Air Defense: December 28, 2001


The U.S. Stinger anti-aircraft missile first entered service in 1981. By 1987, 16,000 of the first generation Stinger were built (and a thousand given to Afghan rebels). And 600 of the 16,000 were the second generation Stinger (with a more effective seeker. By the late 1980s, the third generation, with a reprogrammable seeker and other improvements, went into production. By the end of the 1990s, 29,000 Stingers had been built for U.S. forces, plus thousands more for overseas sales. Each Army and Marine division has several hundred Stinger missiles, and warships also have up to several dozen each, so 29,000 is not really that large an inventory. The Stinger system (launcher and missile) weighs 35 pounds, with the missile itself weighing 22.2 pounds. The earliest version had a max range of about 4,000 meters, the current version reaches 4,800 meters (three miles). Effective altitude for the first version was 11,500 feet, the current version is 12,500 feet. Of the thousand Stingers given to Afghans in 1986 and 1987, some 500 were still around when the Russians left in 1989. The CIA tried to buy them back in the early 1990s, but this just drove up the Stinger price on the black market. Several hundred may still be out there, with dead batteries.


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