If your Level of Serum Clue Drops Too Low…

You write stuff like this. Some clown named Franz-Stefan Gady at the Asia-Pac website The Diplomat was let loose with the sort of minimal and wrong understanding of infantry combat that comes from too much reading and not any doing. (His source of expertise? He has traveled to “war zones” as a reporter. Oooooh. Can we touch the hem of his garment?)

Anyway, he concluded, and some readers thought he really had something, that the US Army is about to revolutionize warfare:

The U.S. Army is introducing a new shoulder-fired weapon that has the potential to change infantry tactics and revolutionize infantry warfare in a way unseen since the Battle of Königgrätz in July 1866. That battle, which marked the beginning of the end of the line infantry attack, saw Austrian troops carrying muzzle-loaders outgunned by Prussian infantrymen carrying breech-loading needle guns.

via Will This Weapon Change Infantry Warfare Forever? | The Diplomat.

One aside, that should be right in Gady’s lane if he’s the reader he wants us to think he is — If Königgratz revolutionized warfare, why were tactics entirely unrevolutionized as so-sophisticated Europe blundered into the Great War?

For that matter, if changing to breechloaders is so revolutionary, how long did it take Austria (and all the other nations of the world) to catch up. True or False: every nation worthy of the term “power” was breechloading by 1870?

But wait, we haven’t told you what weapon Gady thinks is going to, we quote, “Change Infantry Warfare Forever.”

Hey, it works in the laboratory!

Hey, it works in the laboratory!

The XM-25 counter-defilade weapon, the rump end of the OICW boondoggle, which was simply SPIW dragged into the 21st Century and placed across the shoulders of the rifleman like Christ’s Cross, as if that poor devil — the infantryman, not Jesus — needed another burden.

The Army’s going to blow $100 million on these things over the next five years, Gady tells us.  His story is a bit inconsistent internally, at one point suggesting that it makes cover obsolete (!) and at another, quoting a PEO Soldier booster — from 2010, before the weapon’s utterly inconclusive combat deployment — that “our soldiers can remain covered/protected and use their XM25….”

We’re serious about his claims:

…the impact of the XM25 could be revolutionary and fundamentally change small infantry tactics. The XM25 will essentially destroy the value of cover and with it the necessity of long-drawn out firefights. It will also make the old infantry tactic of firing and maneuvering to eliminate an enemy hiding behind cover obsolete.

“Small infantry tactics?” Crap, he’s heard about Colonel Tattoo’s Dwarf Brigade, “Death from Below.” Twenty years of black-budget midgetry down the drain….

More seriously, even if this bloated, intricate gadget works, it’s going to change “small infantry combat” (Lord love a duck!) about as much as any of the other weapons has, from the Macedonian bronze-headed sarissa to the Roman’s Iron Age gladius to the rifle-musket to the machine gun.

Somebody’s been reading too many press releases (and, indeed, Gady’s sources for  the capabilities of the awesome XM25 are the manufacturer’s own website, and an anonymous “senior U.S. military official.”)

About the only things that the XM25 claims to do that the 60mm mortar doesn’t already do are:

  1. Transfer a large sum of money to a defense contractor; and,
  2. Work (supposedly) without requiring the shooter to learn via expending ammo in training.

The 60 is, of course, going to be too heavy for our new generation of female infantrymen, but this thing isn’t much better.  And the 60, as a good old muzzle-loading mortar, is going to work damn near 100% of the time you ask it for a whoonk…. wait for it… BLAM! on demand.

Fortunately, we’re not going to need riflemen (or female riflemen) any more because Ash Carter has redefined the US as a non-fighting power. In fact, we’re not only through fighting, said Carter on a trip where he seemed to accept China’s extended sovereignty of the South China Sea, we’re not even going to be intimidating anyone anymore.

So, why not female infantrymen? It’s not like the current DOD management is planning to fight a war again, ever. And after all, the world has a great record with politicians’ declarations of Peace For Our Time™.

40 thoughts on “If your Level of Serum Clue Drops Too Low…

  1. Matt

    My unit got to play with a few of these things in Kunar back in 2010-2011, they were handy, but they weren’t game changers any more than the 320 was over the 203. Too many batteries for my tastes to be honest. Not to say they were useless, but they weren’t really worth the effort to haul when we had 120’s on call and 60’s handy. (I remember thinking, praying, we’d get into something serious so we could dump rounds on someone, damn rounds got heavy after a while)

    1. Kirk

      Matt, you were there: Were there any confirmed kills with this thing, that you are aware of?

      Everybody I’ve talked to that was around that “field test” has told me that they were used, but there was quite pointedly, no downrange BDA ever done. As in, the units wanted to go look a couple of times, but were forbidden and/or called off by people involved in the testing.

      Most of the use I’ve heard about with the XM-25 is that they came under fire, fired back with it, and then the enemy quit firing. We’ve never, to my knowledge, gone downrange to actually see why they quit firing at us–Coulda been dead, coulda been weirded out by a new weapon, could have run out of ammo or completed their mission, for all we know.

      In short, the “testing” in Afghanistan produced not one fucking confirmed enemy dead body, per the people I talked to about it. Does that information sound right, to you?

      1. Matt

        No, we did get to clear a small compound where we had put a few rounds into Windows. We did find quite a bit of blood and drag marks. That was on one of the Bulldog Bite operations, I want to say 2, but I don’t remember exactly to be honest.

        1. Kirk

          Were those blood and drag marks attributable to the XM-25, or were they possibly from something else?

          See, I still have questions about the warhead on these things–I’m friends with a guy who was heavily involved in the testing and so forth on this abortion back when it was still 20mm, and I’m not convinced of the lethality on even the upgraded ones. When he was doing the testing, they were using balloons or something similar to serve as targets, and when he snuck a set of Oakleys into the test area, they were barely scratched by the fragments when well within the supposed “lethal” area. Subjectively, he assessed the effectiveness of the warhead back then as being about as bad as getting hit by a BB gun… Unless it hit an eye, or you got incredibly unlucky, you weren’t going to have much of a problem surviving the thing.

  2. Cap'n Mike

    Seeing as this program can be traced back to the SPIW program of the 1960s, how much money has been pissed away on this stuff with very little to show for it? I bet its a staggering amount.

    Your really missing an opportunity to get “rifle entity” into the lexicon:)

    1. Kirk

      I shudder to think. This is the US equivalent of the L85, after the SPIW, just as the L85 came after the EM-2. Once the system gets something into their little heads up in the puzzle palace, they are, by God, going to field that ‘sumbitch, no matter what.

      I can almost guarantee you that the XM25 is going to be one of the most ineffective and loathed weapons in the inventory, in short order.

      If they’d put that little bitty grenade into a belt-fed system, and you were firing off a tripod, maybe it’d be effective. An individual weapon, fired off the shoulder, semi-automatically? Yeah, right–Don’t make me fucking laugh. I doubt that Carlos Hathcock could off-hand one of these things into putting a round through a window or firing slit at 500 meters. And, that’s apparently what they think the average infantryman is going to be doing.

      It’s a bullshit concept that’s not going to do a damn thing to help in the fight. I bet money that the first time they have to use this thing, and rely on it, a bunch of people are going to be seriously disappointed in the performance of it. I find it… Interesting, shall we say, that they’ve waited until the end of extensive combat ops in Iraq and Afghanistan to try fielding this very likely incipient piece of shiite–We’re not going to know for a fact that it doesn’t work, until after they’re done buying the goddamn things, and we’ve used them in training enough to think that they actually work. Against live troops, I suspect the tiny payload of those 25mm grenades ain’t gonna do shit to stop them, unless you manage to put one right into their faces. Add in modern body armor, and I bet they don’t do more than annoy them.

  3. Trone Abeetin

    From the Blooper to this thing? I wouldn’t want to hump it, that’s for sure.

  4. Ratus

    “…Colonel Tattoo’s Dwarf Brigade, “Death from Below.” Twenty years of black-budget midgetry…”


    The 5.7x28mm cartridge now makes perfect sense.

  5. Docduracoat

    Kit up! Has been following the XM 25 ” punisher” for a while now.
    The consensus has been that air bursting is a good feature, but the 25 mm grenade is too small.
    The Grenadier carries the XM 25 and no other weapon.
    Most commenters liked the 40 mm M 203 better as it allowed to soldier to also use his M 4 rifle

    1. archy

      ***The consensus has been that air bursting is a good feature, but the 25 mm grenade is too small.***

      It’s my recollection that the first kill scored by the XM-25 was at a DARPA demonstration in which a ATK Ammunition tech demonstrating the weapon was killed when the weapon was set for a one-meter muzzle burst and performed exactly as it had been programmed.

      1. burkefett

        I find that story to be extremely unlikely. Bore-safe fuzes (safe for handling and firing, and the projectile isn’t fully armed until it has travelled a specific minimum distance from the muzzle, otherwise known as the Minimum Safe Arming Distance), ain’t exactly new, and they’re an absolute safety standard in US munitions. I don’t see ATK, a highly experienced munitions manufacturer, screwing up a basic safety system that dramatically, but if you have a legitimate source for that story, I’d be happy to read it. There was a KaBoom event with the XM-25 resulting in minor injury, I believe, to the soldier firing it, but that was caused by a malfunction of the weapon itself possibly coupled with user error – the grenades did NOT detonate.

    1. kaf

      I always thought the whole females in combat thing was a giant conspiracy by the anti-America crowd.

      Get some females killed– or brutalized for the camera– in a war, and the outrage industry will swing into full production. Not, mind you, to get them out of combat roles but to avoid any kind of combat at all. Peace at any cost, and all that, because it’s just too awful to have this happen to our daughters and wives….

      1. Brad

        Yep. Same reason why the anti-war people want to bring back the draft. They think draftee casualties would create a public-opinion backlash, forcing the U.S. to withdraw from combat.

        Taking this gambit to its logical conclusion, expect the anti-war politicians to use their influence to hamper the military in additional ways for the same reasons. Now that I think about it, they are already doing so with their opposition to drones as weapons for killing jihadis. Too ‘bloodless’ they say.

        1. Hognose Post author

          I have long enjoyed Steve Sailer’s writing. He is a practitioner of speaking mokita, a New Guinean tribal word meaning, “truth that all know but which it is convention not to say.” Why Lesbians Aren’t Gay is one of his greatest (I think it originally ran in National Review, before everyone who might speak mokita was purged).

          I just learned the word mokita today, looking it up after reading this post:


          1. LSWCHP

            The Z man Mokita thing is outstanding. I was nodding and chortling so much it’s a wonder someone didn’t call the cops or an ambulance

  6. gbob

    You doing alright, hognose? Awful lot of sarc in this one, it was funny, just unusual for a stupid reporter to get both barrels AND a reload. Have a good day.

  7. Steven Y.

    Sounds like the briefing we were given during the events leading up to the All Army Marksmanship Matches back in the mid 90s. A very energetic major told a crowd of folks who had dedicated years honing their shooting abilities how the three-round-burst and self-aiming rifles connected to what sounded like the father of SkyNet were going to make skill at arms an obsolete soldier skill. The only things needed in the future would be a comlink and a target designator to allow a single soldier to wipe out an entire company of old fashioned troops from beyond infantry weapon engagement range.
    You could have heard a pin drop as he wrapped up his presentation, asking if there were any questions.
    Someone (ahem) raised his hand to ask if they were planning on making improvements to personal body armor, something that could shrug off a hit from an 80 to 90mm HEAT round.
    The presentation officer said that such armor wasn’t possible given current technology. The questioner replied that they better start working on it quick, because if a hundred guys were about to get killed because of one troop on a hilltop beyond rifle range with a laser and a radio, it would be in their best interest to hit him right now with everything from ATGMs to RPGs to autocannon.
    That kicked off the discussion in earnest. I didn’t get invited back.

    1. Toastrider

      I always roll my eyes at these press releases about ‘the weapon of the future’. Pfft.

      I figure, the next ‘paradigm shift’ in warfare will involve the soldiers themselves. I.e., human augmentation and alteration. Muscular improvements, sensory augmentation, reflex boosting, wounds that quickly scab and seal up and the ability to control and regulate one’s adrenal responses. I know, I know… science fiction. For now.

      The runner up is powered armor, of course. Treating barrages of 7.62mm rounds as if it was a stout rain shower might be pretty impressive.

      1. Hognose Post author

        Chinese are definitely working on transhuman soldiers. US is not, really. No idea what the Russians are up to.

        1. Y.


          If it’s within natural human variation, it’s not transhuman. And natural human variation includes such people as John Von Neumann, Dean Karnazes, or those kids with disrupted myostatin.

          You could achieve the same results with good, careful breeding over centuries. Gene engineering will just cut that timeframe into decades.

          There is so many dumb fanboys with weird fantasies around this topic.


          Is US working on powered exoskeletons with or without armor? There was something a few years back.

          How much more effective would infantry be if it were virtually bulletproof to anything less powerful than close range hits with .30 cal AP rifle rounds? And also easily able to carry 250-300 lbs of useful equipment?

        2. Kirk

          I can’t fucking wait to see what they turn up with…

          We don’t know enough to even begin speculating about what to do to create such things, and it will be generations before we do.

          Let me upside all y’all who are expecting the imminent arrival of genetically engineered super-soldiers with a cluebat: It ain’t happening. The Chinese may try it, but the effort is almost guaranteed to end in disaster for them, and the poor bastards they “engineer”.

          That little deal out of Seattle, that came out yesterday? The study where the soooper-geniuses finally decided to take a look at normal, healthy people, and do a detailed examination of their genes? Guess what, folks: They discovered that there are statistically significant numbers of people with defective genes who show no signs of having any health problems whatsoever. In other words, all the “genetic defects” we’ve associated with disease syndromes, don’t always manifest those syndromes.

          I’ve been expecting a bunch of this stuff to come out, because we don’t study healthy people; we study the sick. Sick people may have something else entirely going on with their bodies, things that we don’t understand at all. How an adult can have the “genetic defect” for cystic fibrosis, and never show sign one of the disease, we don’t know. We can’t explain that, at all. This should tell a smart person that there’s something else going on here, that enables that healthy person to overcome that syndrome. What it is, nobody knows–Prima facie evidence that we don’t know enough to even start talking about “genetically engineered super-soldiers”. Poor bastards they try that shit on will probably have so many problems, health-wise, that they wind up being more of a burden than a damn war-winner.

          We may see super-soldiers out of gene engineering, but it ain’t happening in either the short, or the medium-term future. Hell, we can’t even reliably cure relatively simple genetic defects yet, and you’re worried about super-soldiers? Before the Chinese are going to be successful with that shit, you’re going to have to worry about whether or not you want to risk having some lab boffin “massage” your kids genes for just fixing known genetic flaws. The likelihood of “super-soldiers” coming out of a lab are a ways past that point, and I don’t see anyone even doing routine genetic screening and applying the “fixes” to any affected kids in the next ten years. There’s a whole lot of knowledge we need, and a bunch of infrastructure. Show me an artificial womb, that works, and I’ll start worrying about the super-soldier problem…

          1. Y.

            No one’s saying they are doing anything concrete and immediate now. They can’t be that ahead in technology.

            China is planning to implement embryo selection in the near term. . Quite powerful by itself, it should allow them to improve average IQ by about 8-10 points for some generations. Basically you make 10 embryos in lab instead of doing it the traditional way and then analyze them and implant the best into the mother’s womb.

          2. Mike_C

            >we don’t study healthy people; we study the sick.
            In general this is true. However, community-based cohort studies, of which the Framingham Heart Study is the most famous, do exactly that. Recruit a bunch of people, and follow them over decades, generations if possible. Stuff that we now take for granted, such as blood pressure should not continue to increase with age, or that smoking is bad from a cardiovascular standpoint, came out of the Framingham study. Framingham is now in its third generation. Other such studies in the US include MESA (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis), CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development In young Adults), and so forth. The Euros have their analogous studies.

            >How an adult can have the “genetic defect” for cystic fibrosis, and never show sign one of the disease, we don’t know. We can’t explain that, at all.
            “At all” is a bit strong. Granted, regulation of gene expression is amazingly f*cking complex, and clearly not fully understood, but one important thing to keep in mind is that VERY LITTLE in human genetics follows the straight Mendelian stuff we learned in junior high or thereabouts. Gregor Mendel’s choice of studying certain pea-plant traits was fortuitous for getting the field off the ground, but I don’t care how many Punnett squares (‘member those?) one draws, ain’t gonna explain everything (or even much) in humans.

            >China is planning to implement embryo selection in the near term. . Quite powerful by itself, it should allow them to improve average IQ by about 8-10 points for some generations.
            Disturbing, but certainly not something I’d put past them. On the other hand, if there is any genetic basis to the following, we in the US (and the West in general) have been actively subsidizing impulsivity and low future time preference, among other traits not conducive to success in a civil, technological society, for generations. Idiocracy was optimistic. And set too far in the future.

            Singapore at one point had a plan to encourage women with PhDs to have more babies. I suggested that this would not necessarily increase mean population intelligence, but would almost certainly increase the number of people in need of corrective eyewear, who were unable to catch a ball, or talk to the opposite sex without stammering. For some reason this did not go over well in my office at the time, where having fewer than two STEM/medical graduate degrees was considerably below average. Heh.

      1. archy

        ***Yeah, there are a number of exoskeleton programs and initiatives.***

        Yeah, but we’ve got TRANSGENDER soldiers! That’s even better….[and hopefully, many of them will quickly become skeletons once the party begins.]

  8. Cattus Borealis

    I hate when people bring up technology and Battle of Königgrätz.
    The Dryse was important but not the absolute deciding factor. These guys miss the point that the Prussians had a better strategy and leadership that won the campaign. The Austrians also missed the point and rapidly worked on “fast” weapons rather than leadership and strategy. They did not fix (or were unable to fix) many strategic issues before 1914.

    We are making the same mistakes and keep ignoring lessons to buy the newest toy.

    Strangely enough, the K.u.K Navy using sail defeated modern Italian ironclads in the same war at the battle of Lissa, 1866. The irony was that many of the Imperial sailors were Ventian in origin!

    Poor strategy, foolish leaders with good weapons always loses to a good strategy, wise leaders and comparable weapons.

  9. Keith

    Good god. I suppose this guy has never heard of the American Civil War where a) near the end the battlefield looked more like Verdun than Waterloo and b) there were several instances of lever action or breach action armed infantry or calvary vastly outperforming infantry armed with older muzzle loading rifles. Truly revolutionary, as opposed to evolutionary wepons, are rare, and the last time one was employed it was to incinerate Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    1. Hognose Post author

      If your weapon is truly revolutionary (Fat Man and Little Boy) or evolutionary enough to be a real advance (StG.44) everybody copies the living daylights out of it, if they weren’t already working on something parallel.

      1. archy

        True enough. But it’s often sufficient for a weapon to be only incrementally advanced, if the enemy fails to recognize it and the changes it has wrought and responds the same old way, because that’s the way it has always been done: Examples include but are certainly not limited to the rifled weapons of the US Civil War [not always an improvement, as per the Bucktails with their smoothbore .69 muskets in the Antietam cornfields and N.B. Forrest’s cavalry use of double-barreled shotguns, including flintlocks that did not depend on a supply train of percussion caps…. the Russians and Turks facing each other at Plevna with single-shot breechloaders-until the Russian troops hit the 200 meter markers, whereupon the Turks picked up their .44-calibre Winchester 1866 and 1873 leverguns, which went on for days….and of course the Brits in the Great War sending Britain’s future over the top into no-man’s land against Maxim Guns in a fair imitation of troop movement tactics in use in the American Colonies circa 1776….or battleships at Pearl Harbor, lined up in neat rows for the Imperial Japanese Navy.

        plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose — [ Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, 1849 ,]
        “The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.”

  10. CombatAdj

    Hah, I read this article a couple days ago and was amused by how credulous the author was. I believe he also describes the XM-25 as “precision guided,” which it very plainly is not.

    Going back to Koniggratz, I agree that the Dreyse was far from the deciding factor. The Prussians out-trained and out-drilled other armies of the time, so they had an advantage even with muzzle-loading weapons prior to the Dreyse’s introduction.

    Have you seen the recent articles about the Bundeswehr having to pull troops from the field because of overtime restrictions? Also, apparently around 300 German soldiers have been identified as supporting or defecting to ISIS.

    That vibration you feel is 3 centuries of German soldiers spinning in their graves.

    1. Hognose Post author

      I’ve been meaning to write about the overtime thing… the Defense Minister is getting a beating in the German press. Thomas Wiegold at Augen Geradeaus has pretty good coverage but it’s all in German.

      FWIW, there’s an exception for combat. In combat, they can make you pull OT. Lord love a duck.

  11. Jjak

    Would be a more practical and useful thing if it could be an under-barrel grenade launcher, using something the no more than the size/weight of an iPhone for the necessary electronics. And it still needs to shoot conventional grenades, and the smart grenades need to work as conventional ones for when the batteries die, too.

    I wonder if would be worth adapting this technology to the mk19?

    1. Kirk

      It should have been on the MK19, and the Carl Gustav, long before they tried building this POS. Unfortunately, the people running this program are delusional assholes who’ve never been in a firefight, and who have no clue about how weapons work at the tactical level. The payload on this toy is infinitesimal, and the effect downrange, ludicrous. Were they to build it with an effective warhead, it would not be a shoulder-fired weapon, and that’s something they were married to from the beginning.

    2. bloke_from_ohio

      Couldn’t you get air bursting grenades without all the batteries and giant computer? Assuming one could be made work, just add proximity fuze to a normal 40mm grenade. It might not fit into the 203 anymore (extra length if likely), but the new 320 is break action. Give it near, medium, and far settings at reasonable intervals . Make the existing contact fuze override the proximity if it smacks something outside the minimum arming distance before the proximity fuze goes.

      Then you just give the troops a way to talk to the fuze that has an nfc (or similar) antenna that you can attach outside the barrel of existing 40mm launchers. Ideally this “fuze talker” device would have physical switches and be no bigger than something like our currently mounted laser boxes. Flip a switch for your setting, hold down a button and poof the “fuze talker” wakes up your fuze and gives it the correct setting. Have it vibrates, lights up, or beeps when the setting is accepted. Shoot the grenade with the “set fuze” button depressed and the grenade leaves the barrel with its marching orders. If you pull the trigger without depressing the “set fuze” button the proximity fuze does not even turn on and your grenade is just a longer more expensive contact munition.

      If you use NFC and inductive power from the “fuze talker” to communicate and initially power the proximity fuze, then said smart fuze may not even turn on unless you tell it with the “fuze talker”. You could mech the fuzes internal power supply to only activate both the round has been launched when the “fuze talker” has powered the device up (via induction). Otherwise it just stays off and pretends to be a normal 40mm round.

      I see no reason why the “bloke_from_ohio” system should weigh more than a few extra pounds above what is currently fielded including batteries. And, if the “fuze talker” takes a dump or you run out of fancy grenades it can talk to, just ditch it. Then you go back to launching contact grenades like Grandpa did in ‘Nam.

  12. atp

    Would super-smart soldiers tend to be more effective? Obviously, yes. Therefore, Kirk, you are mistaken in at least one respect:

    I don’t know if their rulers and strategists understand the implications yet or not, but the Chinese ARE currently working on figuring out the genetics of human intelligence, and some of the most prominent American researchers in that field say that is quite likely that, once all the data is crunched, it will be fairly straightforward to genetically engineer babies to be smarter – MUCH smarter. Smarter than the smartest humans who have ever lived.

    (There is a short-cut for traits like IQ which have been under positive natural selection and are controlled by many thousands of genes, each of approximately additive effect.) The utility of those genetically engineered geniuses as soldiers would be the least of your concerns, but since you’re talking about “super soldiers”, well, if the DUMBEST guy in your battalion is an Einstein…

    I recommend reading Steve Hsu’s many blog posts on this topic:

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