WASHINGTON — BAE Systems hopes a prototype redesign of its new armored vehicle’s turret could one day allow the U.S. Army to rapidly adapt it into an anti-drone weapon.

BAE is now developing the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle for the Army as a replacement for the Vietnam-era M113 armored personnel carriers. The company has so far built more than 270 of the tracked, heavily-armored AMPVs, and hundreds more are on the way, according to BAE’s vice president of business development for combat mission systems, Jim Miller. The business official spoke to Defense News on Oct. 9 at the Association of the U.S. Army’s conference in Washington.

The AMPV has five variants, including versions designed to fire mortars, a command-and-control vehicle, and medical vehicles for evacuating or treating troops wounded on the battlefield.

But BAE thinks the AMPV can do more — and that the Army will want it to carry out additional missions.

The company created a prototype that essentially has its roof plate chopped and replaced with a version — dubbed the External Mission Equipment Package, or ExMEP — that has an adaptable turret on top. The ExMEP plate uses modular, open-systems architecture for quick adaptability, Miller said.

BAE outfitted its prototype AMPV at AUSA with a counter-drone turret commonly used on the Army’s Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense, or M-SHORAD, system to demonstrate what could be added to the vehicle without much difficulty or cost.

“The Army doesn’t have to test all that stuff again,” Miller said. “All the pieces have [already] been tested.”

Miller compared the concept to a Picatinny rail system on a rifle that allows a soldier to quickly adapt a weapon with features such as a scope, targeting laser or grenade launcher.

The M-SHORAD counter-drone system that was adapted into the AMPV is the Moog-made Reconfigurable Integrated-weapons Platform turret.

BAE adapted its AMPV with a 30mm gun, a 7.62mm machine gun, Stinger missiles, radar and other tracking systems. However, Miller said the Stingers could be replaced with Hellfire missiles.

Miller said the work to adapt different systems onto an AMPV would likely happen in BAE facilities or depots, not in the field. One adaptation took place in a few days, he explained, but cautioned that not all might happen that quickly. The integration of command-and-control systems into the AMPV is complicated, he said — but it can be done.

“We want to show the Army that … this vehicle is completely adaptable,” Miller said. “It is [a] modular, open-systems [architecture], and should they want to do a rapid program development for something like [M-SHORAD], they could do something like we’re showing here.”

BAE started planning these AMPV adaptations at last year’s AUSA conference, he noted. But the firm isn’t yet planning to start adapting its already in-construction AMPVs with the adaptable top, he said, and it will be up to the Army to decide if it wants this to be another official variant, or if it wants to adjust BAE’s design.

“Our base planning idea is to keep this as low cost as possible so that the Army can do it … at low risk and low cost,” Miller said.

Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.

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