The light armored vehicle – air defence (LAV-AD) is a hybrid gun / missile air defence system, manufactured by General Dynamics Armaments Systems (now, General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products) of Burlington, Vermont, USA. It combines a high-rate-of-fire Gatling gun and the short-range, infrared Stinger fire-and-forget missile system.
The LAV-AD is in service with the US Marine Corps (USMC). The last of 17 systems was delivered in January 1999. The mission of the USMC LAV-AD is to provide air defence for the light armored vehicle battalion, with a secondary role to defend against ground threats.
The system consists of the Blazer air defence turret, developed by General Dynamics Armaments Systems and Thales Air Defense (formerly Thomson-CSF Airsys) of Bagneaux, France, installed on a modified LAV-25 vehicle, manufactured by the Diesel Division of General Motors of Canada. The LAV-AD 8×8 wheeled vehicle has all-terrain and amphibious mobility.
The Blazer turret for the LAV-AD includes two air defence weapons: the GAU-12/U 25mm Gatling gun and two four-Stinger surface-to-air missile launcher pods. The gun and missile combination provides quick and decisive reaction to close-in, low-flying air threats. The turret is all-electric driven and is controlled by either of two turret operators, the commander and the gunner. A stabilisation system is fitted for fire on the move capability.
The Stinger missile, manufactured by Raytheon, has a two-colour, infrared-ultraviolet rosette scan seeker and a 3kg high explosive warhead. Maximum speed of the missile is Mach 2.2 and maximum range is 8km. The current production Stinger missiles are the RMP (reprogrammable microprocessor) FIM-92D and the block I FIM-92E. The block I missile has a new roll frequency sensor and an improved processor. The funding for Stinger block II missile, with an imaging infrared seeker based on a focal plane array, was cancelled in 2002. Elevation for the missile and gun is -8° to +60°. As well as the eight missiles in the launch pods, another eight missiles are carried which are reloaded manually.
The 25mm Gatling gun provides anti-air cover in the missile dead zone and has a rate of fire of 1,800 shots a minute and maximum range of 2,500m. The gun is effective against pop-up helicopter targets, low infrared signature and ground targets.
Two banks of four electric smoke grenade dischargers are fitted either side of the front turret.
Fire control and surveillance
LAV-AD is equipped with an automatic digital fire control system. The fire control system is set up with user-friendly firing sequences for both missiles and gun and the system is pre-programmed with 44 on-board air defence engagements.
Primary target engagement is provided by the FLIR TV sight system (FTS), which is manufactured by Raytheon Systems Company based in Arlington, Virginia, US. The system provides passive acquisition and tracking of targets by day and night. The integrated sight system has a two-axis, stabilised, digital line-of-sight director for fire on the move capability. The sensor suite includes a second generation, dual field of view thermal sight and day TV, coupled with an eyesafe carbon dioxide CO2 laser rangefinder for passive target acquisition. The thermal imager is based on a 240 × 4 scanning array. There is high-resolution video output for detailed remote viewing.
Blazer air defence system
A variant of the LAV-AD, the Blazer air defence system has been developed by General Dynamics Armaments Systems and Thales Air Defense for the export market. Blazer integrates a Thales TRS 2630P acquisition radar for early threat detection and cueing of the Raytheon FLIR/TV targeting sight.
The TRS 2630P radar system is also fielded by the French Army. It has a range of up to 17km and also provides target identification.
The Blazer air defence system combines the high-rate-of-fire Gatling gun with either the Stinger or Mistral infrared-guided surface-to-air missile system. The Mistral missile is manufactured by MBDA (formerly Matra BAe Dynamics, France) and has a maximum range of 6km. A fully automated digital fire control system allows the Blazer to carry out stationary and on-the-move target engagements.