Washington (UPI) Feb 8, 2011
Boeing is pushing for an innovative -- and deadly -- multi-weapon variant of its Avenger system that is set to give a new edge to fighters in modern warfare conditions.
Already shown to procurement officials and military professionals at a U.S. Army show in Washington, the Adaptive Force Protection Solutions System is a key highlight of weaponry that is likely to be deployed in modern warfare conditions.
Analysts said AFPS aroused most interest where politicians' priorities meet the military's needs to save costs and protect fighters against a diverse range of enemy arsenals.
Boeing says it invested its own research money to develop what it called a next-generation system that is more capable and versatile than its predecessors in the Avenger range.
Variations on the Avenger have been in the U.S. armed forces for more than 20 years. The Avenger was deployed to defend NATO troops against Iraq's aircraft and cruise missiles during the 1990-91 Gulf War.
Avenger was famously used to cast a protective cordon around Washington after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and helped allay public anxieties over 9/11.
"Boeing has developed a universal weapons interface concept that enables integration of a variety of weapons, providing multi-mission capability on a single platform," said Phil Hillman, Boeing program manager for Avenger and the new AFPS.
Hillman, who has seen the program evolve and innovate for two decades, said, "This approach allows for rapid conversion, a robust weapons mix and the flexibility to match the weapon with the threat."
AFPS carries what Boeing calls its "classic" Avenger weapon, the Stinger surface-to-air missile. But it can field an array of other weapons, including the AIM-9X surface-to-air missile, which has longer range than the Stinger.
Hellfire missiles and 2.75-inch guided rockets on AFPS can defend against ground targets and a remotely operated, lightweight 25mm machine gun can counter air or ground targets, Boeing said.
The company says AFPS can even carry a high-energy laser to destroy unexploded ordnance on the ground or unmanned aircraft in the air. Weapons can be removed or installed in a matter of minutes.
While the Avenger's rotating turret is mounted on a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, commonly known as the Humvee, the AFPS system can be placed with or without a turret on a variety of vehicles, including the new mine-resistant, ambush-protected all-terrain vehicles that being used to protect U.S. troops against roadside bombs in Afghanistan.
Other potential platforms include a whole range of medium tactical vehicles or even the ground or a ship.
"AFPS takes a very effective weapon system in Avenger and adds a lot of capability not only to improve the primary mission of air defense but also to give it a multi-role element for force protection against ground threats," Hillman said.
He called AFPS "vehicle agnostic" -- meaning as long as there is enough real estate, it can be adapted to any vehicle.
Prospective buyers for the system weren't discussed in Boeing's data on AFPS.
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