US adding lasers and anti-aircraft missiles to armored vehicles

Boeing modernized its 1980s-era Avenger air defense system to answer the Army’s call to fill its Short-range Air Defense gap within the maneuver force. The Avenger first came off the production line at Boeing in 1987 and is known for defending the National Capitol Region. The old systems used Stinger missiles, which are passive infrared munitions. Boeing has fielded 1,100 systems to the U.S. and other nations.

There are only four Avenger batteries in the active component – the rest resident in the reserve forces. The Army is expecting to fight in the future in highly contested and congested environments against adversaries with fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, missiles and drones.

Boeing is looking to address all of those threats by outfitting Avenger like a multi-mission launcher. They will use AIM 9X Sidewinder missiles on one side and Hellfire Longbow missiles on the other and a directed energy laser system on top.

Boeing and other companies have made laser weapons much more compact. A dedicated vehicle would be needed to hold a 50- to 300-kilowatt weapon suitable for downing helicopters, airplanes, or (at the high end) cruise missiles. 2 to 5-kW weapons with proven drone-killing capability can fit in existing combat vehicles. The 2 kW laser Stryker that starred in a recent Army exercise has room for eight infantrymen in back, compared to nine normally. Missiles can be added to existing armored vehicles for shooting down larger planes and missiles.

The US may end up converting one in four armored vehicles for dedicated anti-missile, anti-drone and anti-aircraft and have most vehicles with anti-drone and missile blinding lasers. Most vehicles could then continue with their normal jobs.