From disposal to deployment: U.S. Army restores 1,900 retired FIM‑92 Stinger anti-aircraft sets
In the summer of 2022, the U.S. Army launched a program aimed at inspecting and renewing as many retired Stinger sets as possible. They proudly announced the restoration of nearly 1900 FIM-92 Stinger anti-aircraft sets back into service.
These sets had been taken out of service due to their age. A weapon that contains explosive and rocket fuel has a finite usability time, after which its reliability significantly decreases. Worse, it could pose a danger to its user.
For instance, in the solid fuel of a rocket engine, the risk of micro-cracks - which increase the ignition surface area beyond the manufacturer's standard - increases over time. This results in a rise in pressure within the engine's combustion chamber, which could lead to an explosion. Using extremely aged sets can even result in soldier injuries or fatalities, as happened with some Czech RPG-7 grenade launchers in Ukraine.
This risk is why, during the program, each FIM-92 Stinger was disassembled and worn or damaged parts replaced, then the reassembled Stingers were certified for another decade of service.
The FIM-92 Stinger: An Effective Relic of the Cold War
The FIM-92 Stinger sets, designed in the 1980s, can engage targets up to approximately 3.1 miles away and up to a height of 2.5 miles. The missile was fitted with a guidance head consisting of two sensors: an infrared sensor for heat point detection, and an ultraviolet detector.
This design reduces susceptibility to decoy measures such as flares, therefore increasing its effectiveness against targets. Over the years, the sensors were enhanced and software improved, but the last order placed by the U.S. Army for Stingers was in 2005.
This pause in procurement led to a production crisis in 2022. After depleting the stock of production parts, manufacturing new Stingers became immensely challenging, leading to the recruitment of retirees to aid production. It also necessitated a redesign of the missile based on components available on the market. It is expected that these new Stingers will be ready for deployment in the U.S. Army by 2026. Hence, reaching back to older sets and restoring them proved to be a strategically wise decision.