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More Information Revealed on XM25 Combat Engagements

Following up on recent program overviews, U.S. Army representatives have provided expanded information on the Forward Operational Assessment (FOA) recently conducted in Afghanistan with five prototype XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement (CDTE) systems [now Individual Semi-Automatic Airburst System (ISAAS)].

Col. Doug Tamilio, project manager for Soldier Weapons, reiterated that the system has just started its engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase, explaining that the EMD phase “will carry us through for a couple of years before we get into the full production version of this system.”

‘These attacks on their OP – and this OP has been attacked a lot – normally last 15 to 20 minutes with rocket fire, machine gun fire, and small arms fire. When we countered with the XM25, the attack only lasted a few minutes.’ So, when we debriefed [the soldiers reported], when they took out the machine gun position with the XM25 and then started moving to fire the XM25 at other positions, the enemy just stopped firing and left, taking their licks with them.”

Before turning the briefing over to the Product Manager for the XM25, Lt. Col. Chris Lehner, Tamilio offered, “He can give you a much more in-depth overview than I provided the other day on what we have seen in actual combat with this system and the kinds of capabilities it brings to the soldiers over there – and actually, from our viewpoint, and we had two soldiers ‘on the ground’ over there, the capabilities that this system brought ‘to the fight.’ And I think it’s very important that we understand what this thing can do over there.”

Lehner opened with the same assessment that he said he provides to senior service leadership, noting, “Within about a month’s period of time, from the time we first fired this weapon in combat, which was 3 December, in the month after that we had nine engagements with this weapon system…55 rounds were shot during these nine engagements. And here is the outcome: The XM25 gunners were able to disrupt two insurgent attacks on an OP. They were able to take out two machine gun positions – two PKMs. They were able to destroy four ambush sites, where the survivors of those sites fled.”

He continued, “In one particular engagement, when the XM25 went off within proximity of one of the Taliban, he was either so badly wounded or so scared that he dropped his machine gun and ran. And we recovered that machine gun.”

XM25

An XM25 Individual Semi-Automatic Airburst System (ISAAS). Alliant Techsystems photo.

Clarifying that one of the two OP attacks was also counted as one of the destroyed machine gun positions, Lehner explained, “Enemies either attack or defend [with] a machine gun. The machine gun is often the most casualty-producing weapon. It is the crux of your defense or offense. So if you take out that machine gun position you have blunted the attack. We have a soldier who fired this weapon – I’m not going to give you his name – but his leadership essentially said, ‘These attacks on their OP – and this OP has been attacked a lot – normally last 15 to 20 minutes with rocket fire, machine gun fire, and small arms fire. When we countered with the XM25, the attack only lasted a few minutes.’ So, when we debriefed [the soldiers reported], when they took out the machine gun position with the XM25 and then started moving to fire the XM25 at other positions, the enemy just stopped firing and left, taking their licks with them.”

According to Maj. Christopher Conley, one of two PM representatives serving as an observer in theater, the first unit to employ the weapons had four of the engagements (28 rounds). The weapons were then transferred to “another unit” within the same overarching parent organization, where they were used in five engagements (27 rounds).

“We tested this weapon in various conditions, from flat terrain with mud walls to mountainous terrain,” he said. “Essentially, where the enemy migrated was where we brought the weapon to, so we could keep it in contact and see what it does all over the place.”

He added, “We had a lieutenant say, ‘Once we saw what the XM25 did, we take it on every patrol and will continue to take it on every patrol.’”

In addition to the 55 rounds expended in combat, program representatives acknowledged that “hundreds of rounds” had been expended in theater during training and familiarization.

Pointing to the reported results, Lehner stressed, “These [findings] are what my men ‘on the ground’ saw. We accompanied all the missions. We were at all the Ops when these engagements happened. We were there recording AARs right afterwards, so we got the impressions of the gunners and the impressions of the leadership of how the XM25 performed. We also had a testing body come in afterwards and interview these gunners, so that we can get relevant data to brief the senior leadership. And we only just finished briefing the senior leadership so it is certainly [appropriate] now to provide…the American public as much of this information as we can without going into locations and soldiers’ names, and things like that.”

XM25

The XM25 Individual Airburst Weapon System (IAWS) deployed to Afghanistan have had encouraging results against the Taliban. U.S. Army photo.

“When we fire this weapon it is often at extended ranges,” he added. “In some cases [it is] much farther than we have publicized the effective ranges are. The soldiers will use these in various conditions and we are not always able to go out there and see the results of it – We can only see what happens. If the enemy stops firing we know that we have had an effect on him. We have either taken out the position, or he is dead, or wounded, or he had fled. Sometimes we do see the enemy fall or we have a helicopter fly over and confirm it. But our soldiers don’t ‘go out there’ every time to do BDA [battle damage assessment], because quite often the Taliban will booby-trap the areas that they attack from with pressure plate mines, and so forth…But our soldiers know that when the enemy stops firing at them as soon as the XM25 opens up they have had some effect – killed, wounded or the enemy fled – because of it. And they were not getting the same results when it was a ‘direct fire – direct fire contest.’”

“The best way to summarize the outcome and how we view this as being very successful is that when our FOA technically ended, and this testing organization had enough information to feed to our senior Army leadership, we were ready to wrap things up and take the additional ammo and weapons home,” Lehner noted. “But every soldier who fired this weapon asked us to leave the weapons and the ammo there. They did not want to give up that capability. So the word got back to us and we made the decision: Sure, let them keep the XM25; let them keep that additional ammunition; and we will then go ahead and go back downrange to collect any additional data they received from the time the FOA [ended] in mid-January to when we are going back.”

He added, “We had a lieutenant say, ‘Once we saw what the XM25 did, we take it on every patrol and will continue to take it on every patrol.’”

As further testament to XM25 effectiveness, Lehner stated, “As the engagements multiplied and as word got out [about] how well it was doing, we had many other units tap [Maj.Conley] on the shoulder and say, ‘I want to see this thing demo’d. Can I send someone out to your location and watch it being fired at an OP or fire base? Or can you bring it to us?’ So we had many other senior commanders look at this capability. And oh by the way, they are making requests for this now. So we are starting to have a lot of people pile on that [they] want this weapon now or [they] want it for the next time they rotate in.”

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...