Knocking ‘Em Out of the Sky Since ’78

I don’t usually like to start my pieces with a video, but I’ll make an exception in this case. The video below is too awesome not to include right away. It shows a Stinger missile doing what Stingers do best; blowing stuff out of the sky. In this instance, a Russian helicopter (which looks to me like a Mi-28 Havoc) was downed over the Ukrainian countryside last March. It had what you call a “good effect on target.”

A Stinger surface-to-air missile takes down what looks to be a Mi-28 Russian helicopter over Ukraine. Video courtesy of YouTube and Mematiane

To date, we have supplied the Ukrainian military with more than fourteen hundred FIM-92 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. But, before they got them from us, the Baltic states had been providing the Ukrainians with Stingers since January. To do that, they needed to get US permission which we granted, being pretty sure a Russian invasion was imminent.

As far as weapons systems go, the Stinger is kind of old. It was first designed in 1967 and went into production starting in 1978. Of course, that’s the same year Animal House made its way into theaters, so, yeah, it’s been around for a while. As a matter of fact, it’s been around for so long that the US Department of Defense (DoD) hasn’t bought one from its manufacturer, Raytheon, in 18 years.

They have not been manufactured for so long that some components are no longer commercially available. Raytheon CEO Greg Hayes has a solution to that problem; he says, “…we’re going to have to go out and redesign some of the electronics in the missile of the seeker head.” Hayes continued, “That’s going to take us a little bit of time.”

Raytheon says they hope to increase Stinger production as much as they can this year, but realistically it will take until 2023 or 2024 to rebuild our stockpiles.

A Stinger is fired during a Marine Corps training mission. US Navy Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Chandler Harrell

The Particulars

The FIM-92 Stinger is a man-portable surface-to-air missile designed by General Dynamics and built by Raytheon Missile Systems. They weigh 35.5 lbs and are about 5 feet long with a diameter of two and three-quarter inches. They fire a 1 kg high explosive (HTA-3) warhead that is launched by a solid fuel rocket motor. It is a “fire and forget” weapon that uses infrared homing to find its target and will hit nearly anything flying below 11,000 feet. Its range is approximately 8 kilometers.