'The Punisher': Army's New Taliban-Hunting Super Weapon

VIDEO: XM25 features programmable rounds to take out insurgents behind cover.
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The target is hiding in a building down range, but he's behind cover and won't pop out for a clear shot. But a U.S. soldier takes aim anyway and pulls the trigger, sending a small grenade round barreling through the air -- seemingly too high to even be close to a hit.

Then, at the precise moment the grenade round flies over the cover and is just above the enemy, it suddenly explodes, taking the target down.

That particular scenario is only played out with a model target in a new video of the Army's next generation grenade rifle system, but similar scenes have already taken places in several real firefights in Afghanistan for the few lucky soldiers who are equipped with the experimental XM-25, lovingly referred to as "The Punisher."

The video, released by the Army and posted on Military.com, is the closest look yet at the XM-25 and demonstrates not only the weapon's ability to detonate a grenade at a precise, preprogrammed distance, potentially eliminating enemies' ability to hide behind cover, but also its high-tech sighting system and various ammunition loads.

Five prototypes of the rifles have already seen combat in nine operational missions in Afghanistan as part of what the military called a "forward operational assessment" of the weapon. There, they helped soldiers put a quicker end to deadly firefights, according to a February report by the military.

"The XM25 brought the difference to whether they would stay there 15 to 20 minutes shooting [and] taking pot shots or the actual fight ended after using the XM-25," said Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Smith, Soldier Requirements Division, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, Ga., according to the report.

CLICK HERE to see a PDF from the U.S. military on the XM-25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System.

'Punisher' Prime Contractor Awarded $65.8 Million DoD Deal

The weapon was so effective, the military said, that the soldiers who used them for the trial period asked to keep them.

"They did not want to give up that capability," Lt. Col. Chris Lehner said in the military's report.

Last month the Department of Defense signed a $65.8 million contract with munitions contractor ATK for the "continuing design, integration, production, and testing of full-up systems."

But it could be a few years before mass production begins, as each electronics-heavy rifle and grenade round is still made by hand and the weapon is still in its engineering phase. Apparently eager to see more of the weapons in theater, the Army report said they want at least 36 more of the rifles by next year.

"The kids are calling it 'the Punisher,'" Brig. Gen. Peter N. Fuller, who heads up the Army's Program Executive Office Soldier, said in February. "I don't know what we're going to title this product, but it seems to be game-changing. You no longer can shoot at American forces and then hide behind something. We're going to reach out and touch you."

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