With only a handful of prototype weapons committed to combat operations in theater, the Army’s XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement (CDTE) system has already earned the “Punisher” moniker from troops operating the system [see “Combat Assessment Planned for the Army’s XM25 Counter-Defilade Weapon,” posted 16 July 2009].
A glimpse of early combat actions was provided in a Feb. 2, 2011 media briefing provided by representatives from the U.S. Army Program Executive Office (PEO) – Soldier.
As noted in program overviews, the XM25 CDTE is a direct-fire, semi-automatic, shoulder-fired, man-portable weapon system that enables the small unit and individual soldier to engage defilade targets by providing a 25 mm air-bursting capability that can be used in all operational environments. With a target acquisition/fire control subsystem that integrates thermal capability with direct view optics, laser rangefinder, compass, fuze setter, ballistic computer, laser pointer and illuminator, and an internal display, the system allows the individual soldier to quickly and accurately engage targets by producing an adjusted aimpoint based on range, environmental factors, and user inputs.
In the Feb. 2, 2011 briefing, Col.l Doug Tamilio, Project Manager for Soldier Weapons, explained that the Army has only five prototype weapons in theater.
“That program is at Milestone B [low rate initial production decision], having just ended its EMD [engineering and manufacturing development] phase,” he said. “Now, previous to that we had built five prototype weapons to use in testing and to try to get with soldiers to get immediate impact. This was all done at Aberdeen Test Center. After we had done what we needed to with those weapons, the weapons were in good shape. So the idea was, ‘What do we do with these weapons now?’ So we came up with a plan to utilize these within a unit.”
In parallel with that plan, the Army generated an Operational Need Statement (ONS) for those weapons in theater.
“So we were quickly able to turn that and get those guns to Afghanistan,” he said, noting that the ONS had actually called for “a brigade set.”
“We said, ‘Not so fast. We have five,’” he added. “And we shipped these five over. I’m pretty proud of it because my guys got the word on 8 October  to execute this. Before 8 November those weapons were in the field, in the hands of soldiers. The soldiers were trained on those weapons and they were firing those in combat.”
Tamilio continued, “Those weapons have been downrange for this period of time. They are still there. We sent over a ‘fairly significant’ amount of ammunition with them – really what we had left over. They have fired ‘quite a few’ rounds in combat…hundreds…And we have had some very good success.”
He acknowledged that “a forward area operational assessment” is also being conducted but that results of that have yet to be compiled.
“I have not even seen a draft of this report yet but we would be surprised if anything comes out that is negative,” he said. “The soldiers love it…The soldiers came back from a mission and they were overheard asking, ‘Who’s going to clean the Punisher?’ I embedded one of my majors and I embedded a first sergeant from the Infantry School in with that unit. And they went out on every single patrol that went out of the wire with an XM25. They were getting shot at too. And I will tell you that the XM25 performed flawlessly.”
“We are getting great feedback, plus the fact that we are giving soldiers a capability that I think is making a difference downrange in terms of lethality,” he observed. “There are many times that weapon system disrupted attacks. And I have quote one lieutenant who said, ‘Normally these engagements might take 15-20 minutes for us to get through [but only take] several minutes when the XM25 gets involved. It ends that quick.’ My major, who I talked to after, said, ‘Every time the XM25 was engaging enemy positions the firing stopped immediately after.’”
While declining to provide specifics that could identify employing units or locations, he noted that the system is being employed in various ways within particular units.
“We are trying to find out what the basis of issue really should be,” he said. “The original plan was one per squad. But we only had five. So what we tried to do was get those out to ‘an organization’ in a certain area of Afghanistan and we put it within different organizations within that organization. Then we moved them to a different place in Afghanistan – completely different terrain…So we have moved it. We went to other areas. We trained other soldiers. And – if we get some more funding to buy more ammunition so those five guns can stay in theater – we’ll train someone else on it too.”
According to Tamilio, the Army is also currently “looking for funding” for a follow-on 36 gun effort that could accelerate the XM25 capabilities into combat.