The XM-25 "Punisher" met its final punishment after the US Department of Defense learned that nobody wanted to bring the weapon into combat, according to a Popular Mechanics report published Monday. It didn't help the program's cause that it wounded a soldier using the "supergun" in 2013.
The XM-25 program is a quintessential nightmare for Defense Department budget observers. Ballooning costs, a maze-like development schedule and outstanding questions about whether the weapon was useful at all led to the program's demise, the Popular Mechanics report notes.
The XM-25 "Punisher" evolved from another failed US Army program, the XM-29, which was very heavy and 20 times as expensive as a single M-16 assault rifle, leading officials to question whether one XM-29 "Objective Individual Combat Weapon" was really worth 20 time-tested M-16s, War is Boring reported in 2014.
The XM-29 was also supposed to make "taking cover" useless, but the weapon itself underwent an "identity crisis," since its developers could not decide whether the weapon was a rifle or a grenade-launcher, War is Boring observed. The gun shot 5.56-millimeter rounds and had a 20-millimeter computer controlled grenade launcher attached, according to War is Boring.
Warfighters evidently could not suss out whether to fire the grenades first or fire the rifle first, the report notes.
From that uncertainty, the XM-25 "Punisher" was born: it would still make cover obsolete, but it would eliminate the rifle, leaving just the grenade launcher. The Punisher had larger slightly larger grenades than the Objective Individual Combat Weapon (25 millimeters versus 20 millimeter.)
The Army already has an M320 grenade launcher that fires 40-millimeter grenades, and the grenade-firing module can even be mounted on top of existing weapons like the M4 carbine.
According to Popular Mechanics, the Punisher's predecessor was useless in close-combat; the weapon was helpful for extremely specific circumstances, but what if the infantryman engaged in a combat situation that didn't conform to what the weapon was good at? He'd be a sitting duck. "In 2013, a Ranger unit in Afghanistan refused to take along the weapon, preferring to take an M4 instead," Popular Mechanics noted.
The program was killed by the Pentagon as part of an effort to cut wasteful spending from its budget, Stars and Stripes reported August 10. Of the total $2.3 billion the Pentagon is attempting to cut, "Though the exact potential monetary benefit for the XM-25's cancellation was redacted, a Stars and Stripes analysis of the figures shows it alone could account for around $970 million."
A spokesperson for the Army told Stripes last Thursday that the Pentagon was able to retain ownership of 20 XM-25s "as part of the negotiated settlement" with Orbital ATK, the company that made the weapon and was acquired by Northrop Grumman last September for $7.8 billion in cash.