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Marines with the Low Altitude Air Defense (LAAD) School, fire Stinger missiles at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California, January 14, 2019. Students of the LAAD School must fire a Stinger Missile as their final graduation requirement. (U.S Marine Corps video by LCpl. Corey Mathews)
he 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 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.
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.
Launcher with IFF antenna unfolded
Launcher with IFF antenna folded
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.