Marine Corps Is Finally Fielding a New 40mm Grenade Launcher

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A Marine prepares to shoot an M320 mounted on an M4 carbine at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, June 6, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps)
A Marine prepares to shoot an M320 mounted on an M4 carbine at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, June 6, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps)

U.S. Marines are about to finally get a new grenade launcher to replace the Vietnam War-era M203, a switch the Army made about 10 years ago.

The Marine Corps plans to field the M320A1 40mm grenade launcher -- which can be used in a standalone mode or mounted beneath weapons such as the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle -- in fiscal 2020, according to a recent news release from Marine Corps Systems Command.

"The M320A1 will provide good range and accuracy, making the infantry squad more lethal," Lt. Col. Tim Hough, program manager for Infantry Weapons at Marine Corps Systems Command's Ground Combat Element Systems, said in the release.

The Army first began fielding the M320 in 2009 and later upgraded to the M320A1, which is designed to be mounted under the M4 carbine.

Unlike the M203, the breach on the M320 series opens to the side to accept longer 40mm grenades. It also has a pistol grip, so troops don't have to use the weapon's 30-round magazine as a pistol grip.

The M320/320A1 has a maximum effective range of 150 meters on a point target such as a window and a 350-meter max effective range on an area target, according to the Army's technical manual for 40mm grenade launchers.

Unloaded, the M320 series weighs about 3.4 pounds in the mounted configuration and about 6.4 pounds in the stand-alone configuration.

"The functionality of the M320A1 makes it unique," Hough said in the release, adding that its ability to be used as a stand-alone or in conjunction with a rifle should help warfighters combat enemy forces.

But before the Marine Air-Ground Task Force receives the M320A1, the Marines will have to draft their own technical documents for the weapon, the release states.

In early March, Ground Combat Elements Systems began working with fleet maintenance Marines and logisticians from Albany, Georgia, conducting analyses to determine provisioning, sustainment and new equipment training requirements for the system, according to the release.

The first evaluation was a level-of-repair analysis, which determines when a system component will be replaced, repaired or discarded, the release states. This process provides information to help operational forces fix the weapon quickly should it break.

The second evaluation was a job training analysis, which provides the operational forces with a training package instructing them on proper use of the system so Marines can accurately engage adversaries on the battlefield, the release states.

"This process helps us ensure this weapon is both sustainable and maintainable at the operator and Marine Corps-wide level," said Capt. Nick Berger, project officer in Infantry Weapons at MCSC. "It sets conditions for us to field the weapon."

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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