The Marine Corps recently announced that it has started experimenting with the M320 grenade launcher — and expects to have 7,000 of the launchers in the hands of the infantry by 2022.

Depending on budget restraints, the launcher could see widespread action as early as 2019 and as late as 2022, Barb Hamby, a Marine Corps Systems Command spokeswoman, told Marine Corps Times in a phone interview. 

"It is part of a continued experiment to see what we can do to help improve Marine mobility and make them more lethal," said Hamby.

The grenade launcher, which has been used by the Army for about eight years, is being tested by Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

The M320 is a 40 mm single-shot add-on grenade launcher designed to replace the Army's M203 launcher, according to a description on the Heckler & Koch website. It can fire a variety of rounds, including high explosive, armor piercing, smoke and irritant gas. It can attach to a rifle or serve as a stand-alone grenade launcher. 

Marine infantry will be the first in the Corps to be able to take advantage of the weapon. The Marine Corps eventually hopes to expand the weapon into other combat units, said Hamby.

The grenade launcher is not the only weapons upgrade that the Corps hopes to see in the near future. The Corps announced in April that it is considering replacing its standard-issue M4 carbine with the Heckler & Koch M27.

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