M320 Grenade Launcher wins excellent Soldier feedback

By Ms. Tracy Robillard (AMC)November 19, 2010

M320 40mm Grenade Launcher
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. Aca,!" A new grenade launcher designed to replace the ArmyAca,!a,,cs aging M203 series launcher developed at Picatinny Arsenal was named by the Army last month as one of the 10 Greatest Inventions for calendar year 2009.

The ArmyAca,!a,,cs success of the M320 40mm Grenade Launcher was the result of collaboration between both government and industry partners.

The Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) and Project Manager Soldier Weapons led the project and coordinated Soldier feedback, while also relying on industry partners H&K Defense and Insight Technology, Inc.

Manufactured by H&K Defense, the M320 40mm grenade launcher is designed to operate as a stand-alone weapon, in addition to being traditionally mounted to the M16 rifle or M4 carbine.

Aca,!A"By designing the M320 with a stand-alone configuration, it greatly increases the small unit tactical commanderAca,!a,,cs flexibility to tailor the weapon to the mission,Aca,!A? said Paul Koerner, ARDEC Project Engineer. Aca,!A"The M203 doesnAca,!a,,ct have this capability, which forced the Soldier to carry along the system mounted to the rifle or carbine in situations that may have been better suited for a stand-alone launcher.Aca,!A?

Additionally, the M320 design incorporates infrared technologies that give Soldiers more sighting accuracy in the dark. The integral day/night sighting system, manufactured by Insight Technology, Inc., combined with a hand-held Bushnell Laser Rangefinder and night vision goggles, allow for easy aiming of targets and accurate placement of rounds even in the darkest of conditions. These features also increase the SoldierAca,!a,,cs probability of a first-round hit.

Aca,!A"Grenadiers really like the new side-loading feature,Aca,!A? said Lt. Col. Chris Lehner, Product Manager Individual Weapons. Aca,!A"Soldiers can load and fire successive rounds faster and the unrestricted breech allows the system to fire a greater variety of standard and non standard 40mm rounds. The M320 even opens up the potential for new ammunition development.Aca,!A?

The M320 also features a double-action trigger, which improves reliability and safety compared to the M203Aca,!a,,cs single-action trigger. If the M320 misfires, the Soldier can simply pull the trigger again, whereas the M203 required the user to cycle the breech to re-cock the firing pin.

Even the human interface has been improved. The new M320 has a pistol grip, compared to the M203 which required the use of the host-weaponAca,!a,,cs magazine as a hand grip.

Additionally, the weapon components are made with composite materials that enhance durability.

PicatinnyAca,!a,,cs project team worked closely with Soldiers since the initial development in 2004 to ensure the M320 met all Army requirements and needs of the warfighter.

The first M320 grenade launchers were fielded to Soldiers of the 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division in June 2009. To date, approximately 12,000 systems have been fielded.

The M320 was one of three technologies researched and developed by Picatinny teams to earn an Army Greatest Invention award this year. The winning teams will be formally recognized at the Army Science Conference in Orlando, Nov. 29.

Winning Army Greatest Inventions constitute both newly-patented technologies as well as new developments to existing or Aca,!A"off the shelfAca,!A? technologies that positively impact the Soldier, such as the M320 grenade launcher.


The integrated project team relied on Soldier feedback from the initial development in 2004 all the way through the testing and fielding of the weapon.

"The M320 had a unique warfighter focus from the start," said Frank Torres, ARDEC team leader of the project throughout the M320's development. "The program had the privilege of having a military member assigned by Project Manager Soldier Weapons to manage the program all the way throughout its development."

"Having a military PM counterpart positively influenced many of the decisions and considerations the team encountered during development, testing and evaluation and enabled many conversations with the warfighters from several unique perspectives.

"The team is confident that this level of involvement with the Soldier translated into a product that has as much of this feedback incorporated into the final design as was possible," he added.

ARDEC and PM Soldier Weapons relied on the expertise of other organizations, especially from industry, such as the weapon and Day/Night Sight designers and manufacturers H&K Defense and Insight Technology, Inc., respectively.

ARDEC and other Army organizations were heavily involved throughout the M320 development, ensuring the system adequately met the Soldier's requirements. These Army organizations included the Aberdeen Test Center, Developmental Test Command, Operational Test Command, and Army Research Labs.

ABOUT US: Picatinny Arsenal is a Department of Defense center of excellence for the research, development, engineering and fielding of advanced armaments and weapon systems for all branches of the U.S. military. Known as the "Home of American Firepower," the New Jersey team of 5,000-strong provides a range of innovative technologies to support and protect today's warfighters. Learn more at <a href="http://www.pica.army.mil/PicatinnyPublic/index.asp" target="_blank">www.pica.army.mil</a>

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