Air Defense: Viagra For Old Missiles


December 25, 2014: The U.S. is refurbishing 2,005 elderly FIM-92 Stinger MANPADS (MAN-Portable Air-Defense Systems) anti-aircraft missiles so that they can serve (mostly in storage) for another ten years. This will cost about $5,500 per missiles. New Stingers cost about $40,000 each. The refurbished missiles will be designated the FIM-92J. Newly built Stingers are FIM-92Fs and are a model that entered service in 1995.

The refurbishment does more than upgrade capabilities. Older missiles have older and now unreliable components (the rocket motor and some electronics) replaced and some new, more capable, components added. For example, a new warhead, with a proximity warhead, makes Stinger more effective against small UAVs, which are more likely to be encountered on the battlefield than low-flying jets. Most (58 percent) of the refurbished missiles are for the U.S. Marine Corps the rest are for the army.  While some 20,000 Stingers have been produced over 90 percent were never fired (in training or combat). These missiles largely remained in warehouses or in ammo storage areas (that are guarded and protected against accidental explosion or fires) on bases where the troops the missiles were assigned to are stationed. Some of these missiles are taken out for some field exercises and then returned to the ammo storage area. Aside from periodic physical examination for damage and self-test of the electronics and replacing batteries, these missiles just sit around. But they do age, even with best of care and must eventually be taken apart and disposed of, used in training or combat or refurbished so they can spent more time on the shelf.

The Stinger entered service in the 1980s and was soon recognized as the top-of-the-line MANPADS. Full system weight (ready-to-fire) is 19 kg (42 pounds). The 10 kg (22 pound) missile has a three kg warhead. Max range is 6,000 meters and the Stinger countermeasures (to anti-missile defenses that deceive the heat seeking guidance system) have been continually improved.



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