All major modern armies rely on some form of automatic grenade launcher: for the United States and its allies, it is the Mk 19 40mm series. For the Russian Army and its worldwide customers, it is the AGS-17 "Plamya" of 30mm. For the nation of South Africa, which has developed a respected arms industry since the 1980s, this has come in the form of the Denel Y3 AGL (Automatic Grenade Launcher). The Y3 was originally born as the AS88 under the Aram Ltd (Pretoria) brand label before its rights were purchased by the Vektor firearms concern. When Vektor was merged into Denel Limited (Denel Land Systems), the product then took on the Denel label. Design work on the weapon began in 1992 to which trials and eventual production followed, the latter beginning in 2003. It currently serves with the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).
The automatic grenade launcher has broadened the field grenadier significantly since the days of World War 2 where the choice was either thrown hand grenades or rifle grenades fired from the muzzle of a service rifle. Modern automatic grenade launchers systems allow for both offensive- and defensive-minded action against enemy infantry, vehicles and fortifications and this through varying degrees of direct and indirect fire while also offering suppression effects. Additionally, modern automatic grenade launchers can be carried into combat by basic infantry, mounted onto vehicles for mobile on-call firepower or fitted to helicopters for aerial containment of enemy ground forces.
TheY3 AGL is a large and heavy system with dimensions that include a running length of 33 inches, a width of 11 inches and a height of 10.5 inches. Overall weight of the weapon is 70.5lbs and this is only increased when combined to the available 40lb tripod support assembly. The unit typically resides atop the heavy-duty adjustable tripod and is fielded in the same tactical matte black finish as the weapon. The weapon section itself consists of a large rectangular frame housing the open breech/long recoil action, the feed mechanism (either left or right side-mounted as needed), a charging handle and a shrouded barrel. The barrel assembly measures 11.8 inches in length. The barrel shroud is vented at its front and no portion of the barrel assembly protrudes ahead of its covering. The operator manages the weapon through a spade-type grip arrangement at the rear of the receiver. A knobbed charging handle is set to the side of the body and within easy reach. Optics (including a ballistics computer) can be mounted along the top of the frame for accurized long-range fire. Due to its size and weight, a typical operating crew is three personnel.
The weapon is chambered for the 40x53mm high-velocity grenade fed via a link belt holding 20- or 32-rounds. The belt is, itself, contained in a hardened case seated to the left or right of the weapon (additionally two cases can be fitted to either side o0f the receiver, each with different grenade types, and fired individually as needed). The Y3 AGL can support a cyclic rate-of-fire of 425 rounds per minute with a muzzle velocity of 795 feet per second. Spent casings are ejected through the bottom of the weapon. The standard grenade in the Y3 AGL series is the base High-Explosive (HE) model. To this has since been added a High-Explosive, Dual-Purpose (HEDP) type which allows against lightly-armored vehicles or those under hardened structures. Beyond that, the weapon series features a collection of training and practice grenades.