. If the enemy has sat down behind the shelter, then smart electronics will allow to “round” the obstacle and hit it from the unprotected side. This could significantly ease the fighting with Afghan guerrillas, who skillfully took advantage of the mountainous terrain, and counteract them with conventional small arms was problematic. Also pleased and the range of fire – “Punisher” is able to launch a grenade for a distance of up to five hundred meters, which exceeded the range of the shot from the grenade launcher. American generals also stressed,

Help 
Shooting from the XM-25 occurs as follows: after the soldier finds the target and points the weapon at him, the laser rangefinder calculates the possibility of a shot. If all the conditions are met, then it remains to select a point near the enemy position, for example, above the shelter. After leaving the barrel, the grenade overcomes the distance set by the shooter, explodes and hits the enemy’s living force within a radius of 6 meters.

World media immediately called “Punisher” a revolutionary weapon, a new generation for infantry weapons and awarded him many other flattering epithets. By the PR-campaign of the grenade launcher, the military also joined in. Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Lehner, justifying the high price, even stated that the XM-25 “will replace artillery and air support, which means that it will have a beneficial effect on the army’s budget.”

At the same time, skeptics have identified several problems that the novelty will inevitably face. For example, Sean Woodford, an expert at The Dupuy, specializing in scientific research and an objective analysis of armed conflicts, noted that it is unlikely that a small (25 mm) projectile will fully replace a helicopter missile or artillery shell. Especially the expert questioned the effectiveness of the grenade launcher against a well-equipped enemy, as before it was announced about countering guerrillas, rather than well-armed soldiers. In addition, a soldier with such a dangerous weapon will be the main target of enemy snipers.

Leap-ahead did not take place

The first tests in 2010 were effective, reports were received that the use of the “Punisher” increased the effectiveness of the enemy’s defeat by 500%! After such a deafening success, it was announced that as early as 2015 the grenade launcher will take its place in the uniform of an American soldier. The first batch will consist of as many as 1,100 copies! But before this “Punisher” was the second round of field trials, which ended not so radiantly.


In 2013, training fights took place in Afghanistan, including using the Punisher. Entering the firing line, the shooter did not notice the wrongly sent charge and pressed the trigger. But instead of a shot, the projectile burned.

Fortunately, the clever system prevented detonation inside the trunk, and the soldier got burned. After the incident, the manufacturer immediately withdrew all the prototypes for revision. But the story quickly reached journalists, and the whole world learned about this case. After completion, manufacturers swore that this will not happen again, but damage to reputation was inflicted, and US soldiers began to refuse to accept weapons that are dangerous for their own.

Because of this case, the company Orbital ATK began to suffer losses. But, despite this, they continued to refine their grenade launcher. The US Department of Defense decided to give a second chance to the “Punisher” and concluded a contract for the production of a small batch of grenade launchers. But even the production of 20 copies proved to be difficult for the company, and delivery was delayed for two years. In addition, the declared value, despite all the assurances of the producers, proved prohibitively high.

The patience of the generals burst, and the contract was broken. Thus ended the story of the Punisher. But attempts to create similar systems continue.

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