FIM-92 Stinger Surface-to-Air Missile System


In May 1992, the Hughes Aircraft Company and General Dynamics Corporation announced that Hughes had agreed to acquire General Dynamics’ missile business. This acquisition included General Dynamics’ then Air Defense Systems Division whose primary manufacturing facilities were in Pomona and Rancho Cucamonga, California. The Unmanned Strike Systems portion of the Convair Divisions’ primary plants were in San Diego and Sycamore Canyon, California. In September 1992, Hughes Missile Systems Company announced that it was consolidating missile manufacturing activities from several locations into its plant in Tucson, Arizona. This meant the end of major production lines in San Diego, Pomona and Rancho Cucamonga, California and Camden, Arkansas. The consolidations were completed by 1994.

General Dynamics’ FIM-43A Redeye system achieved its initial operational capability in 1967. Even as it did so, a joint work programme between the US Army and the General Dynamics Pomona Division was in the second year of studying new design concepts and initiating the testing of components for a Redeye II weapon system with an all-aspects target engagement capability. This Advanced Seeker Development Programme (ASDP) eventually gave rise in 1972 to the second-generation man-portable XFIM-92A Stinger design with a more sensitive seeker head and a better kinematic performance, compared to its predecessor, with the addition of a forward aspect engagement capability to its flight envelope and an integral IFF system. However, the first guided tests in 1974 at the White Sands Missile Range resulted in a number of problems being found with Stinger. This caused the US Army Missile Command (MICOM) to request that the Ford Aerospace Aeronutronic Division develop what was designated the Stinger Alternate system, using a reusable laser beam device attached to the launcher assembly as the guidance system. To cure problems found with the system and to reduce the continually rising costs, General Dynamics initiated a design review which resulted in a 15 per cent reduction in the total number of electronic parts used and the introduction of a separate grip-stock assembly. These changes made a considerable improvement in the test results obtained in the 1975 firings and, by February 1976, the US Department of Defense was satisfied that the early guidance difficulties had been overcome. They were so convinced that, in 1977, the funding used for the development of the Stinger Alternate was stopped. In 1978, following an Engineering Development Programme which had needed only 130 test round firings to validate the design, Stinger was finally released for production. This started in 1979 with the first production systems being delivered the same year and the first military units achieving initial operational capability status in February 1981 with the basic FIM-92A Stinger version.
In mid-1977, after a four-year advanced development programme, and just before the basic Stinger was released for production, General Dynamics was awarded a Full-Scale Engineering Development contract for the next generation of Stinger. This involved the fitting of a microprocessor-controlled Passive Optical Seeker Technique (POST) homing head which uses a dual infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) rosette-pattern image scanning guidance technique to enhance the missile’s target detection capabilities. The use of the different seeker only involves a modular change to the weapon and allows it to discriminate effectively between a target, any deployed IR decoy flares and background clutter when they lie within detectable range, thus preventing a false launch.
Limited procurement of this FIM-92B Stinger-POST version began in 1983 alongside the earlier variant with the production of both ending in 1987. Operational deployment of Stinger-POST systems to the US Army began in July 1987. A total of 15,669 Basic Stinger and just under 600 Stinger-POST missiles were made. The last Stinger-POST rounds were produced by August 1987.

As a further increase to the effectiveness of Stinger, General Dynamics began development in September 1984 of what is essentially a fourth-generation man-portable SAM system. Known as the Stinger-Reprogrammable MicroProcessor (RMP) system, the change allows the onboard digital microprocessor to be periodically updated with new software to counter any new threat technology, instead of having to go through a missile redesign each time. Production of this FIM-92C model began in November 1987 at the General Dynamics Valley Systems Division Stinger plant in California. The export version of the Stinger-RMP does not have the software module but contains embedded IRCM to defeat all known NATO threats. In March 1988, Valley Systems Division was awarded a $695 million multiyear Stinger production contract to produce over 20,000 rounds through 1991. A final total of 29,108 Stinger-RMP missiles is expected for the US Army. Additional rounds are being procured for Foreign Military Sales and the other US armed forces.

Before General Dynamics’ production of the Stinger-RMP, on 2 September 1987 the US Army MICOM selected Raytheon Missile Systems Division (now known as Raytheon Electronics Division) as the second source contractor for production of this version. The initial $24.6 million contract was for 400 Stingers with a $54.4 million option for an additional 1,500 missiles which was exercised in 1989. Raytheon was allowed to compete with the Hughes-acquired General Dynamics from 1990 onwards for the annual production contracts. This was done in order to keep the overall acquisition costs down for the US armed services. Raytheon was declared qualified for bidding purposes for the FY91 contract bid. In April 1990, Raytheon received a $45.1 million contract to produce 1,383 missiles. In the following year General Dynamics reverted to the sole source supplier. In FY92, an upgrade contract was placed to improve the FIM-92A/B/C performance against the latest countermeasures. Known as the Block 1 rounds, modifications are made to the RMP software to see its low-signature targets such as UAVs, cruise missiles and light helicopters in even more cluttered countermeasures environments. A ring-laser gyro roll sensor and a lithium battery will also be fitted. First production deliveries were made of the Stinger Block 1 rounds in 1995. The Stinger Block 1 will also be made by the European Stinger-RMP consortium from 1998 onwards. The programme will involve upgrading all the remaining FIM-92A and FIM-92B missiles in the inventory to this standard of FIM-92C, involving up to 10,000 rounds; it will be finished by FY99. Additionally, the European Stinger Project Group has been licensed to produce the Block 1 missile, and has now switched over its production to this variant. Plans are also under way to develop and produce Advanced Stinger (Block 2) from the year 2001 onwards. The Block 2 is an evolutionary technology insertion which will provide for the replacement of the current FIM-92C seeker with an advanced technology Focal Plane Array (FPA) imaging IR seeker to increase the detection range. A total of up to 8,000 missiles would be retrofitted for use in both the forward air defence and air-to-air role against helicopters in clutter, unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles and stealthy modern fixed-wing aircraft.

The European Stinger-RMP Production Programme is covered earlier in this section (qv) under International projects. In German service it is known as the Fliegerfaust-2 (FLF-2) and is deployed with the army, navy and air force. A series of launch platforms was developed by a subsidiary of Daimler-Benz Aerospace for use on ships, wheeled and tracked vehicles. Both Germany and the Netherlands have also under-taken trials on their man-portable Stinger systems with an early warning radar system to enhance its performance. The Royal Netherlands Army used the Hollandse Signaalapparaten Radar Equipment Providing Omnidirectional Reporting of Targets at Extended Ranges (REPORTER) mobile trailer-mounted I/J-band radar system with an integral IFF system in a highly successful series of tests in late 1985. The radar provided early warning of targets up to 40 km away and flying between 15 and 4,000 m altitude which were then handed over to a Stinger launch team for engagement. The Basic Stinger received worldwide attention during the Afghanistan conflict, when over 250 Russian fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters were destroyed by Mojahedin guerrillas using US-supplied Stingers. Despite limited training, the Mojahedin achieved over 80 per cent combat success with the Stinger missile. To date Stinger has been responsible for nearly 300 confirmed kills against both fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft types.

Other nations which have received varying numbers of Stinger systems include Bahrain, Chad, France, Iran, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom. Of these, France and Chad have used limited numbers successfully against Libyan aircraft during the 1986-87 border skirmishes. The British Special Air Service (SAS) used a small number of FIM-92A Stingers during the 1982 Falklands conflict, where they destroyed an Argentine Air Force FMA IA 58A Pucara twin-propeller close-support aircraft during the 21 May San Carlos amphibious landings. In September 1988, Switzerland chose the export variant of the Stinger-RMP for its man-portable air defence system. A maximum of 2,500 will be procured at a cost of $315 million. In US service all four armed services use the weapon and the US Air Force has small detachments trained to defend airfields and VPs, especially in Asia at the South Korean airbases used by its units. It has also been revealed that the American President’s residences in Washington and elsewhere are protected by specialist Stinger teams in case of an aerial attack by terrorist organisations.

Each of the US Army’s armoured, mechanised, light infantry, airborne and air assault divisional Air Defense Artillery (ADA) battalions have a Stinger Platoon (of four sections) with each of its four batteries. For the airborne and air assault divisions three of the sections have five two-man teams each, while the fourth has only three teams to give a divisional total of four two-man section HQs and 72 firing teams. For the division 86 mechanised and armoured units, the number of Stinger teams is reduced to 60 whereas the light infantry divisions only have 40. A team is normally equipped with an M998 series (4 x 4) HMMWV light vehicle, a GSQ-137 Target Alert Data Display Set (TADDS) comprising a 6 kg portable unit with a display, audio warning and VHF receiver, two AN/PPX-3 IFF interrogators and a basic load of six Stingers. The TADDS warns the team of an approaching aircraft, provides a tentative identification and gives approximate range and azimuth to the target. The datalink between the team and the radar can handle 49 friendly and 49 unknown (that is, hostile) targets. Each Army Chaparral, Patriot and I-HAWK fire-control platoon also carries one Stinger team set (less the TADDS) as part of its normal equipment allowance. During a heavy attack both team members would shoulder a launcher providing two independent ready to launch weapons with four extra weapons available. Early warning is provided by the eight 1 to 15 km (on a 0.2 m{2} radar cross-section target) range pulse Doppler D-band MPQ-49 Forward Area Alerting Radars (FAARs), with integral AN/TPX-50 (Mk XII) IFF systems, held in the ADA headquarters radar platoon, which transmit target position data to the TADDS by radio link. Increasingly, however, the FAARs are being used without TADDS and the Stinger teams are being cued on to a target by a voice communication VHF radio link direct to the radar operator.

The Hughes Ground-Based Sensors (GBS) are currently replacing the older FAARs in the Division Air Defence Alerting Radar role. The GBS is a pulse Doppler, 3-D phased array X-band radar that provides low-altitude target data at altitudes from 0 to 4,000 m and at ranges of up to 40 km. It can automatically detect, track, classify, identify and report a target in 360° azimuth coverage. In the US Marine Corps the Stinger system is assigned to the Low-Altitude Air Defence (LAAD) battalions which have two firing batteries each of three platoons. A platoon has three sections each of five Stinger teams that are each equipped with an HMMWV light vehicle and four Stinger missiles. A Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) is assigned a fully automated Tactical Air Command centre, two Tactical Air Operations Centres, a Light Anti-Aircraft Missile (LAAM) battalion and a complete LAAD battalion (of 90 Stinger teams). A Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) is assigned a Tactical Air Command Centre, a Tactical Air Operations Centre, an LAAM battalion and an LAAD battery (equating to four I-HAWK batteries and 45 Stinger teams) whilst a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) has a single LAAD platoon (of 15 Stinger teams) attached. The US Navy uses Stinger teams to supplement warship and support vessel close-range air defences in high-threat areas. A team of two is normally employed with the gunner located within a circular pedestal-type open mount. The other team member acts as a target locator using information sent over the vessel’s internal communications net. Stinger is also the principal air weapon on the US Navy’s fleet of special operations patrol boats. In 1991-92 the US Army began deployment of the Bradley SHORAD vehicle to replace Vulcan self-propelled guns in its Heavy Mechanised Divisions (qv section later in this entry).

Hughes has produced the MACS device for the MANPADS Stinger team. It is designed to provide the team with the capability to automatically cue the gunner to acquire designated targets via accurate 3-D track data from the Forward Area Air Defence (FAAD) Command, Control Intelligence (C{2}I) ground-based sensor radar network. The track information is transmitted to the MACS vehicle subsystem communications controller via radio link and is then forwarded to the team chief’s weapon terminal over a wireless RF digital link. The system displays the data to the team leader as a computerised graphical situation display on the hand-held Weapon Terminal, so that the air threat can be quickly evaluated and a target selected for engagement by the gunner. Once a target is designated it is automatically sent to the gunner subsystem over a digital wireless RF Local Area Network. The gunner is quickly cued to align to the target through a display of flashing light LED direction indicators on the weapon sight. Red LEDs guide him in azimuth and elevation to align his weapon’s field of view on the target so that it can be acquired by the seeker head. When the target is computed to be within the Stinger’s engagement envelope the gunner is informed by green LED indicators. The MACS can also be used to control and co-ordinate multiple Stinger gunners. The system can also be used by a platoon leader to give a status roll-up capability whereby the position and status of each MANPADS team can be graphically displayed. This allows the platoon leader to position his Stinger teams to best defend on-the-move assets and provide real-time information on which targets are being engaged by each unit and their weapon status and condition.

Tripod-mounted Stinger

TEXT : Hughes Missile Systems Company also privately developed the tripod-mounted Stinger system. This has four ready to fire missiles mounted on two ATAS launcher shoes at 90° to the vertical and is fitted with an integrated high-magnification optical sight. A Marconi Forward Looking IR (FLIR) tracking system is also fitted to allow Stinger launches at night and in bad weather. The one-man system weighs less than 136.4 kg and can be mounted on the rear of a vehicle if required. It can also be interfaced with a higher-echelon command and control network using positive gunner cueing and is fitted with automatic missile sequencing and seeker uncaging. Traverse capability is a full 360° and the elevation limits are -10 to +50°. In late 1987, the tripod-mounted Stinger system was tested in South Korea for use in the airfield defence role. Growth potential includes the fitting of a laser rangefinder and a go/no go fire-control computer.

Hughes Thermal Weapon Sight (TWS)

Hughes has adapted its TWS unit for use on a number of weapon systems including the Stinger MANPADS. This is a thermo-electrically cooled passive forward-looking infrared focal plane array sensor with an easily exchangeable telescope and graticule device for night-time use. ITT Defense F4960 Stinger night sight

The Stinger night sight is a third-generation image intensifier system based on the AN/PVS-4 weapon sight technology. It incorporates a 60 mm, f1.2 objective lens (which provides a x2.26 magnification and a 23.5° circular field of view) with a 25 mm Gen III+I F4844 image intensifier tube. The spectral response region is from 600 to 900 nm. Total length is 312.4 mm (386.1 mm with the mounting bracket attached), diameter 104.1 mm and weight 1.91 kg (2.27 kg with the bracket). The sight is powered by two AA size alkaline batteries which provide on average up to 30 hours of usage. The illuminated tracking/aiming reticle has a fully adjustable brightness control and is similar to the existing Stinger reticle. The combination of the lens and image intensifier tube allows acquisition of targets at ranges of up to 7,000 m and identification at 4,500 to 5,000 m even under starlight conditions. A total of 150 examples of the sight has been supplied to the US Marine Corps as the interim Stinger night sight system. These were deployed in the Gulf War.


Missile Type: 2 stage, low altitude
Length: (missile) 1.52 m
Diameter: (missile) 0.070 m
Wing span: 0.091 m
(missile (at launch)) 10.1 kg
(launcher (plus missile)) 13.3 kg
(launcher (complete)) 15.7 kg
(battery coolant unit) 0.4 kg
(beltpack IFF system (including
connecting lead))
2.6 kg
(grip-stock) 2 kg
Propulsion: solid fuel ejector and dual-thrust boost/sustainer rocket motors
Guidance: FIM-92A passive IR homing; FIM-92B/C passive IR/UV homing
Warhead: 3 kg HE fragmentation with contact fuze
Max speed: M2.2
Max range: 8,000 m
Max effective range: (FIM-92A) greater than 4,000 m  (FIM-92B/C) 4,800 m
Min effective range: 200 m
Max altitude: (FIM-92A) 3,500 m (FIM-92B/C) 3,800 m
Min altitude: effectively ground level
Launcher: man-portable single-round disposable with reusable grip-stock

Status : Basic Stinger, production complete with 15,669 rounds built. Stinger-POST, production complete with just under 600 rounds built. Stinger-RMP, in production and by 1997 over 44,000 Stinger RMPs had been manufactured for the home and export markets with production running at around 700 per month. Production of Stinger Block 1 (FIM-92D) began in 1995 with up to 10,000 earlier model missiles being retrofitted to this standard. Stinger Block 2 is in advanced development with production due to begin in 1999. Parallel production of approximately 12,500 Stinger-RMPs at the European Stinger Production Group, with the participation of Germany, Greece, the Netherlands and Turkey, is under way. Pakistan Army has FIM-92A