The XM25 will not change the world.

The news that the XM25 grenade launcher will be tested in Afghanistan is splattered all across the blogosphere and the rest of the internet lately. And frankly, it’s getting a lot of hype.

The XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System fires 25mm air-bursting shells up to 2,300 feet, making it most closely related to the grenade launcher, but with a range greater than most rifles used by the Army, AFP reports.

Let’s say enemy fighter pops up from behind a wall to fire at U.S. troops and then takes cover before they can respond. An XM25 gunner can then use the laser range finder to get the distance to the wall, program the explosive to go off a few feet behind it, fire over the wall, and then watch as lethal shell fragments rain down from above.

While it is certainly an impressive capability, it won’t fundamentally change the way fights happen. I think it is great that we’re making our infantry more lethal, and less reliant on supporting fires. Don’t get me wrong.

But for every weapon, there is a countermeasure. Good tactics would already mitigate some of the effectiveness of this weapon. Shoot and scoot isn’t unknown in that part of the world, you know. And while engaging troops in defilade will be a  little easier (and this will also address some of the deficiencies of rifle fire at longer ranges such as we’ve seen in Afghanistan), it doesn’t mean infantry firefights will suddenly undergo some magical transformation. It’s hard enough to determine with any accuracy where small arms fire is coming from. And while this might defeat troops under cover, it doesn’t really do much to expose troops under concealment. You have to know within just a couple meters exactly where your target is before you can successfully engage. And the laser rangefinder is going to be vulnerable to inaccuracy due to vegetation or battlefield smoke,which will grossly effect the fuzing of the round.

By all means, let’s get this out there, try it out, learn how to use it, and kill some jihadis. But don’t make the mistake of thinking one weapon  will end the war. That’s asking too much from hardware in what is fundamentally a people problem.

XM25 Grenade Launcher

12 thoughts on “The XM25 will not change the world.”

  1. Good reality check. Particularly the part about getting a good laze. It is hard to get a consistent laze with your tank’s range finder high off the ground. A poor gunner laying prone on a battlefield will have a hard time with that, considering all the clutter he will have to contend with. Bad range will rapidly equal excessive (read ANY in COIN realm) collateral damage.

  2. I had the same impression, but I wanted to hold my response until someone more experienced in the field stepped up to the plate first. 🙂

    The longbow didn’t make cavalry obsolete, it made the armored knight useless.
    The rifle wasn’t the end of infantry, it was the end of massed columns attacking in line.
    The XM-25 won’t mean the end of the war in Afghanistan, but it may (MAY) have a similar impact on the fight there that the introduction of the tank made to the battle of the Somme.

  3. Hey, enough with the doom and gloom…it slices, it dices and it even makes jullien fries! What a great X-Mas gift!
    I wonder if there is an option to bypass the laser and enter a manual range…like there is in my helicopter.

    1. Yes, there’s a manual range entry. Don’t know how it works. There’s only so many places you can put buttons on one of these things.

  4. I wonder about the “lasing” effectiveness after watching a few demonstrations. For a basic example, assume a sniper in a window. The XM-25 user aims through the window to get his range, and fires. In a shallow depth room, all is well. In a deep room, the projectile explodes far behind the sniper. If the user mis-aims at the wall, the projectile slams into the outer wall and detonates without effect (assuming it doesn’t penetrate the wall).

    I’d trust the Kentucky windage of an M-203 user more than a sophisticated ranging computer (especially given the history of environmental problems the device has shown in the past).

  5. In the example above, the gunner would laze at the wall in which the window is situated (not at the actual window), then add a couple meters to the weapon’s range and fire through the window. When the round reaches the range of the wall (the lazed range), it is then looking to travel a bit further to detonate above/next to the intended target. To me the problem in lazing is the debris/clutter between gunner and target which will tend to give multiple range returns from/to the LRF. I am assuming that the XM25 LRF is somewhat like a tank or Bradley LRF, where the beam expands signficantly as it travels downrange. Tank and Bradley LRFs give a gunner the option to “arm first return” or “arm last return” but nothing in the middle. It is up to individual gunners to estimate whether the range they are looking at is accurate or not. In the case of the XM25, where range appears to be the sole determinant of where that round detonates, a bad range means that you have XM25 rounds exploding wherever they please. So when your lazer beam hits brush on the way to the target, and then returned that range to the XM25, that is where your round explodes.

  6. But does it actually display the range at which the round will detonate? If so the shooter, who will have a fairly decent idea of how far the target is anyway, will be able to spot the mistake and lase again. OTOH a manually settable range gating facility would be good to have, as loing as it was optional.

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