As warfare took to the skies in the 20th century, innovations in weaponry and defense appeared in quick succession, moving from one version to the next. In a previous post, we discussed the Tube-fired, Optically-sighted, Wire-guided (TOW) weapons system, which was frequently mounted on heavy HMMWVs (Humvees) and the most effective tank-busters of the early 1980s. However, by around ‘85, the US Army was searching for a better missile system with infrared sights, improved fire control radar, and extended range.
The Stinger missile was the next in line. And, with the Pedestal-Mounted Stinger (PMS) program in effect, any companies developing weapons systems that could fire these missiles competed hard for the contract:
General Electric (GE)
GE’s Defender consisted of four Stinger missiles in one pod as well as two 25mm GE225 guns.
General Dynamics (currently owned by Raytheon)
The Valley Systems Division of General Dynamics built two Stinger pods with four missiles in each pod and two SACO .50-caliber lightweight machine guns.
LTV developed the Crossbow that consisted of the same armament as the General Dynamics system minus one .50-caliber machine gun. It was effective against both aircraft and tanks but added 3,000 pounds to the vehicle on which it was mounted.
While all systems developed by the competitors were excellent, it was Boeing and its PMS system, the Avenger, that won the contract in 1986. Read on to learn about what separates this system from the others.
The AN/TWQ-1 Avenger
Boeing developed its Avenger, a self-propelled surface-to-air missile system, over the course of only ten months. The Avenger was built with two pods, each with the capability of firing 4 Stinger missiles along with a secondary armament of a .50-caliber M3P machine gun.
It received its initial testing in 1984 at the Yakima Training Center in Washington State. During the test, it shot three Stinger missiles achieving a direct hit twice and a tactical hit once. By 1986, Boeing was awarded the PMS program contract, and, in the next year, the US Army awarded the company a contract for 325 Avenger units.
After rigorous testing in California and New Mexico, the Avenger was declared operationally-ready in 1990 — just in time for the Persian Gulf War, where the Army upped its order by 679 additional units and deployed the missile system successfully. The Boeing Avenger saw action throughout the Middle East during Operation Desert Storm as well as in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Bosnian War. More recently, Avengers were placed around the Pentagon on the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and were deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq during the military operations that followed those terrorist attacks.
The Boeing Avenger was a breakthrough for the US Armed Forces as both an active attack and defense weapon against cruise missiles, helicopters, drones, and fixed-wing aircraft. It was almost exclusively mounted to heavy HMMWVs: once again, exhibiting the vital role of army jeeps throughout the 20th and, now, the 21st centuries.
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