Air Defense: September 1, 2002


Reports that the CIA has "replaced the batteries on Stinger missiles bought back from Afghans and found that some of the missiles still worked" led to some strange assumptions. Many journalists assumed that the hundreds of Stinger anti-aircraft missiles given to Afghans fighting Russian troops in the 1980s were still functional (at least 500 had not been used when the Russians left Afghanistan). Just add new batteries, right? Wrong. Any journalist who bothered to double check with the Department of Defense or the missiles manufacturer would have discovered that the dead batteries are not something you can fix with a some off the shelf batteries and a little tinkering. The "Stinger battery" also contains cooling elements that make the missile seeker work (by allowing it to pick up the hot exhaust of a jet engine.) Normally, the battery unit is good for a few years. Moreover, the solid rocket motor is only good for 15 years (after that it will start to degrade and give erratic performance.) So while there are plenty reports of Afghans, Iranians, al Qaeda and others "having Stinger missiles," there have been no reports of anyone using these ancient missiles. And there never will be.


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