by Dan Shea
Sterling, Virginia (May 12, 2005) Heckler & Koch Defense Inc. was awarded a competitive contract to produce the new add-on grenade launcher for the U.S. Army. The U.S. XM320 40x46mm Grenade Launcher Module may replace the inventory of M203 grenade launchers currently in use by the Army, including those launchers used by Army units in Iraq and Afghanistan. This award marks the completion of a full and open competition among several companies to provide a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) shoulder-fired grenade launcher that met or surpassed all user-developed requirements. The total potential value of this contract is $29 million with a potential purchase of more that 11,000 launchers, day/night sights, and assorted items (tools, parts, and accessories) over the life of the contract.
The XM320 Grenade Launcher Module was selected after months of rigorous bid sample testing, including a user evaluation at the Army’s Aberdeen Test Center in Aberdeen, Maryland. The XM320 is a multi-functional single-shot launcher that can be attached to a wide range of current issue U.S. weapons including the M16A2 and M16A4 rifles, and M4, M4A1 and M4 MWS carbines.
The open architecture of the XM320 will enable soldiers to easily attach the launcher, in seconds and without tools, to current newly emerging weapons platforms from compact carbines to light machine guns. The XM320 can also be used as a stand-alone weapon when the add-on, multi-position sliding butts stock is added. The XM320 GLM is unique in that it uses a side-opening barrel that permits the use of all current 40x46mm ammunition as well as many longer cartridges that, due to their overall length, could not be fired from the M203 grenade launcher. The use of a uncocked condition. The double-action trigger system is controlled by the use of an ambidextrous manual rotary safety lever also permits multiple primer strikes without the need to open the breech.
The sights for the XM320 are attached directly to the grenade launcher’s receiver enduring the zero (aiming/impact point) of the weapon is retained when it is removed and later reinstalled on another weapon or when its used in the stand-alone mode. The building block design approach of the XM320 allows for a choice of three distinct sighting systems. A ranging day/night sight produced by Insight Technology Inc. of Londonderry New Hampshire provides a high probability of 24-hour first round target engagements within 5 meters out to 350 meters. A mechanical ladder sight can also be used in combination on the XM320 launcher.
Lighter in weight than the U.S. M203 grenade launcher, the XM320 is a combat-proven design produced by Heckler & Koch based on lessons learned from producing more that 30,000 similar launchers that have been in service since 2000 with the military forces of Britain, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, and Portugal.
During U.S. Army testing the robust HK Grenade Launcher Module received superior marks for accuracy, reliability, and modularity. The XM320 Grenade Launcher Module provides unmatched performance and combat capability for the U.S. warfighter-permitting the destruction of point targets and the suppression of area targets under both day and night conditions. Current plans call for the first Army deliveries to begin in early 2006.
Heckler & Koch Defense Inc. of Sterling, Virginia is the U.S. affiliate of Heckler & Koch, GmbH of Oberndorf, Germany. HK Defense supplies the U.S. military and federal law enforcement agencies with technologically advanced firearms, logistical support, training, and specialized design services. Parent company Heckler & Koch is the firm behind some of the most of well known firearms of the last fifty years including the G3 rifle, MP5 submachine gun, USP pistol, and newer models such as the G36 weapon system, the UNP submachine gun, the MP7A1 personal defense weapon, and the HK416 enhanced carbine.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V8N11 (August 2005)|