The Avenger air defence system, built by Boeing, forms an important element in the US Army’s forward area air defence (FAAD) architecture, which includes C2I, radars, platforms and missiles. The first production contract for 325 units was awarded in 1987.
The gyro-stabilised Avenger turret with Stinger missiles is mounted on a 4×4 HMMWV (high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle), but can also operate in a standalone configuration or mounted on a variety of military vehicles. Avenger has a crew of two – gunner and driver.
In 1992, the US Army signed a contract for a further 679 vehicles, bringing total Avenger production to 1,004 units, of which around 800 are in service. A further 14 units were ordered in August 1999.
Taiwan has 70 systems and Egypt 50 systems. In June 2006, Boeing was awarded a Foreign Military Sales contract for an additional 25 Avenger units for Egypt. Deliveries are to begin in early 2008 and conclude by September 2008.
In September 2008, the United Arab Emirates requested the Foreign Military Sale of 78 Avenger systems with 800 Stinger missiles.
Laser Avenger – mounted laser counter IED system
Boeing has developed the Laser Avenger, which has a 1kW laser mounted on the Avenger vehicle, in addition to the missile system and machine gun.
The Laser Avenger is designed to be effective against improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and unexploded ordnance (UXO). In September 2007, Boeing successfully carried out test firings of the system.
In December 2008, at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, Laser Avenger acquired and tracked three small UAV targets and shot down one of the three.
Avenger system development
The Avenger system is fielded worldwide with the US Army, Marine Corps and Army National Guard. It was first deployed in 1991 to support NATO troops during Operation Desert Storm and has also been fielded in Bosnia and South Korea.
In September 2002, Avenger vehicles took part in the Open Skies II military exercise. The exercise was centred on the Washington region and tested air-ground multi-layered air defence.
A number of Avenger systems were deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom in March / April 2003, where, as well as providing air defence, they also contributed to ground security.
In April 2005, eight Avenger vehicles in service in Iraq were modified for the ground security role. The right missile pod was removed and the M3P gun moved to the missile pod’s position, enabling 360° firing at any angle or elevation.
Avenger slew-to-cue upgrade
An Avenger slew-to-cue upgrade kit has been developed to permit the existing link between the US Army FAAD command and control system to automatically slew the Avenger turret, placing the target in the gunner’s field of view.
The upgrade includes new fire control computer, NavPAC integrated inertial / GPS navigation system from Smiths Aerospace, ADEPT30 video trackers from Octec, handheld terminal unit and remote control unit upgrade.
First test firings of the upgrade, which gives beyond visual range engagement (BVRE) capability for the Stinger missile, took place in April 2001. The upgraded systems entered service in 2002. The upgrade was due to extend to the entire fleet but funding for the programme was cut for FY03.
The electric turret drive is the same as that used on the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and is manufactured by General Dynamics, Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Avenger carries eight Raytheon Stinger short-range air-defence missiles in two launch pods mounted either side of the turret. These pods have a range of elevation from -10° to +70°. Missile reload time is eight missiles in less than four minutes.
The current production Stinger missiles are the RMP (reprogrammable microprocessor) FIM-92D and the Block I FIM-92E. The Stinger missile has a two colour, infrared-ultraviolet rosette scan seeker, a 3kg fragmentation warhead, a maximum speed of Mach 2.2 and a maximum range 8km.
The Block I missile has a new roll frequency sensor and an improved processor. Funding for the Stinger block II missile, with an imaging infrared seeker based on a focal plane array, was halted in 2002.
Avenger is equipped with a .50-calibre M3P automatic machine gun to cover the missile dead zone and engage ground targets.
The machine gun, manufactured by Fabrique Nationale Herstal of Belgium, is mounted on the right launch beam with its ammunition magazine fixed on the right side of the turret below the gun barrel. 200 rounds of ammunition are carried. The gun is recoil-operated, link-belt fed and air-cooled.
The fire control system is highly automated, including automatic insertion of lead angle and super elevation at missile launch. The gunner’s station has a head-up CA-562 optical sight produced by CAI division of Recon / Optical, Barrington, Illinois. Missile seeker activate, uncage and fire permit indications are projected on the sight glass. Driven reticles confirm the missile seeker is locked on to the same target the gunner is tracking.
Targets are acquired either by using the optical sight or the Raytheon AN/VLR-1 Avenger FLIR (forward-looking infrared). The FLIR sensor is fitted to the left launch beam and is boresighted to the aiming point of the missile pod. The FLIR has three fields of view – wide, narrow and a rain mode.
The Avenger control electronics (ACE) unit, produced by General Dynamics, Burlington, Vermont, is the Avenger main computer. The ACE is located beneath the console in the gunner’s station.
A Raytheon eyesafe CO2 laser rangefinder provides range data which is processed by the ACE. An automatic video tracker (AVT), produced by DBA, Melbourne, Florida, is located under the gunner’s console, with its tracking box on the FLIR display. The autotracker locks on to the target and provides a tracking signal to the ACE for control of the turret in elevation and azimuth. An AN/PPX-3B IFF (identification friend or foe) system is also fitted.
Remote control unit
The remote control unit (RCU), also produced by General Dynamics, displays the same data available to the gunner, including the FLIR monitor display. It enables the crew to conduct engagements from remote positions up to 50m from the fire unit.
Boeing/Shorts Starstreak Avenger
Boeing teamed with Shorts Brothers PLC (now part of Thales) to offer an Avenger system in which one Stinger pod was replaced with a pod of four Starstreak Hyper-velocity laser-guided missiles, in the hopes of attracting a U.S. Army contract under the Forward Area Air Defense System Line-of-Sight Rear (FAADS-LOS-R) program. Test installation was carried out in mid-1990 and firing trials followed from mid-1991 in the U.K. Starstreak would have complemented the Stinger by improving the overall systems ability to deal with low hovering helicopters which frequently do not provide enough contrast for lock-on by infrared guided missiles. Starstreak also has the ability to be used against un-armored and lightly armored ground vehicles.
In the 1990s Boeing teamed with Matra of France to offer the Avenger modified by the substitution of standard triple launcher boxes for Matra Mistral missiles in place of the quadruple Stinger pods of the standard Avenger. One demonstrator vehicle was built in 1992 and test firings took place in France. The project was dropped around 1997.
Avengers during the Iraq War
Due to the lack of serious airborne threats during much of the Iraq War, along with the pressing need for ground assets for combat roles such as convoy protection, the Avenger was pressed into this role. The FLIR/laser rangefinder combined with the .50 cal machine gun has proved to be very effective, but was limited by no-fire zones, particularly to the front of the vehicle. A program was instituted to remove one of the missile pods and move the machine gun to that position to enable a 360° field of fire. The upgrade also increased the ammunition capacity to 650 rounds.
Another potential variant proposed by Boeing is an Avenger with a Directed Energy Weapon (DEW). Boeing completed an initial test of a 1 kilowatt laser mounted where the right missile pod would be. The M3P .50 cal has been replaced by the M242 Bushmaster as its close defense weapon.
Avenger Multi-Role Weapon System
Test firing demonstrations took place in 2004 of this variant modified by re-locating the M3P machine gun over the turret cab to allow a 360-degree field of fire, increasing ready-use machine gun ammunition stowage to 600 rounds, and providing the option to substitute launchers for 2 FGM-148 Javelin missiles in place of 1 Stinger pod.
Accelerated Improved Interceptor Initiative (AI3)
In February 2012, Raytheon was awarded a contract to develop the AI3, a modified AIM-9 Sidewinder missile mounted on the Avenger launcher, to perform counter rocket, artillery, mortar (C-RAM), counter unmanned aerial vehicle (C-UAV), and counter cruise missile duties.
In 2013, the US Army decided to not buy the system.
In August 2014, the system successfully intercepted a UAV and cruise missile target featuring a semi-active radar homing seeker in a test.
|Mass||8,600 lb (3900 kg)|
|Length||16 ft 3 in (4.95 m)|
|Width||7 ft 2 in (2.18 m)|
|Height||8 ft 8 in (2.64 m)|
|Crew||2 (Basic), 3 (STC)|
|4/8 FIM-92 Stinger missiles|
|.50 M3P machine gun|
|Engine||Detroit Diesel cooled V-8
135 hp (101 kW)
|275 miles (443 km)|
|Maximum speed||55 mph (89 km/h)|