Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Sept. 25, 2020.
If it’s good enough for Jesse Ventura, then you bet your ass it’s good enough for the U.S. Navy.
The Navy has fielded a 650-round ammo backpack nicknamed ‘Avenger’ to troops at some point in the last several years, the service confirmed to Task & Purpose, although officials declined to elaborate on the scope or details of the system’s employment.
“Unfortunately we cannot disclose this type of information as it pertains to troop location, movements, and tactics,” Lisa Oswald, a spokeswoman for Naval Supply Systems Command, told Task & Purpose.
First developed by expeditionary warfare engineers from the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division, multiple Avenger units “have been built, fielded, and used in combat,” according to TechLink, which first reported the existence of the system in 2018.
The Avenger can hold an additional 150 additional rounds of standard-issue 7.62mm ammunition compared to 500-round systems already in the U.S. inventory, according to TechLink, with a 50 percent reduction in the pack’s weight, down to just nine pounds.
More importantly, the system costs just $300 in material and is relatively simple to produce, a significant improvement over the $4,000 price tag that often accompanies ammo can-based designs made of steel or aluminum.
“The Navy backpack utilizes an ammunition chute and an internal divider that keeps the belt from twisting to ensure a smooth feed,” according to TechLink. “It is comprised of lightweight, flexible material that, when pinched or crushed, can adjust in ways an ammo can-based pack cannot.”
The Avenger isn’t the first ammo backpack to make a splash in U.S. military circles in recent years. In 2011, an inventive Iowa National Guard staff sergeant threw together a backpack-fed Mk 48 machine gun system in the aftermath of a firefight during a deployment to Afghanistan.
That system, dubbed ‘Ironman’ (and not to be confused with U.S. Special Operations Command’s now-defunct ‘Iron Man’ suit), was directly inspired by the backpack-fed M134 minigun that Ventura’s character Sgt. Blain Cooper rocks during the 1987 action classic Predator.
Unfortunately, the high cost of the Ironman system that the Army spent two years refining ended up rendering the broad procurement and fielding of the system as less than desirable, as Soldier Systems reported in 2014.
According to NAVSUP, the Navy’s Avenger ammo backpack is an entirely different system from the Ironman pack, the latter of which Navy engineers had never even heard of.
At the moment, NAVSUP is currently on a team with the Defense Innovation Accelerator — the Pentagon’s in-house innovation hub — “actively trying to pursue this invention and potentially produce or expand it,” as Oswald told Task & Purpose.
And unfortunately, despite the inspiration that the Iowa National Guard drew from Ventura, NAVSUP was able to confirm that the Avenger ammo pack was explicitly not designed with Predator in mind.
“We think the comparison is interesting,” Oswald, the NAVSUP spokeswoman, told Task & Purpose when asked about similarities between the two systems. “Our focus is about supporting the warfighter and meeting mission requirements.”
What a shame: ‘Old Painless’ would’ve made for a way better name than ‘Avenger,’ in our opinion.