MANUFACTURER(S): Saco Defense Industries (General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products) / Combined Service Forces - USA
OPERATORS: Argentina; Australia; Bangladesh; Canada; Croatia; Egypt; Greece; Iraq; Ireland; Israel; Lebanon; Malaysia; Mexico; Pakistan; Poland; South Korea; Spain; Sweden; Taiwan; Thailand; Turkey; United Kingdom; United States
ACTION: Self-Powered, Air-Cooled, Belt-Fed, Blowback-Operated
SIGHTS: Flip-Up Rear Leaf Sight.
Detailing the development and operational history of the Saco Mk 19 AGL 40mm Automatic Grenade Launcher (AGL).
Entry last updated on 5/3/2019.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
Design of the Mk 19 system began in 1966 by the Naval Ordnance Center out of Louisville with the required evaluations following. Subsequent acceptance into US Army service began the following year. First combat occurred in the Vietnam War where the Mk 19 could be fitted to specialty vehicles such as the PBR (Patrol Boat, Riverine) to help defend the vast network of waterways in the country. The Mk 19 began production in 1967 and continues even today. The Mk 19 was originally manufactured by Saco Defense Industries which has since become a division of General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products (GDATP). Combined Service Forces is another known producer of the weapon system. The Mk 19 family has also been evolved into several variants that include the Mk 19 series Mod 0, Mod 1, Mod 2 and Mod 3 models. Upon inception into service, the automatic Mk 19 replaced the Mk 18 series grenade launchers which made use of a hand-cranked system.
At its core, the Mk 19 serves to provide military personnel with an automatic firing grenade launcher platform. The system is automatically fed and can fire continuously without reloading each individual projectile as the weapon is cocked after the firing of each projectile (the initial cocking action is manually actuated). The Mk 19 can reach rates of fire to supply ground forces with sustained coverage and suppress actions of enemy forces or dislodge them entirely from positions. The gun component of the weapon system weighs 72.5lbs and features a length of 43.1 inches with the barrel measuring in at 16.25 inches. The Mk 19 operates from a blowback principle and can sport a rate of fire between 325 and 375 rounds per minute, allowing for suppression fire. Effective range is out to 1,500 yards with a maximum range listed just beyond 2,200 yards. The barrel is air-cooled so overheating is an issue with continuous fire. The operator makes use of a flip-up leaf rear sight for "precision" fire though this is only marked up to 1,500 yards - hence the listed effective range. Of course with grenade-type weapons, these is also a minimum use range of about 80 yards for the safety of the operator and friendlies nearby. The receiver is also designed to accept optics to assist in night time operations. The Mk 19 system normally requires the assistance of two personnel, one to manage the firing and the other to facilitate the belt feed of the grenades.
The Mk 19 makes use of 40x53mm grenade projectiles that can feature various warhead types for the mission at hand. This ranges from High-Explosive Dual Purpose (M430 HEDP) to blue-tipped training rounds. The projectiles are fed into the firing chamber via a belt system and are issued in cannisters numbering 32 to 48 grenades. Each grenade can penetrate the armor of most current light armored vehicles and can decimate soft-skinned vehicles and enemy soldier concentrations. Despite its 40mm caliber, the 40x53mm grenades of the Mk 19 are not the same as those utilized in the single-shot M203 grenade launcher fitted to assault rifles, these instead making use of a 40x46mm brand.
The Mk 19 can be fired from its standard tripod mounting or fitted to a pintle mount for trainable firing from vehicles. The Mk 19 has seen action from US Army HUMVEEs, Strykers, amphibious assault tracked vehicles, patrol boats, hovercraft, mine resistant vehicles, larger navy vessels, JEEPs, special operations naval watercraft and the like.
The Mk 19 was fully-featured in the 1991 Gulf War primarily with American forces. It is currently seeing use in the war of Afghanistan following the events of September 11th, 2001. It subsequently saw combat operations in the 2003 American invasion of Iraq.
The general long-term success of the Mk 19 system in US hands has ensured it a lengthy operational service life in the global armies of Australia, Egypt, Greece, Israel (as the Maklar), Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, South Korea (as the S&T Daewoo K4), Spain, Sweden (as the Grsp) and Taiwan. For Egypt, Israel and South Korea, the Mk 19 was, for a time, produced locally. Thousands of Mk 19 systems have been produced to date. Some nations have attempted to reproduce local versions of the successful Mk 19 to no avail.