The FIM-92 Stinger is a Man-Portable Air-Defense System (MANPADS) that operates as an infrared homing surface-to-air missile (SAM). It can be adapted to fire from a wide variety of ground vehicles and helicopters (as an AAM). Developed in the United States, it entered service in 1981 and is used by the militaries of the United States and by 29 other countries. It is principally manufactured by Raytheon Missile Systems and is produced under license by EADS in Germany and by Roketsan in Turkey with 70,000 missiles produced.
US Marine aims Stinger missile while embarked on the USS Boxer
|Type||Man-portable surface-to-air missile|
|Place of origin||United States|
|Used by||See Operators|
|Wars||Falklands War, Soviet–Afghan War, Iran–Iraq War Angolan Civil War, Sri Lankan Civil War, Chadian–Libyan conflict, Tajikistani Civil War, Kargil War, Yugoslav Wars, Invasion of Grenada, Second Chechen War, War in Afghanistan, Iraq War, Syrian Civil War, Iraqi Civil War (2014–present)|
|Manufacturer||Raytheon Missile Systems|
|Variants||FIM-92A, FIM-92B, FIM-92C, FIM-92D, FIM-92G|
|Specifications (FIM-92 Stinger)|
|Weight||33.5 lb, 15.19 kg|
|Length||59.8 in (1.52 m)|
|Diameter||2.76 in (70.1mm)|
|Effective firing range||5.0 miles (8 km) (FIM-92C Stinger-RMP)|
|Warhead||High explosive Annular blast fragmentation|
|Warhead weight||3 kg (6.6 lb)|
|Engine||Solid-fuel rocket motor|
|MANPADS, M6 Linebacker, Eurocopter Tiger, AN/TWQ-1 Avenger, MQ-1 Predator, AH-64 Apache, T-129 ATAK|
Light to carry and easy to operate, the FIM-92 Stinger is a passive surface-to-air missile that can be shoulder-fired by a single operator (although standard military procedure calls for two operators, spotter and gunner). The FIM-92B missile can also be fired from the M-1097 Avenger and the M6 Linebacker. The missile is also capable of being deployed from a Humvee Stinger rack, and can be used by airborne troops. A helicopter launched version exists called Air-to-Air Stinger (ATAS).
The missile is 5.0 ft (1.52 m) long and 2.8 in (70 mm) in diameter with 3.9 in (100 mm) fins. The missile itself weighs 22 lb (10.1 kg), while the missile with its launch tube and integral sight, fitted with a gripstock and IFF antenna, weighs approximately 34 lb (15.2 kg). The Stinger is launched by a small ejection motor that pushes it a safe distance from the operator before engaging the main two-stage solid-fuel sustainer, which accelerates it to a maximum speed of Mach 2.54 (750 m/s). The warhead is a 6.6 lb (3 kg) penetrating hit-to-kill annular blast fragmentation type with an impact fuze and a self-destruct timer.
To fire the missile, a BCU (Battery Coolant Unit) is inserted into the gripstock. This device consists of a supply of liquid argon which is injected into the seeker to cool it to operating temperature, and a thermal battery which provides power for target acquisition: a single BCU provides power and coolant for roughly 45 seconds, after which another must be inserted if the missile has not been fired. The BCUs are somewhat sensitive to abuse, and have a limited shelf life due to the pressurised liquid argon leaking. The IFF system receives power from a rechargeable battery which is part of the IFF interrogator box which plugs into the base of the gripstock's pistol grip. Guidance to the target is initially through proportional navigation, then switches to another mode that directs the missile towards the target airframe instead of its exhaust plume.
There are three main variants in use: the Stinger basic, STINGER-Passive Optical Seeker Technique (POST), and STINGER-Reprogrammable Microprocessor (RMP). These correspond to the FIM-92A, FIM-92B, and FIM-92C and later variants respectively.
The POST has a dual-detector seeker: IR and UV. This allows it to distinguish targets from countermeasures much better than the Redeye and FIM-92A, which have IR-only. While modern flares can have an IR signature that is closely matched to the launching aircraft's engine exhaust, there is a readily distinguishable difference in UV signature between flares and jet engines. The Stinger-RMP is so-called because of its ability to load a new set of software via ROM chip inserted in the grip at the depot. If this download to the missile fails during power-up, basic functionality runs off the on-board ROM. The four-processor RMP has 4 KB of RAM for each processor. Since the downloaded code runs from RAM, there is little space to spare, particularly for processors dedicated to seeker input processing and target analysis.
Initial work on the missile was begun by General Dynamics in 1967 as the FM-43 Redeye II. Production of the Redeye II ran from 1969 to 1982 where some 85,000 were in circulation. It was accepted for further development by the U.S. Army in 1971 and designated FIM-92; the Stinger appellation was chosen in 1972. Because of technical difficulties that dogged testing, the first shoulder launch was not until mid-1975. Production of the FIM-92A began in 1978 to replace the FIM-43 Redeye. An improved Stinger with a new seeker, the FIM-92B, was produced from 1983 alongside the FIM-92A. Production of both the A and B types ended in 1987 with around 16,000 missiles produced.
The replacement FIM-92C had been developed from 1984 and production began in 1987. The first examples were delivered to front-line units in 1989. C-type missiles were fitted with a reprogrammable electronics system to allow for upgrades. The missiles which received a counter-measures upgrade were designated D and later upgrades to the D were designated G.
The FIM-92E or Block I was developed from 1992 and delivered from 1995 (certain sources state that the FIM-92D is also part of the Block I development). The main changes were again in the sensor and the software, improving the missile's performance against smaller and low-signature targets. A software upgrade in 2001 was designated F. Block II development began in 1996 using a new focal plane array sensor to improve the missile's effectiveness in "high clutter" environments and increase the engagement range to about 25,000 feet (7,600 m). Production was scheduled for 2004, but Jane's reports that this may be on hold.
Since 1984 the Stinger has been issued to many U.S. Navy warships for point defense, particularly in Middle Eastern waters, with a three-man team that can perform other duties when not conducting Stinger training or maintenance. Until it was decommissioned in September 1993, the U.S. Navy had at least one Stinger Gunnery Detachment attached to Beachmaster Unit Two in Little Creek Virginia. The sailors of this detachment would deploy to carrier battlegroups in teams of two to four sailors per ship as requested by Battle Group Commanders.
The Stinger's combat debut occurred during the Falklands War fought between the United Kingdom and Argentina. At the onset of the conflict soldiers of the British Army's Special Air Service had been clandestinely equipped with six missiles, although they had received little instruction in their use. The sole SAS trooper who had received training on the system, and was due to train other troops, was killed in a helicopter crash on 19 May. Nonetheless, on 21 May 1982 an SAS soldier engaged and shot down an Argentine Pucará ground attack aircraft with a Stinger. On 30 May, at about 11.00 a.m., an Aerospatiale SA-330 Puma helicopter was brought down by another missile, also fired by the SAS, in the vicinity of Mount Kent. Six National Gendarmerie Special Forces were killed and eight more wounded. The main MANPADS used by both sides during the Falklands War was the Blowpipe missile.
In late 1985, several groups, such as Free the Eagle, began arguing the CIA was not doing enough to support the Mujahideen in the Soviet–Afghan War. Michael Pillsbury, Vincent Cannistraro, and others put enormous bureaucratic pressure on the CIA to provide the Stinger to the rebels. The idea was controversial because up to that point, the CIA had been operating with the pretense that the United States was not involved in the war directly, for various reasons. All weapons supplied up to that point were non-U.S. made weapons, like Type 56 rifles purchased from China, and AK-47 and AKM AK derivatives purchased from Egypt.
The final say-so came down to President General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan, through whom the CIA had to pass all of its funding and weapons to the Mujahideen. President Zia constantly had to gauge how much he could "make the pot boil" in Afghanistan without provoking a Soviet invasion of his own country. According to George Crile III, U.S. Representative Charlie Wilson's relationship with Zia was instrumental in the final go-ahead for the Stinger introduction.
Wilson and his associates at first viewed the Stinger as "just adding another component to the lethal mix we were building." Their increasingly successful Afghanistan strategy, formed largely by Michael G. Vickers, was based on a broad mix of weapons, tactics, and logistics, not a 'silver bullet solution' of a single weapon. Furthermore, the previous attempts to provide MANPADs to the Mujahideen, namely the SA-7 and Blowpipe, hadn't worked very well.
Engineer Ghaffar, of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami, brought down the first Hind gunship with a Stinger on September 25, 1986 near Jalalabad. As part of Operation Cyclone, the CIA eventually supplied nearly 500 Stingers (some sources claim 1,500–2,000) to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, and 250 launchers.
The impact of the Stinger on the outcome of the war is contested, particularly in the translation between the impact on the tactical battlefield to the strategic level withdrawal, and the influence the first had on the second. Dr. Robert F. Baumann (of the Staff College at Fort Leavenworth) described its impact on "Soviet tactical operations" as "unmistakable". This opinion was shared by Yossef Bodansky. Soviet, and later, Russian, accounts give little significance to the Stinger for strategically ending the war.
According to the 1993 US US Air Defense Artillery Yearbook, the Mujahideen gunners used the supplied Stingers to score approximately 269 total aircraft kills in about 340 engagements, a 79-percent kill ratio. If this report is accurate, Stingers would be responsible for over half of the 451 Soviet aircraft losses in Afghanistan. But these statistics are based on Mujahedin self-reporting, which is of unknown reliability. Selig Harrison rejects such figures, quoting a Russian general who claims the United States "greatly exaggerated" Soviet and Afghan aircraft losses during the war. According to Soviet figures, in 1987-1988, only 35 aircraft and 63 helicopters were destroyed by all causes. The Pakistan Army fired twenty-eight Stingers at enemy aircraft without a single kill.
According to Crile, who includes information from Alexander Prokhanov, the Stinger was a "turning point". Milt Bearden saw it as a "force multiplier" and morale booster. Representative Charlie Wilson, the politician behind Operation Cyclone, described the first Stinger Mi-24 shootdowns in 1986 as one of the three crucial moments of his experience in the war, saying "we never really won a set-piece battle before September 26, and then we never lost one afterwards." He was given the first spent Stinger tube as a gift and kept it on his office wall. That launch tube is now on exhibit at the US Army Air Defense Artillery Museum, Fort Sill, OK.
Many Russian military analysts tend to be dismissive of the impact to the Stinger. According to Alan J. Kuperman, The stingers did make an impact at first but within a few months flares, beacons, and exhaust baffles were installed to disorient the missiles, along with night operation and terrain-hugging tactics to prevent the rebels from getting a clear shot. By 1988, Kuperman states, the mujahideen had all but stopped firing them. Another source (Jonathan Steele) states that Stingers forced Soviet helicopters and ground attack planes to bomb from higher altitudes with less accuracy, but did not bring down many more aircraft than Chinese heavy machine guns and other less sophisticated antiaircraft weaponry.
The last Stingers were supplied in 1988 after increasing reports of fighters selling them to Iran and thawing relations with Moscow. After the 1989 Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the U.S. attempted to buy back the Stinger missiles, with a $55 million program launched in 1990 to buy back around 300 missiles (US$183,300 each). The U.S. government collected most of the Stingers it had delivered, but by 1996 around 600 were unaccounted for and some found their way into Croatia, Iran, Sri Lanka, Qatar, and North Korea. According to the CIA, already in August 1988 the U.S. had demanded from Qatar the return of Stinger missiles. Wilson later told CBS he "lived in terror" that a civilian airliner would be shot down by a Stinger, but he did not have misgivings about having provided Stingers to defeat the Soviets.
The Reagan administration provided 310 Stingers to Jonas Savimbi's UNITA movement in Angola between 1986 and 1989. As in Afghanistan, efforts to recover missiles after the end of hostilities proved incomplete. The battery of a Stinger lasts for four or five years, so any battery supplied in the 1980s would now be inoperative but during the Syrian Civil War, insurgents showed how easily they switched to different batteries, including widespread car batteries, as power sources for several MANPADS models.
The French army used 15 firing positions and 30 missiles purchased in 1983/83 for operations in Chad. The 35th Parachute Artillery Regiment made an unsuccessful fire during a Libyan bombardment on 10 September 1987 and shot down a Hercules transport aircraft on 7 July 1988.
The Chadian government received Stinger missiles from the United States, when Libya invaded the northern part of the African country. On 8 October 1987, a Libyan Su-22MK was shot down by a FIM-92A fired by Chadian forces. The pilot, Capt. Diya al-Din, ejected and was captured. He was later granted political asylum by the French government. During the recovery operation, a Libyan MiG-23MS was shot down by a FIM-92A.
Tajik Islamist opposition forces operating from Afghanistan during the 1992–97 Tajik civil war encountered a heavy air campaign launched by Russia and Uzbekistan to prop up the government in Dushanbe that included border and cross-border raids. During one of these operations, a Sukhoi Su-24M was shot down on 3 May 1993 with a Stinger fired by fundamentalists. Both Russian pilots were rescued.
Russian officials claimed several times that the Chechen militia and insurgents possessed US-made Stinger missiles. They attributed a few of their aerial losses to the American MANPADS. The presence of such missiles was confirmed by photo evidence even though their actual number and origin were not clear.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam also managed to acquire one or several Stingers, possibly from former Mujahideen stocks, and used at least one to down a Sri Lanka Air Force Mi-24 on November 10, 1997.
The current U.S. inventory contains 13,400 missiles. The total cost of the program is $7,281,000,000. It is rumored that the United States Secret Service has Stinger missiles to defend the President, a notion that has never been dispelled; however, U.S. Secret Service plans favor moving the President to a safer place in the event of an attack rather than shooting down the plane, lest the missile (or the wreckage of the target aircraft) hit innocents.
During the 1980s, the Stinger was used to support different US-aligned guerrilla forces, notably the Afghan Mujahidins, the Chad government against the Libyan invasion and the Angolan UNITA. The Nicaraguan contras were not provided with Stingers due to the lack of fixed wing aircraft of the Sandinista government, as such the previous generation FIM-43 Redeye was considered adequate.