The 40mm grenade has become a very valuable asset for a small infantry unit. Each fire team of four grunts usually has at least one 40mm grenade launcher. These grenades can pack a punch, too.
According to the Federation of American Scientists, a M433 high-explosive, dual-purpose grenade can punch through about two inches of steel and inflict casualties to a distance of roughly 17 feet.
Often, these grenades were used on single-shot systems like the M79 or the M203. But soon, automatic grenade launchers were developed. One that became iconic was the Mk-19 automatic grenade launcher. With a range of 1,500 yards, it could fire a grenade a second, and it weighs nearly 73 pounds. The Mk-19 is in service with 23 countries.
A US Army soldier with an MK-19 grenade launcher. | Photo by Sgt. Benjamin Parsons
That said, it is getting long in the tooth. It entered service in 1967, so it's been around for 50 years. That means that it's about time to think about a replacement. According to General Dynamics that replacement may be available.
The Mk-47 Mod 0 40mm Advanced Grenade Launcher fires the same grenades as the Mk-19, but it also comes with a lot of advances to make it deadlier. One that the grunts will like is the weight: it comes in at just under 40 pounds – 32 pounds less than the Mk 19. The system also adds a new video sight that adds laser ranger-finding and night vision, allowing for better target acquisition.
Marines with 2d Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment field-test the MK47 40 mm Advanced Lightweight Grenade Machine Gun at Camp Lejeune, N.C. The new weapon system may one day replace the MK-19. (Photo courtesy of General Dynamics)
Perhaps the deadliest accessory for the Mk-47 is the Mk-285 grenade. This is airburst ammunition, much like the 25mm rounds fired by the XM25 Punisher. How does it know when to airburst? It's programmed with data from the advanced sight.
This new automatic grenade launcher may prove to be more popular than the new Carl that Saab released among American troops and their allies. The bad guys probably won't like it very much, but who really cares what they think?