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
Systems and is produced under license by
Germany and by
Turkey with 70,000 missiles produced.
4.1 Falklands War
4.2 Soviet War in Afghanistan
4.3 Angolan Civil War
4.4 Libyan invasion of Chad
4.5 Tajik civil war
4.6 Chechen War
4.7 Sri Lankan Civil War
4.8 United States
4.9 Syrian civil war
5.1 Current operators
6 See also
8 Further reading
9 External links
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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
The missile is 5.0 ft (1.52 m) long and 2.8 in
(70 mm) in diameter with 10 cm fins. The missile itself
weighs 22 lb (10.1 kg), while the missile with launcher
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 3 kg penetrating hit-to-kill
warhead type with an impact fuze and a self-destruct timer.
Launcher with cage-like IFF antenna unfolded
Launcher with IFF antenna folded
To fire the missile, a BCU (Battery Coolant Unit) is inserted into the
handguard. This shoots a stream of argon gas into the system, as well
as a chemical energy charge that enables the acquisition indicators
and missile to get power. The batteries are somewhat sensitive to
abuse, with a limited amount of gas. Over time, and without proper
maintenance, they can become unserviceable. The IFF system receives
power from a rechargeable battery. 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
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
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A U.S. Marine fires an FIM-92A Stinger missile during a July 2009
training exercise in California.
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[when?].
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.
FIM-92A, Stinger Basic: The basic model.
FIM-92B, Stinger POST: In this version, the infrared seeker head was
replaced by a combined IR/UV seeker that utilized rosette scanning.
This resulted in achieving significantly higher resistance to enemy
countermeasures (flares) and natural disturbances. Production ran from
1981 to 1987; a total of 600 missiles were produced.
FIM-92C, Stinger RMP: The resistance to interference was increased
again by adding more powerful digital computer components. Moreover,
the software of the missile could now be reconfigured in a short time
in order to respond quickly and efficiently to new types of
countermeasures. Until 1991, some 20,000 units were produced for the
U.S. Army alone.
FIM-92D: Various modifications were continued with this version in
order to increase the resistance to interference.
FIM-92E: Stinger – RMP Block I: By adding a new rollover sensor and
revised control software, the flight behavior was significantly
improved. Additionally, the performance against small targets such as
drones, cruise missiles and light reconnaissance helicopters was
improved. The first deliveries began in 1995. Almost the entire stock
of U.S. Stinger missiles was replaced by this version.
FIM-92F: A further improvement of the E version and the current
FIM-92G: An unspecified upgrade for the D variant.
FIM-92H: Indicates a D variant that has been upgraded to the E
FIM-92?, Stinger – RMP Block II: This variant was a planned
developed based on the E version. The improvements included an imaging
infrared seeker head from the AIM-9X. With this modification, the
detection distance and the resistance to jamming was to be greatly
increased. Changes to the airframe would furthermore enable a
significant increase in range. Although the missile reached the
testing phase, the program was dropped in 2002 for budgetary
FIM-92J, Block 1 missile upgrade to replace aging components to extend
service life an additional 10 years. Upgrades include a proximity fuse
warhead section, equipped with a target detection device to increase
effectiveness against unmanned aerial vehicles, a new flight
motor and gas generator cartridge, as well as o-rings and desiccant
ADSM, Air Defense
Missile Suppression: A variant with an additional
passive radar seeker, this variant can also be used against radar wave
U.S. Army soldiers from the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade stand
next to a FIM-92A Stinger portable missile launcher during the Persian
A Stinger missile being launched from a U.S. Marine Corps AN/TWQ-1
Avenger in April 2000.
The Stinger's combat debut occurred during the
Falklands War fought
United Kingdom and Argentina. At the onset of the conflict
soldiers of the British Army's
Special Air Service
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
Special Forces were killed and eight more
wounded. The main
MANPADS used by both sides during the Falklands
War was the Blowpipe missile.
Soviet War in Afghanistan
See also: List of Soviet aircraft losses during the Soviet–Afghan
The story of the Stingers in Afghanistan was popularly told in the
media by western sources primarily, notably in
Charlie Wilson's War by
George Crile, and
Ghost Wars by Steve Coll.
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
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
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
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.
Angolan Civil War
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
Libyan invasion of Chad
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 civil war
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
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 the presence of US-made
Stinger missiles in the hands of the Chechen militia and insurgents.
They attributed few of their aerial losses to the American MANPADS.
The presence of such missiles was confirmed by photo evidence even if
it is not clear their actual number nor their origin.
It is believed one
Sukhoi Su-24 was shot down by a Stinger missile
during the Second Chechen War.
Sri Lankan Civil War
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
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,
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
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.
Syrian civil war
In the Syrian civil war,
Turkey reportedly helped to transport to the
anti-government rebels a limited amount of FIM-92 Stingers.
Map with FIM-92 operators in blue
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Germany: Stingers made under license by EADS.
Italy 150 launchers, 450 FIM-92A missiles delivered in
1986–1988 for 51 million dollars, 50 missiles delivered in
2000–2002 for 10 million dollars to operate from A-129 Mangusta and
200 missiles delivered in 2003–2004 (SIPRI).
Pakistan: 350 in service with the
Republic of China (Taiwan): Republic of China Marine Corps,
Republic of China Army
Turkey: Stingers made under license by Roketsan.
9K38 Igla (SA-18 "Grouse") – the Soviet Union's equivalent missile
during the Cold War
9K333 Verba – in Russia developed replacement for 9K38 Igla
Grom – a man-portable air-defence system produced in Poland
QW-1 Vanguard – the Chinese equivalent
Starstreak – a British MANPADS
United States Army
United States Army Aviation and
List of crew served weapons of the U.S. Armed Forces
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