A belt-fed grenade machine gun sounds deadly enough. The Army wants to make it deadlier, with improvements fielded as soon as 2018.

Project Manager Crew Served Weapons hopes to upgrade various parts of the MK19, and to test those improvements in fiscal year 2017, which starts in October, according to Program Executive Office Soldier. The goal? Improve the weapon's muzzle velocity, cyclic rate (rounds per minute), reliability, ease of assembly, and accuracy.

The Army is pursuing that laundry list of objectives as separate initiatives involving different aspects of the weapon also known as the Mark-19, but will later combine them into one upgrade package.

"Each improvement is at a different stage of development," said an emailed statement from Project Manager Soldier Weapons spokesman Peter Rowland. "The Army is planning to produce and field the upgrade as one kit. This will allow for efficiencies in scheduling and application of improvements at one time in lieu of separate efforts."

The particular initiatives, Rowland said in his email, include the following:

A new barrel for the launcher will provide less resistance thus improving muzzle velocity.

An improved profile for the vertical cam () will reduce the force needed to charge the weapon by 20-30 pounds; that will increase the cyclic rate.

Redesigning the round positioning block should decrease frequency of misfires, thus enhancing reliability.

A new cocking cam and lever design offers a double-benefit: increased durability and shortened re-assembly time after maintenance.

Updated mechanical sight to aid accuracy, utilizing up to date ammunition ballistic data.

The MK19 has a range of about 2.2 kilometers to hit an area and about 1,500 meters to hit a more refined target. The tripod-mounted 78-pound weapon fires 40mm grenade rounds from a belt (generally with 32 or 48 grenades each). It currently has a cyclic rate of more than 325 rounds per minute, with a sustained rate of 40 rounds per minute.

The first version of the MK19 was produced in 1968 and used in Vietnam; it has since been modified with improvements a handful of times.



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