Volume 04, Issue 3
|Integrated Defense Systems|
Fast work for a big request
Boeing team gives troops in Middle East extra firepower
BY LINDA JAMES
When Boeing Air & Missile Defense Systems employees asked U.S. air defense soldiers recently returned from Iraq what could be done to enhance the capability of Avenger fire units, the Boeing team listened. And then they took action.
In partnership with the U.S. Army, Boeing designed a modification to its Avenger short-range air defense weapon system that would not only increase the system's firepower but also make its ground-support capabilities more relevant in today's urban battlefield. And, the team did it in a matter of weeks.
"The soldiers told us that Avenger was increasingly used to escort convoys," said Phil Hillman, Avenger project manager. "The threats were on the ground, not in the air. And, while the .50 caliber machine gun on the turret is a weapon that gained a lot of respect from the enemy, there were some things we could do to improve soldier and system survivability ... but we needed to do it quickly."
Time was of the essence with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (3ACR), poised to deploy to Iraq from a staging area in Kuwait. Their mission: convoy escort and ground support.
The Army and Boeing quickly began to address the 3ACR's requirement with changes to Avenger. Among them: removing one of the Stinger ground-to-air missile pods so that the .50 caliber machine gun could be moved up and mounted in its place. Repositioning the gun allowed for 360-degree coverage, eliminating no-fire zones around the cab of the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, commonly known as a Humvee, on which the Avengers are mounted. An additional design modification almost tripled the machine gun's firepower, giving soldiers 650 armor-piercing/incendiary .50-caliber bullets for protection.
In only three weeks, Boeing employees in Huntsville, Ala., built and the Army shipped eight kits to modify the regiment's Avenger fire units.
A joint Army and industry advance team on the ground in Kuwait paved the way for Boeing A&MDS employees John Lose, Steve Milly and Harry Chandler to start work immediately installing the kits and upgrading software. Ten days later the team completed installation, testing and soldier training.
According to Milly, the soldiers were "extremely pleased" with the enhancements.
"I feel a lot of pride knowing what we did helped to make the soldiers' job a lot safer so that they can come home to their families and friends," said Boeing team lead Jerry Wilson. "This effort was successful because everyone was focused on providing soldiers what they needed. It was all about the soldiers from beginning to end."
Col. Rick DeFatta, U.S. Army Cruise Missile Defense program manager, couldn't agree more. "What's exciting here is that we took a soldier requirement and turned it around to give them exactly what they needed—when they needed it most," he said. "In this case, we gave them more capability, more firepower ... and the ability to use it in a safer way."
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