Stinger Missile System

The FIM-92 Stinger Missile System, a remarkable ManPortable Air-Defence System (MANPADS), stands as a testament to innovation and collaboration in the defence industry. Designed by General Dynamics, it is developed and manufactured by Raytheon Missiles & Defense, and produced under license by Airbus Defence and Space in Germany and by Roketsan in Turkey. It is designated as an FIM-92 Stinger, marking it as the most successful and versatile air defence system ever created.

Since its introduction in 1981, the Stinger Missile has found utilization not only within the United States but also among the armed forces of 29 other nations. Its adaptability shines as the missile system seamlessly accommodates various launch platforms, encompassing ground vehicles and helicopters. An illustrative instance of this versatility is the Air-to-Air Stinger (ATAS), a variant that extends the system’s operational efficacy.

What sets the Stinger apart is its capacity to swiftly lock onto targets head-on, affording valuable time for target acquisition and annihilation. Facilitating this process is the missile’s design, featuring a small ejection motor that ensures a safe distance between the operator and the projectile prior to the engagement of its main two-stage solid-fuel sustainer. This sustainer propels the missile to an impressive top speed of Mach 2.54 (750 m/s).

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Stinger Missile System
Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Stinger Missile System

Description of the FIM-92 Stinger Missile

The Stinger missile system is renowned for its precision and lethal effectiveness against a range of threats, including UAVs, helicopters, low-speed cruise missiles, and fixed-wing low-altitude aircraft. As a lightweight fire-and-forget solution, the Stinger boasts a dual-stage configuration tailored for short-range air defence missions, thereby enhancing its capacity for both maximum lethality and survivability. At the heart of its prowess is an advanced passive two-colour IR/UV detector, complemented by sophisticated algorithms that not only optimize target acquisition but also guarantee efficacy in the face of diverse countermeasures.

Additionally, the Stinger is equipped with embedded software meticulously designed to address all known threats. A significant feature lies in its seeker, coupled with proportional navigation guidance, a synergy that empowers the missile to effectively detect, pursue, and neutralize targets from any angle or aspect.

Stinger’s exceptional manoeuvrability, supersonic velocity, and state-of-the-art guidance and control system synergistically enhance its precision. The elevated lethality quotient is the result of its hit-to-kill precision, a warhead with substantial explosive content, and the kinetic impact generated by the Stinger itself. Within the warhead, 1.2 kg (2.64 lb) of explosive material is housed, accompanied by an impact fuze and a self-destruct mechanism that activates 17 seconds post-launch.

The missile’s intrinsic weight is 10.1 kg (22 lb), and when paired with its launch tube, integral sight, gripstock, and Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) antenna, the combined weight reaches around 15.2 kg (34 lb). Its targeting range extends up to 4,800 m, enabling engagements with adversary threats at altitudes as high as 3,800 m above ground level.

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Photo Credit- AirPra Scan Image : VMS
Photo Credit- AirPra Scan Image: VMS

Multi-Mission Capability

  • Stinger is a versatile Multi-Mission weapon system and is deployed on over 2700 systems/platforms worldwide. The stinger missile round is common to all of these platforms and is used and interchanged without modification.
  • Ground-based units utilize Stinger for air defence missions in the Man-portable Air Defence System ( MANPADS ) configuration or integrated on a variety of vehicles or ground mounts.
  • Aviation units utilize Stinger for counter-air missions on helicopters, and Stinger integration can be expanded to UAVs and low-speed fixed-wing aircraft.
  • Naval units utilize Stinger for surface protection missions on naval vessels.
Photo Credit: AirPra Scan Image
Photo Credit: AirPra Scan Image

Stinger: A Combat-Proven and Cost-Effective System

It is a low-cost system and has been in massive production since 1987 with over 84,000 estimated missiles produced to date. Stinger has maintained a >90% success rate in tests against advanced threat targets. It is a certified missile round that acquires mo maintenance thus minimising life cycle cost. Stinger has been combated proven in five major conflicts and has over 270 fixed-wing and rotary-wing kills. In addition, Stinger is deployed in over 19 international countries and the U.S. Army will maintain Stinger in their inventory until at least 2030.

Characteristics of the Stinger Missile

  • Two colour detectors with rosette scans allowed the missile to effectively discriminate targets from IR countermeasures and background clutter
  • Rosette scans seeker, roll frequency sensor, rolling airframe and advanced proportional navigation provide hit-to-kill guidance accuracy against a wide range of manoeuvring and non-manoeuvring targets.
  • Block-I variants use a roll frequency sensor to provide trajectory shaping
  • The hemispherical dome, optics design and two-axis gimble system provide acquisition and tracking throughout the entire field of regard
  • High explosive impact/penetration warhead enhances missile lethality
  • The eject motor ensures a safe separation distance from the soldier or platform before flight motor ignition
  • Bost/sustain flight motor provides, and maintains, supersonic missile speeds resulting in high manoeuvre capability and significant kinetic energy at target intercept.
  • 2000 + tests to date with >90% reliability
Photo Credit: AirPra Scan Image / ATAS system

Variations of the Stinger Missile

The Stinger Missile system encompasses three primary operational variants: the Stinger Basic, Stinger-Passive Optical Seeker Technique (POST), and Stinger-Reprogrammable Microprocessor (RMP). These align respectively with the designations FIM-92A, FIM-92B, and FIM-92C, and subsequently extend to further iterations such as D, E, F, G, H, Stinger-RMP Block II, J, and K. Notably, there is also the inclusion of the Air-to-Air Stinger (ATAS). This comprehensive range of variants is tailored to cater to evolving operational needs. Specifically, the system finds its primary utilization in attack helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), underlining its adaptability to combat scenarios involving these platforms.

The Air-to-Air Stinger (ATAS) serves as a concise short-range air-to-air missile solution. This specialized system is strategically tailored to cater to attack helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), extending its utility to various scenarios. ATAS plays a pivotal role in providing self-defence capabilities to rotorcraft and safeguarding ground troops, convoys, and crucial terrestrial assets. Its operational versatility spans both day and night operations, across diverse environmental conditions.

Notably, the remarkable efficacy of the Air-to-Air Stinger against dynamic and evolving threats has led to its exclusive designation as the sole air-to-air missile for deployment in U.S. Army aviation. This exceptional performance has resulted in the integration of ATAS onto platforms including OH-58C, OH-58D, MH-60, and AH-64D helicopters, further highlighting its superior capabilities.

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ATAS provides lightweight counterair capability with multiple fire-and-forget Stinger missiles that can be installed and integrated on an airborne platform with minimal modifications. Each launcher can fire two Stinger missiles and multiple launchers can be mounted onto the platform. ATAS can be easily integrated with an aircraft targeting sensors suite to provide automatic cueing and control of the Stinger missile.

Photo Credit- AirPra Scan Image : ATAS
Photo Credit- AirPra Scan Image: ATAS

ATAS Characteristics

  • Each launcher fires two basic, RMP or Block-I missiles, no extra modification is required
  • Launcher electronics provide – Missile status and inventory  /  Selection, operational control and launch of selected missile  /  +_ 15 degrees off-boresight target acquisition capability
  • The launcher contains digital electronics and MIL-STD-1553 digital data bus interface
  • The launcher contains a reloadable/rechargeable coolant bottle that provides 21 engagements of 45 seconds each
  • The launcher is quickly reloadable and maintainable

MANPADS or Dual Mount Stinger ( DMS ) provides protection for Ground troops, convoys and other ground assets.

DMS provides a man-transportable pedestal system that can be used day or night in any environment. Because of its superior performance, DMS is currently fielded internationally. DMS can fire two Stinger missiles and includes fully integrated day/night optics as well as command and control linkage to cueing radars and other sites to receive target data. DMS can be mounted standalone or tailored to mount on air defence vehicles and utility vehicles. DMS all-aspect fire-and-forget advanced technology allows the gunner to fire, move, take cover or engage new targets immediately after firing.

DMS Characteristics

  • Each launcher fires two basic, RMP or Block-I missiles, no extra modification is required
  • Reflex optical sight provides target acquisition during the day
  • Thermal imager sight provides target acquisition during the night
  • In-sight cueing available from remote sensors
  • Coolant reservoir assembly provides 21 engagements of 45 seconds each
  • Leg adjusters/levelling screws provide +_10 degree slope adjustment
  • Battery power units provide sufficient power to operate the system for 10 hours and are rechargeable
  • Remote terminal units allow gunners to receive air pictures from remote sensors
  • Handgrips provide controls for missile operations and firings
  • Integrated electronics/coolant unit provides in-sight cueing and integral IFF
Photo Credit: AirPra Scan Image
Photo Credit: AirPra Scan Image / DMS

Vehicle-Mounted Stinger ( VMS )

The Vehicle-Mounted Stinger (VMS) can be seamlessly integrated into a range of wheeled or tracked vehicles, offering operational capabilities day and night across diverse environments. Due to its exceptional performance, the VMS is currently deployed on platforms such as the U.S. Avenger, LAV-AD, Bradley Linebacker, and similar systems used internationally. This versatile system delivers a shoot-on-the-move capability, housing 4-8 fire-and-forget Stinger missiles. Furthermore, it facilitates smooth integration with the vehicle’s targeting sensors, enabling automated radar cueing and weapons control.

VMS Characteristics

  • Each launcher fires 4 to 8 basic, RMP or Block-I missiles, no extra modification is required
  • Launcher electronics provide – Missile status and inventory  /  Selection, operational control and launch of a selected missile
  • The launcher contains digital electronics and MIL-STD-1553 digital data bus interface
  • The launcher contains two reloadable/rechargeable coolant bottle that provides 21 engagements of 45 seconds each
  • The launcher is quickly reloadable and maintainable
Future Replacements

The U.S. Army stated in January 2023 that it anticipated increasing Stinger manufacturing to 60 missiles per month by 2025, up 50% from the present rate. Due to the discontinuation of a previous DDA component, the Dual Detector Assembly ( DDA ) will be completely redesigned. By 2026, when deliveries of Stingers with the new component are anticipated to start, the old DDA will still be utilized in production until supplies are depleted.

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Photo Credit: AirPra Scan Image
Photo Credit: AirPra Scan Image / VMS

FIM-92 Stinger Specifications

  • Weight:  10.1 kg ( 23 lb )
  • Length:  5 ft ( 1.53 m ) with tube
  • Wingspan:  6.3 in ( 160 mm )
  • Diameter:  2.8 in ( 70 mm )
  • Warhead:  High Explose Fragmentation Warhead, weighing 3 kg
  • Detonation:  Impact
  • Engine:  Solid propellant rocket motor
  • Range:  500 meters to a maximum of 4,800 meters ( 4.8 km )
  • Speed:  Mach 2
  • Guidance:  Advanced Proportional Navigation ( Infrared homing )
  • Seeker:  Passive IR/UV tracking fire and forget
  • Launch Platform:  MANPADS ( DMS ), VMS, Helicopters & UAV

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Stinger Missile For India

During the contract in 2015 to purchase 22 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and 15 CH-47F Chinook helicopters, Indian Air Force also ordered 245 ATAS which was inclusive of the deal to arm Apache helicopters, as per the report.

In conclusion, the Stinger missile system stands as a testament to innovation in short-range air defence. With its portable launcher, advanced infrared homing seeker, and two-stage propulsion system, the Stinger is a versatile and potent solution against low-flying aerial threats. Its “fire-and-forget” capability, resistance to countermeasures, and integration potential into larger defence networks underscore its reliability and adaptability on the modern battlefield. By empowering infantry units with rapid-response air defence capabilities, the Stinger contributes to enhanced situational awareness and the safeguarding of critical assets. Whether in the hands of a single operator or as part of a coordinated strategy, the Stinger missile system exemplifies effective technology, showcasing the ability to effectively neutralize airborne threats in dynamic operational environments.

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