Originally developed as a private venture by Boeing in the 1980s, the Avenger was developed over a period of only 10 months from initial concept to delivery for testing to the U.S. Army. Initial testing was conducted in May 1984 at the Army's Yakima Training Center in the U.S. state of Washington. During testing three FIM-92 Stinger missiles were fired. During the first test firing the system achieved a direct hit while moving at 20 mph (30 km/h).
The second test firing, conducted at night while stationary, also achieved a direct hit. The third test firing, conducted while on the move and in the rain, did not achieve a direct hit, but did however, pass within the missile's kill range and the shot was scored as a tactical kill. All three test shots were conducted by operators who had never fired the missile before.
In 1987, the U.S. Army awarded the first production contract for 325 units. In 1989, the system began its Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) series of tests. The tests were conducted in two stages with Stage 1 consisting of acquisition and tracking trials at Fort Hunter Liggett, California and Stage 2 consisting of live-fire testing at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. In February 1990, the Avenger system was deemed operationally effective and began replacing the M163 and M167 VADS. Two variants were deployed based on the Humvee chassis: M998 HMMWV Avenger and M1097 Heavy HMMWV Avenger.
The first operational deployment of the system occurred during the buildup for the Persian Gulf War. With the success of this deployment, the U.S. Army signed an additional contract for another 679 vehicles, bringing the total order to 1,004 units. The Avenger was again successfully deployed in support of NATO operations during the Bosnian War. The Avenger system received widespread public exposure when it was placed around the Pentagon during the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks of 2001. The Avenger has also been deployed during the U.S. military's operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.