Investigators Want The Army To Consider Canceling Troubled Airburst Weapon

PEO Soldier photo

Editor’s Note: This article by Matthew Cox originally appeared on, the premier source of information for the military and veteran community.

After two years of delays, increased program costs and an unjustified fielding plan, the U.S. Army should consider canceling the shoulder-fired 25mm airburst weapon, investigators say.

The service's XM25 Counter-Defilade Target Engagement System is a semi-automatic, shoulder-fired weapon that fires 25mm high-explosive, air-bursting ammunition. It features a target acquisition/fire control system that allows soldiers to identify a target, determine the range and program the ammunition to explode above or near targets out to 600 meters.

Nicknamed "the Punisher" and designed by Orbital ATK Inc. and Heckler & Koch, the XM25 has stirred excitement in the infantry community, but the 14-pound weapon has taken its share of criticism.

This week, the Defense Department's Inspector General's Office released a follow-on report to a March 2014 audit and concluded Army officials "could have managed the schedule, affordability, and quantity requirements of the XM25 program more effectively."

U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno looks through the sight of an XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System during his visit to the Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier facility at Fort Belvoir, VA, Nov 1, 2013. PEO Soldier provides troops with capabilities to ensure they remain decisive and dominant throughout the full spectrum of military operations. (/ Released)U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez

The service has repeatedly delayed the weapon's initial production decision and failed to justify a basis of issue plan, the document states.

"Specifically, Army officials removed procurement funding from the XM25 budget, which extended the engineering and manufacturing development phase by 2 years," it states. "Additionally, Army officials contributed to the initial production decision delay by placing a hold on the XM25 capability production document."

But while the IG said the service's decision to extend the development effort and XM25 research caused costs to climb between February 2013 and March 2016, it failed to specify any actual dollar amounts.

Indeed, the report was heavily redacted, with blacked out figures for not only cost increases but also quantities, including how many XM25s the Army intends to field as part of its basis of issue plan.

When asked why such important information was redacted, Bridget Ann Serchak, spokeswoman, a spokesman for the Inspector General's office, said the Army -- as part of routine practice -- was allowed to decide what information it wanted classified as "for official use only" and thus not released in the IG report.

Even so, the audit recommends that the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, headed by Katrina McFarland, "determine whether to proceed with or cancel the XM25 program after reviewing the results of the 2016 Governmental testing," scheduled to be completed this fall.

A 'Leap-Ahead' Weapon?

The audit is the latest chapter in the troubled story of the Army's attempt to field a "leap-ahead" weapon designed to give infantry units a decisive edge against enemies hiding behind cover.

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.

"The XM25 weapon malfunction, during a forward operational assessment in February 2013, contributed to the initial production decision delay," according to the audit. "Army G-3/5/7 officials stated that the malfunction demonstrated that the XM25 weapon needed additional development and was not ready for an initial production decision. [Project Manager Individual Weapons] officials redesigned the weapon and ammunition to correct the cause of the malfunctions."

According to PM IW officials, the XM25 has not had any similar malfunctions since the changes were incorporated into the weapon and ammunition, the audit states.

Lingering Concerns

The audit highlights the concerns Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster had with the XM25 when he was the commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence in 2013.

"On July 19, 2013, the Commanding General, MCOE, issued a memorandum detailing his concerns and recommendations regarding the XM25 program," the audit stated.

"The General's concerns included the unproven lethality of the XM25 system, the weight of the system, and the risks of limiting soldiers' capabilities when carrying the XM25 system. Specifically, the Commanding General was concerned that a soldier would have to turn in his or her rifle to carry the XM25."

McMaster stated that without a rifle:

--The soldier is unable to perform required tasks in many squad battle drills;

--The XM25 basic load of 36 rounds is depleted quickly in a direct-fire engagement; and

--The soldier has a reduced capacity to engage targets at close range.

McMaster's comments followed similar criticism of the XM25 by Rangers in Afghanistan.

In March 2013, elements of the 75th Ranger Regiment refused to take XM25 with them for a raid on a fortified enemy compound in Afghanistan, sources familiar with the incident said.

After an initial assessment, Ranger units found the XM25 too heavy and cumbersome for the battlefield. They were also concerned that the limited basic load of 25mm rounds was not enough to justify taking an M4A1 carbine out of the mission, sources say.

U.S. Army Col. Scott Armstrong, right, shows the Lt. Gov. of New Jersey Kim Guadagno a XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement (CDTE) System during a congressional visit to safeguard military bases in New Jersey at Picatinny Arsenal, Rockaway Township, N.J., Feb. 6, 2015.U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht

Unsatisfactory Response

In a response letter to the DoD IG, Army Maj. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood, deputy for Acquisition and System Management, said the Army concurred with the recommendation to either determine whether to proceed with or cancel the XM25 program after reviewing the results of the 2016 governmental testing.

"The Army Acquisition Authority, in concert with the chief of staff of the Army, continues to support the completion of the pre-production testing … leading to a Milestone C decision," he wrote. "At that time, the [Milestone Decision Authority] will review the test results and determine whether to proceed into initial production."

DoD IG officials are not satisfied with this response.

"Although the DASM agreed with the recommendation, the response did not address whether the ASA(ALT) will cancel the program if the XM25 does not meet all of its primary and secondary requirements," the audit states. "Therefore, we request that ASA(ALT) provide additional comments on its action plan to terminate a program that continues to have schedule delays, cost increases, and performance problems unless there are quantifiable program improvements."

Thurgood disagreed with the recommendation to develop policies for the retention of supporting documentation for basis of issue plans developed during the acquisition process.

Supporting documentation used to generate the basis of issue data comes from requirements documents, with the cost benefit analysis, system training plan, basis of issue guidance, and operation summary and mission profile, Thurgood said in his response.

Additionally, the retention of supporting documentation from basis of issue plan development has no value in establishing procurement quantities, he added.

IG auditors weren't satisfied with this response either.

"While the requirements documents referenced by the DASM discuss the different operational scenarios and uses of the XM25, they do not contain the underlying support for the different Army squads, platoons, and companies," according to the audit. "Without retaining supporting documentation for basis of issue plan recommendations, the Army cannot justify the March 2012 XM25 basis of issue plan.

"Because Army officials did not justify the XM25 basis of issue plan, the Army has no assurance that the estimated procurement quantity ... is valid."

The article originally appeared on

More from

The San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chris Roys)

The Navy is investigating reports that a female Marine discovered a hidden camera in one of the women's restrooms aboard the USS Arlington, an amphibious transport dock that's currently on at port in Greece, NBC News originally reported.

Read More Show Less
The sun sets behind a C-17 Globemaster III at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, as Soldiers wait in line to board Nov. 17, 2008. (Air Force/Tech Sgt. Erik Gudmundson)

Today, an American service member died in a "non-combat incident" in Ninawa Province, Iraq according to a statement by Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State.

Read More Show Less

First came the explosion. Then, the cover-up.

"I held one [sailor] in my hands as he passed. He died in my arms."

USS Iowa on April 19, 1989. (Wikipedia Commons)

It's been 30 years since an explosion inside the number two gun turret on the USS Iowa killed 47 American sailors, but for Mike Carr, it still feels like yesterday.

"I knew all 47 guys inside that turret because as part of the ship's policy we had rotated between all three turrets," Carr, who served as a gunner's mate in the Iowa's aft 16-inch turret, told Task & Purpose. "We all knew each other rather intimately."

On April 19, 1989, the day of the blast, the ship was preparing for live-fire training at Vieques, Puerto Rico Naval Training Range.

Carr was wearing headphones that allowed him to hear what the crews in the other turrets were saying.

"At 10 minutes to 10 a.m., somebody came over the phones and said, 'We're having a problem, Turret 2, center gun,'" Carr recalled. "Then approximately two minutes later, I recognized Senior Chief [Reginald] Ziegler, who was the chief in charge of Turret 2, yell into the phones: 'Fire, fire, fire! Fire in center gun, turret 2. Trying to contain it.'"

Then came the blast, which was so strong that it ripped the headphones right off Carr's head.

Read More Show Less

Barracks to business: Hiring veterans has never been easier

Organizations offer training, certifications, networking to connect veterans, businesses

Jason Sutton

As a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a newly minted second lieutenant, I felt well-prepared to tackle the challenges facing a junior field artillery officer in the U.S. Army. When the time came to leave the Army, however, I was much less prepared to make the transition into the yet-unknown civilian sector.

One of the primary issues facing veterans after we transition is that we lack the same sense of purpose and mission that we had with our military careers. Today, more than ever, our service members volunteer to put themselves in harm's way. They are defending our freedom across the globe and should be recognized as our country's true heroes. It's critical that employers educate veterans and provide viable options so we can make informed decisions about the rest of our lives.

Read More Show Less
Maj. Gen. David Furness

The two-star general in charge of the roughly 15,000-strong 2nd Marine Division has turned micromanagement into an art form with a new policy letter ordering his Marines and sailors to cut their hair, shave their faces, and adhere to a daily schedule that he has prescribed.

In his "Policy Letter 5-19," Maj. Gen. David Furness lamented that he has noticed "a significant decline in the basic discipline" of troops he's come in contact with in the division area, which has led him to "FIX IT immediately," instead of relying on the thousands of commissioned and non-commissioned officers below him to carry out his orders.

Read More Show Less