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The Mk 19 grenade launcher is an American automatic grenade launcher that was designed in 1966 and first deployed for testing in 1968 with the U.S. military during the Vietnam War and continues to see service even today. The Mk 19 grenade launcher is fully automatic, and is capable of firing a wide variety of ammunition types.
History[edit | edit source]
The Mk 19 was originally designed in 1966 by Naval Ordnance Station Louisville (NOS Louisville for short), using the powerful 40×53mm grenade round developed in the late 1950s for the Army's M75 grenade launcher.
NOS Louisville originally designed the prototype Mod 0 version of the Mk 19 during the Vietnam War, but was deemed unreliable and unsafe for use.
The Mod 1 was later developed, and six of them were successfully tested on patrol boats on the Mekong Delta in 1972. 1,000 examples were produced or modified from Mod 0s.
In 1974 the experimental lightweight Mod 2 version was developed. It had a smaller and slimmer form factor and was fired using a solenoid; it never worked properly and was scrapped during the prototype phase.
Further refinements to the design began as the Mod 3 in 1976, which was type-classified by the US Navy in 1981 and adopted by the US Army in 1983.
Several attempts have been made to develop a successor, with the main goal being to produce a more portable weapon (an empty Mk 19 Mod 3 on an M3 tripod weighs 145 pounds) and one that can accept modern optics and fire control systems (as the Mk 19 is only really compatible with the elderly AN/TVS-5 starlight scope).
The XM307 ACSW (50 pounds empty with tripod and fire control system, 80 pounds loaded) was ultimately cancelled, while the Mk 47 Mod 0 grenade launcher (90 pounds empty with tripod and fire control system), at one point mooted to fully replace the Mk 19, has thus far only being purchased in limited numbers by USSOCOM and similar special operations groups.
Design Details[edit | edit source]
The Mk 19 is an air-cooled, belt-fed, fully-automatic grenade launcher usually manned by a crew of two. It operates on advanced primer ignition blowback principle (or API blowback for short), which is where the primer of the round is ignited while the bolt is still moving forward and before the round is fully chambered: this means part of the recoil force is offset by the continued forward motion of the bolt. The weapon has a fairly low cyclic rate of 300-400 rounds per minute, which allows it to cool off sufficiently before firing the next round, preventing cook-offs. In addition to that, the Mk 19 also fires from an open bolt, which helps to prevent cooking off even further. Practical rate of fire is 40 rpm sustained and 60 rpm for rapid emergency fire. The weapon has a flash suppressor which only serves to protect the shooter's eyes and not as a way conceal the weapon.
When used, it is usually seen on either a tripod or on a vehicle mount; the latter is the preferred method as the Mk 19 as very heavy: the gun body alone weighs 77.6 pounds (35.2 kilograms), and the full weapon requires the addition of a 0.4 pound (0.2 kg) feeding throat, a 21-pound (9.5 kg) gun cradle and a 44-pound (20 kg) tripod, with the belt boxes weighing a further 41.9 pounds (19 kg) for a 32-round PA120 or 59.5 pounds (27 kg) for a 48-round M548.
It has somewhat low recoil, so the weapon has been adapted to be used on various vehicle platforms such as the Humvee and IAV Stryker. The Mk 19 has dual charging handles mounted on pivots, which when pulled, feeds the first round onto the bolt face. Recoil from the weapon when fired blows the bolt back and feeds a new round onto the bolt face and pushes the spent cartridge casing off it. Grenades are fed from the left-hand side.
Ammunition[edit | edit source]
The Mk 19 uses a variant of the 40×53mm grenade as the standard ammunition, the high-explosive dual-purpose M430 grenade, which has the ability to kill personnel within a five-meter blast radius. Despite being of a similar caliber, Mk 19 grenades are incompatible with the M203's 40×46mm grenades, as M203 grenades develop lower chamber pressures when compared to those used in the Mk 19 and will not reliably cycle the action.
The Airbursting Munition System (ABMS) jointly manufactured by General Dynamics and Advanced Material Engineering Pte Ltd, a subsidiary of Singapore-based company ST Kinetics, is compatible with the Mk 19. The jointly-manufactured airburst grenades have timed fuzes that are completely programmable, using a fire control system integrated into a computerized sighting unit along with a "round programmer" that attaches to the weapon's muzzle. They can also be fired in standard point-detonating mode.