The Army’s ‘Punisher’ Airburst Weapon Is Officially Dead

After years of delays and cost increases, the Army has officially pulled the plug on the XM25 Counter-Defilade Target Engagement System, the 25mm shoulder-fired airburst weapon lovingly nicknamed ‘The Punisher,’ Stars and Stripes reports.

Originally touted as a “leap-ahead” enhancement to soldiers’ arsenals in Afghanistan, the XM25  semi-automatic weapon that uses a target acquisition and fire control system to identify targets, determine range, and program specially-designed, high-explosive ammunition to explode in proximity to enemies nearly 2000 feet away

U.S. Army/PEO Soldier

A Soldier aims an XM25 weapon system at Aberdeen Test Center, Md. It features an array of sights, sensors and lasers housed in a Target Acquisition Fire Control unit on top, an oversized magazine behind the trigger mechanism, and a short, ominous barrel wrapped by a recoil dampening sleeve.

The program has been in limbo since May 2017, when the Army’s senior leadership canceled its contract with Orbital ATK after the defense firm “failed to deliver the 20 weapons as specified by the terms of the contract,” as service spokesman told Military.com at the time.

The termination of the contract came after Orbital ATK sued Hechler & Koch for more than $27 million the previous February over a breach of contract involving the weapons system, passing the blame for the missing prototypes on the German gunmaker and putting the XM25 contract — and, in turn, the program — in jeopardy

The Punisher was doomed well before that. The Department of Defense’s Office of the Inspector General released a report in September 2016 urging the Army to cancel the program due to “two years of delays, increased program costs, and an unjustified fielding plan,” per Military.com. Indeed, the OIG report for the system frequently malfunctioned during operational testing:

Part of the problem started Feb. 2, 2013, when the XM25 malfunctioned during its second round of operational testing in Afghanistan, inflicting minor injuries to a soldier, the audit maintains.

The Army halted the operational testing when the XM25 experienced a double feed and an unintentional primer ignition of one of the 25mm high explosive rounds, Army officials said at the time.

  • The warhead did not detonate because of safety mechanisms on the weapon.
  • The service removed all prototypes from theater to determine the problem’s cause.

The XM25 had 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.

Orbital and H&K aren’t totally to blame: as with all other future weapons systems, Army officials “could have managed the schedule, affordability, and quantity requirements of the XM25 program more effectively,” according to the DoD OIG audit.


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