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FIM-92 Stinger

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FIM-92 Stinger

A U.S. Marine with a field radio relays the direction of aircraft approaching to the operator of an FIM-92 Stinger missile launcher in September 1984.
Type Man-portable surface-to-air missile
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service 1981–present
Used by See Operators
Wars Falklands War, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Angolan Civil War, Kargil War, Yugoslav Wars, Invasion of Grenada
Production history
Designer General Dynamics
Designed 1967
Manufacturer Raytheon Missile Systems
Unit cost U.S.$38,000
Produced since 1978
Variants FIM-92A, FIM-92B, FIM-92C, FIM-92D, FIM-92G
Specifications (FIM-92 Stinger)
Weight 33.5 lb , 15.19 kg
Length 59.8 in (1.52 m)
Diameter 2.76 in (70.1mm)
Crew 1

Effective firing range 3.0 miles (4.8 km) (FIM-92C Stinger-RMP Block II)
Warhead weight ()

Engine Solid rocket motor
Infrared homing
MANPADS, M6 Linebacker, Eurocopter Tiger, AN/TWQ-1 Avenger, MQ-1 Predator, AH-64 Apache, T-129 ATAK

The FIM-92 Stinger is a personal portable infrared homing surface-to-air missile (SAM), which can be adapted to fire from ground vehicles or helicopters (as an AAM), developed in the United States and entered into service in 1981. Used by the militaries of the United States and by 29 other countries, it is manufactured by Raytheon Missile Systems, under license by EADS in Germany and by Roketsan in Turkey with 70,000 missiles produced. It is classified as a Man-Portable Air-Defense System (MANPADS).


Light to carry and easy to operate, the FIM-92 Stinger is a passive surface-to-air missile, that can be shoulder-fired by a single operator (although standard military procedure calls for two operators, spotter and gunner). The FIM-92B missile can also be fired from the M-1097 Avenger and the M6 Linebacker. The missile is also capable of being deployed from a Humvee Stinger rack, and can be used by airborne troops. A helicopter launched version exists called Air-to-Air Stinger (ATAS).

The missile is 5.0 ft (1.52 m) long and 2.8 in (70 mm) in diameter with 10 cm fins. The missile itself weighs 22 lb (10.1 kg), while the missile with launcher weighs approximately 34 lb (15.2 kg). The Stinger is launched by a small ejection motor that pushes it a safe distance from the operator before engaging the main two-stage solid-fuel sustainer, which accelerates it to a maximum speed of Mach 2.2 (750 m/s). The warhead is a 3 kg penetrating hit-to-kill warhead type with an impact fuze and a self-destruct timer.

To fire the missile, a BCU (Battery Coolant Unit) is inserted into the handguard. This shoots a stream of argon gas into the system, as well as a chemical energy charge that enables the acquisition indicators and missile to get power. The batteries are somewhat sensitive to abuse, with a limited amount of gas. Over time, and without proper maintenance, they can become unserviceable. The IFF system receives power from a rechargeable battery. Guidance to the target is initially through proportional navigation, then switches to another mode that directs the missile towards the target airframe instead of its exhaust plume.

There are three main variants in use: the Stinger basic, STINGER-Passive Optical Seeker Technique (POST), and STINGER-Reprogrammable Microprocessor (RMP). These correspond to the FIM-92A, FIM-92B, and FIM-92C and later variants respectively.

The POST has a dual-detector seeker: IR and UV. This allows it to distinguish targets from countermeasures much better than the Redeye and FIM-92A, which have IR-only. While modern flares can have an IR signature that is closely matched to the launching aircraft's engine exhaust, there is a readily distinguishable difference in UV signature between flares and jet engines.[1] The Stinger-RMP is so-called because of its ability to load a new set of software via ROM chip inserted in the grip at the depot. If this download to the missile fails during power-up, basic functionality runs off the on-board ROM. The four-processor RMP has 4 KB of RAM for each processor. Since the downloaded code runs from RAM, there is little space to spare, particularly for processors dedicated to seeker input processing and target analysis.


New Mexico Army National Guard soldiers train with a Stinger missile launcher in 1999.
A U.S. Marine fires an FIM-92A Stinger missile during a July 2009 training exercise in California.

Initial work on the missile was begun by General Dynamics in 1967 as the Redeye II. It was accepted for further development by the U.S. Army in 1971 and designated FIM-92; the Stinger appellation was chosen in 1972. Because of technical difficulties that dogged testing, the first shoulder launch was not until mid-1975. Production of the FIM-92A began in 1978 to replace the FIM-43 Redeye. An improved Stinger with a new seeker, the FIM-92B, was produced from 1983 alongside the FIM-92A. Production of both the A and B types ended in 1987 with around 16,000 missiles produced.

The replacement FIM-92C had been developed from 1984 and production began in 1987. The first examples were delivered to front-line units in 1989. C-type missiles were fitted with a reprogrammable electronics system to allow for upgrades. The missiles which received a counter-measures upgrade were designated D and later upgrades to the D were designated G.

The FIM-92E or Block I was developed from 1992 and delivered from 1995 (certain sources state that the FIM-92D is also part of the Block I development). The main changes were again in the sensor and the software, improving the missile's performance against smaller and low-signature targets. A software upgrade in 2001 was designated F. Block II development began in 1996 using a new focal plane array sensor to improve the missile's effectiveness in "high clutter" environments and increase the engagement range to about 25,000 feet (7,600 m). Production was scheduled for 2004, but Jane's reports that this may be on hold.

Since 1984 the Stinger has been issued to many U.S. Navy warships for point defense, particularly in Middle Eastern waters, with a three-man team that can perform other duties when not conducting Stinger training or maintenance. Until it was decommissioned in September 1993, the U.S. Navy had at least one Stinger Gunnery Detachment attached to Beachmaster Unit Two in Little Creek Virginia. The sailors of this detachment would deploy to carrier battlegroups in teams of two to four sailors per ship as requested by Battle Group Commanders.


  • FIM-92A, Stinger Basic: The basic model.[2]
  • FIM-92B, Stinger POST: In this version, the infrared seeker head was replaced by a combined IR/UV seeker that utilized rosette scanning. This resulted in achieving significantly higher resistance to enemy countermeasures (Flares) and natural disturbances. Production ran from 1981 to 1987, a total of 600 missiles were produced.[2]
  • FIM-92C, Stinger RMP: The resistance to interference was increased again by adding more powerful digital computer components. Moreover, the software of the missile could now be reconfigured in a short time in order to respond quickly and efficiently to new types of countermeasures. Until 1991, some 20,000 units were produced for the U.S. Army alone.[2]
  • FIM-92D: Various modifications were continued with this version in order to increase the resistance to interference.[2]
  • FIM-92E: Stinger - RMP Block I: By adding a new rollover sensor and revised control software, the flight behavior was significantly improved. Additionally, the performance against small targets such as drones, cruise missiles and light reconnaissance helicopters was improved. The first deliveries began in 1995. Almost the entire stock of U.S. Stinger missiles was replaced by this version.[2]
  • FIM-92F: A further improvement of the E-version and the current production version.[2]
  • FIM-92G: An unspecified upgrade for the D variant.[2]
  • FIM-92H: Indicates a D-variant that has been upgraded to the E standard.[2]
  • FIM-92?, Stinger - RMP Block II: This variant was a planned developed based on the E version. The improvements included an imaging infrared seeker head from the AIM-9X. With this modification, the detection distance and the resistance to jamming was to be greatly increased . Changes to the airframe would furthermore enable a significant increase in range. Although the missile reached the testing phase, the program was dropped in 2002 for budgetary reasons.[2]
  • FIM-92J, Block 1 missile upgrade to replace aging components to extend service life and additional 10 years. The warhead is also equipped with a proximity fuse to increase effectiveness against unmanned aerial vehicles.[3]
  • ADSM, Air Defence Missile Suppression: A variant with an additional passive radar seeker, this variant can also be used against radar wave transmitters.[2]

Comparison chart to other MANPADS

9K34 Strela-3 /SA-14 9K38 Igla /SA-18 9K310 Igla-1 /SA-16 9K338 Igla-S /SA-24 FIM-92C Stinger Grom[4] Starstreak[5]
Service entry 1974 1983 1981 2004 1987 1995 1997
full system,
ready to shoot
35.3 lb (16.0 kg) 39 lb (17.9 kg) 39 lb (17.9 kg) 42 lb (19 kg) 32 lb (14.3 kg) 36 lb (16.5 kg) 44.09 lb (20.00 kg)
Weight, missile 23 lb (10.3 kg) 24 lb (10.8 kg) 24 lb (10.8 kg) 26 lb (11.7 kg) 22 lb (10.1 kg) 23 lb (10.5 kg) 30.86 lb (14.00 kg)[5]
Weight, warhead 2.6 lb (1.17 kg),
14 oz (390 g) HMX
2.6 lb (1.17 kg),
14 oz (390 g) HMX
2.6 lb (1.17 kg),
14 oz (390 g) HMX
5.5 lb (2.5 kg),
20.6 oz (585 g) HMX
6.6 lb (3 kg) HE 2.8 lb (1.27 kg) 3x2.0 lb (0.90 kg) tungsten alloy darts,
3x16 oz (450 g) PBX-98
Warhead type Directed-energy
blast fragmentation
blast fragmentation
blast fragmentation
blast fragmentation
Annular blast fragmentation Directed-energy Directed-energy
Fuze type Impact and grazing fuze. Delayed impact,
magnetic and grazing.
Delayed impact,
magnetic and grazing.
Delayed impact,
magnetic and grazing.
Delayed impact. Impact. Delayed impact, armour-piercing.
Flight speed, average / peak 1,100 mph (470 m/s) sustained 1,300 mph (600 m/s)
/ 1,800 mph (800 m/s)
1,300 mph (570 m/s) sustained
(in + temperature)
? 1,600 mph (700 m/s)
/ 1,700 mph (750 m/s)
1,300 mph (580 m/s)
/ 1,500 mph (650 m/s)
2,700 mph (1,190 m/s)
/ 3,000 mph (1,360 m/s)[6]
Maximum range 13,500 ft (4,100 m) 17,100 ft (5,200 m) 16,000 ft (5,000 m) 20,000 ft (6,000 m) 14,800 ft (4,500 m) 18,000 ft (5,500 m) 23,000 ft (7,000 m)+
Maximum target speed, receding 580 mph (260 m/s) 810 mph (360 m/s) 810 mph (360 m/s) 890 mph (400 m/s) ? 720 mph (320 m/s) ?
Maximum target speed, approaching 690 mph (310 m/s) 720 mph (320 m/s) 720 mph (320 m/s) 720 mph (320 m/s) ? 810 mph (360 m/s) ?
Seeker head type Nitrogen-cooled,
lead sulfide (PbS)
Indium antimonide (InSb)
uncooled lead sulfide (PbS)
Indium antimonide (InSb)
? Argon-cooled,
Indium antimonide (InSb)
Seeker scanning FM-modulated FM-modulated FM-modulated FM-modulated FM-modulated FM-modulated Low intensity modulated-laser-homing darts
Seeker notes Aerospike to reduce
supersonic wave drag
Tripod-mounted nosecone
to reduce supersonic wave drag
Low laser beam energy levels ensuring no

warning to target


U.S. Army soldiers from the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade stand next to a FIM-92A Stinger portable missile launcher during the Persian Gulf War.
A Stinger missile being launched from a U.S. Marine Corps AN/TWQ-1 Avenger in April 2000.

Falklands War

The Stinger's combat debut occurred during the Falklands War fought between Britain and Argentina. At the onset of the conflict soldiers of the British Army's Special Air Service had been clandestinely equipped with six missiles, although they had received little instruction in their use. The sole SAS trooper who had received training on the system, and was due to train other troops, was killed in a helicopter crash on 19 May.[7] Nonetheless, on 21 May 1982 an SAS soldier engaged and shot down an Argentine Pucará ground attack aircraft with a Stinger.[8] On 30 May, at about 11.00 a.m., an Aerospatiale SA-330 Puma helicopter was brought down by another missile, also fired by the SAS, in the vicinity of Mount Kent. Six National Gendarmerie Special Forces were killed and eight more wounded.[9] The main MANPADS used by both sides during the Falklands War was the Blowpipe missile.

Soviet War in Afghanistan

The story of the Stingers in Afghanistan was popularly told in the media by western sources primarily, notably in the references written in Ghost Wars by Steve Coll.

In late 1985, several groups, such as Free the Eagle, began arguing the CIA was not doing enough to support the Mujahideen in the Soviet-Afghan war. Michael Pillsbury, Vincent Cannistraro, and others put enormous bureaucratic pressure on the CIA to begin providing the Stinger to the rebels. The idea was controversial because up to that point, the CIA had been operating with the pretense that the United States was not involved in the war directly, for various reasons. All weapons supplied at that point were non-U.S. made weapons, like Type 56 rifles purchased from China,[10] and AK-47 and AKM AK derivatives purchased from Egypt.

The final say-so came down to Charlie Wilson's relationship with Zia was instrumental in the final go-ahead for the Stinger introduction.[10]

Wilson and his associates at first viewed the Stinger as "just adding another component to the lethal mix we were building".[10] Their increasingly successful Afghanistan strategy, formed largely by Michael G. Vickers, was based on a broad mix of weapons, tactics, and logistics, not a 'silver bullet solution' of a single weapon. Furthermore the previous attempts to provide MANPADs to the Mujahideen, namely the SA7 and Blowpipe, hadn't worked very well.[10]

Engineer Ghaffar of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami, brought down the first Hind gunship with a Stinger on September 25, 1986 near Jalalabad.[10][11][12] The Central Intelligence Agency eventually supplied nearly 500 Stingers (some sources claim 1,500–2,000) to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan as part of Operation Cyclone.[13] with the supply of 250 launchers.[14]

The impact of the Stinger on the outcome of the war is contested, particularly in the translation between the impact on the tactical/battlefield to the strategic level withdrawal, and the influence the first had on the second.[15] While Fort Leavenworth's Dr. Robert F. Baumann describes its impact on "Soviet tactical operations" as "unmistakable" in Compound warfare that fatal knot,[16][17] an opinion similarly supported by Yossef Bodansky's Sams in Afghanistan: assessing the impact published in a 1987 issue of Jane's Defence Weekly.[18][19] Soviet, and later, Russian, accounts give little significance to the Stinger for strategically ending the war.[13][20][21]

According to a 1993 US Air Defense Artillery publication, the Muhajideen gunners used the supplied Stingers to score approximately 269 total aircraft kills in about 340 engagements, a 79-percent kill ratio.[22] Which if accurate, would make it responsible for over half of the 451 Soviet aircraft losses in Afghanistan if they only engaged Soviet aircraft, however as the Afghan occupation was fought both by Soviet and Afghan government aircraft, a large number of kills inflicted by the Stinger was on aircraft operated by those of the Afghan government, who were increasingly sent on the more dangerous missions by the Soviets.[19] An analysis of the Stinger's role in the withdrawal of the Soviet Union, the statistics supporting the Stinger's unusually high kill ratio and the chronology leading up to the decision to deploy the weapon, was made in 1999.[19]

According to Crile, who includes information from Alexander Prokhanov, the Stinger was a "turning point".[10] Milt Bearden saw it as a "force multiplier" and morale booster.[10] Charlie Wilson, the congressman behind the United States' Operation Cyclone, described the first Stinger Mi-24 shootdowns in 1986 as one of the three crucial moments of his experience in the war, saying "we never really won a set piece battle before September 26, and then we never lost one afterwards".[23][24] He was given the first spent Stinger tube as a gift and kept it on his office wall.[10][24]

The last Stingers were supplied in 1988 after increasing reports of fighters selling them to Iran and thawing relations with Moscow.[12][25] After the 1989 Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the U.S. attempted to buy back the Stinger missiles, with a $55 million program launched in 1990 to buy back around 300 missiles (US$183,300 each).[26] The U.S. government collected most of the Stingers it had delivered, but by 1996 around 600 were unaccounted for and some found their way into Croatia, Iran, Sri Lanka, Qatar and North Korea.[27][28] According to the CIA, already in August 1988 the U.S. had demanded from Qatar the return of Stinger missiles.[29] Wilson later told CBS he "lived in terror" that a civilian airliner would be shot down by a Stinger, but he did not have misgivings about having provided Stingers to defeat the Soviets.[24]

Angolan Civil War

The Reagan administration provided 310 Stingers to Jonas Savimbi's UNITA movement in Angola between 1986 and 1989.[30] As in Afghanistan, efforts to recover missiles after the end of hostilities proved incomplete. The battery of a Stinger lasts for four or five years, so any weapons supplied in the 1980s would now be inoperative.[31]

Libyan invasion of Chad

The Chadian government received Stinger missiles from the United States, when Libya invaded the northern part of the African country. On 8 October 1987, a Libyan Su-22MK was shot down by a FIM-92A fired by Chadian forces. The pilot, Capt. Diya al-Din, ejected and was captured. He was later granted political asylum by the French government. During the recovery operation, a Libyan MiG-23MS was shot down by a FIM-92A.[32]

Tajik civil war

Tajik Islamist opposition forces operating from Afghanistan during the 1992–97 Tajik civil war encountered a heavy air campaign launched by Russia and Uzbekistan to prop up the government in Dushanbe that included border and cross-border raids. During one of these operations, a Sukhoi Su-24M was shot down on 3 May 1993 with an Stinger fired by fundamentalists. Both Russian pilots were rescued.[33][34][35]

Chechen War

Russian officials claimed several times the presence of US-made Stinger missiles in the hands of the Chechen militia and insurgents. They attributed few of their aerial losses to the American MANPADS. The presence of such missiles was confirmed by photo evidence even if it is not clear their actual number nor their origin.[36]

It is believed one Sukhoi Su-24 was shot down by a Stinger missile during the Second Chechen War.[37]

Sri Lankan Civil War

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam also managed to acquire one or several Stingers, possibly from former Mujahideen stocks, and used at least one to down a Sri Lanka Air Force Mi-24 on November 10, 1997.[28][38]

Operation Enduring Freedom

Some of the Stingers that the U.S. supplied starting from 1987, could have been used during the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan. Due to political reasons, U.S. and coalition forces generally play down or even deny any MANPADS involvement in the Afghan War by Afghan insurgents, attributing the attacks to unguided RPGs. However it became clear that coalition aircraft came under attack by different types of MANPADS in different instances.[39][40]

United States

The current U.S. inventory contains 13,400 missiles. The total cost of the program is $7,281,000,000.[41] It is rumored that the United States Secret Service has Stinger missiles to defend the President, a notion that has never been dispelled; however, U.S. Secret Service plans favor moving the President to a safer place in the event of an attack rather than shooting down the plane, lest the missile (or the wreckage of the target aircraft) hit innocents.[42]

During the 1980s, the Stinger was used to support different US-aligned guerrilla forces, notably the Afghan Mujahidins, the Chad government against the Libyan invasion and the Angolan UNITA. The Nicaraguan contras were not provided with Stingers due to the lack of fixed wing aircraft of the Sandinista government, as such the previous generation FIM-43 Redeye was considered adequate.[20]

Syrian civil war

In the Syrian civil war, Turkey reportedly helped to transport to the anti-government rebels a limited amount of FIM-92 Stingers.[43][44]


See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag Raytheon
  3. ^ Army Upgrades Stinger Missiles -, 6 November 2014
  4. ^,5,22,18,wojska-ladowe,bron-rakietowa,przeciwlotniczy-zestaw-rakietowy-ppzr-grom-i-piorun
  5. ^ a b https://www.thalesgroup.coms/default/files/asset/document/STARStreak_05_12.pdf
  6. ^
  7. ^ One of their aircraft is missing – Britain's Small Wars
  8. ^ San Carlos Air Battles – Falklands War 1982
  9. ^ Argentine Puma Shot Down By American “Stinger” Missile
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h George Crile, 2003, Grove/Atlantic.
  11. ^ Military engineer recounts role in Soviet-Afghan war, By Michael Gisick, Stars and Stripes, Published: September 11, 2008
  12. ^ a b
  13. ^ a b Malley, William (2002) The Afghanistan wars. Palgrave Macmillan, p. 80. ISBN 0-333-80290-X
  14. ^ Hilali, A. Z. (2005). US-Pakistan relationship: Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. p. 169. ISBN 0-7546-4220-8
  15. ^ The Stinger missile and U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, THIS DOCUMENT IS A CASE STUDY IN COVERT-ACTION DECISION MAKING, Alan J. Kuperman, Political Science Quarterly
  16. ^
  17. ^ Compound warfare that fatal knot, Thomas M. Huber editor, Fort Leavenworth, pg 296
  18. ^ Jane's defence weekly, vol. 8, no. 03, 1987 PP. 153-154Sams in Afghanistan: assessing the impactYossef Bodansky's
  19. ^ a b c The Stinger missile and U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, THIS DOCUMENT IS A CASE STUDY IN COVERT-ACTION DECISION MAKING, Alan J. Kuperman, Political Science Quarterly, pg 13,14
  20. ^ a b CUSHMAN Jr, JOHN H. (17 January 1988). "THE WORLD: The Stinger Missile; HELPING TO CHANGE THE COURSE OF A WAR". The New York Times. 
  21. ^ Scott, Peter (2003). Drugs, oil, and war: the United States in Afghanistan, Colombia, and Indochina. Rowman & Littlefield, p. 5. ISBN 0-7425-2522-8
  22. ^ Air Defense Artillery Yearbook 1993 ADA, Blair Case, Lisa B. Henry. pg 20. PDF
  23. ^ A conversation with Charlie Wilson, Charlie Rose, PBS, April 24, 2008, via
  24. ^ a b c Charlie Did It, CBS News, 60 minutes. December 19, 2007 9:51 AM, From March 13, 2001: Former Rep. Charlie Wilson looks back on his efforts to arm the Mujahedeen against the Soviet Union back in the 1980s. Mike Wallace reports.
  25. ^
  26. ^ Weiner, Tim (24 July 1993). "U.S. Increases Fund To Outbid Terrorists For Afghan Missiles".  
  27. ^ Stinger missile system
  28. ^ a b
  29. ^ "Middle East brief (deleted) for 2 August 1988: In brief: x—Qatar" (pdf). Central Intelligence Agency. 1988-08-02. p. 3. Retrieved 2010-11-14. 
  30. ^ a b "Trade Registers". Retrieved 2013-06-20. 
  31. ^ "Stingers, Stingers, Who's Got the Stingers?, Slate.
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^ Pashin, Alexander. "Russian Army Operations and Weaponry During Second Military Campaign in Chechnya". Moscow Defense Brief. Retrieved 8 March 2014. 
  38. ^
  39. ^ Walsh, Declan (25 July 2010). "Afghanistan war logs: US covered up fatal Taliban missile strike on Chinook". The Guardian (London). 
  40. ^ "Afghanistan: The war logs,Afghanistan (News),World news,WikiLeaks,The war logs". The Guardian (London). 25 July 2010. 
  41. ^ FIM-92A Stinger Weapons System – Federation of American Scientists
  42. ^ Stephen Labaton (September 13, 1994). "Crash at the White House: The defenses; Pilot's Exploit Rattles White House Officials".  
  43. ^ "Clinton: Chemical warfare is planned for. Rebels get first anti-air Stingers".  
  44. ^ "Syrian Rebels Claim to Have Brought Down a Jet".  
  45. ^ Yle News
  46. ^ Tiger Attack Helicopter, Europe. Retrieved on October 24, 2008.
  47. ^ Singh, R.S.N. (2005). Asian Strategic And Military Perspective. Lancer Publishers. p. 238.  
  48. ^ Sumit Ganguly & S. Paul Kapur (2008). Nuclear Proliferation in South Asia: Crisis Behaviour and the Bomb.  
  49. ^
  50. ^ Official Roketsan Stinger Page. Retrieved on October 23, 2008.

Further reading

  • O'Halloran James C., and Christopher F. Foss (eds.). Jane's Land-Based Air Defence 2005–2006. Couldson, Surrey: Jane's Information Group, 2005. ISBN 0-7106-2697-5.

External links

  • FIM-92 Stinger MANPADS man-portable surface-to-air missile system(Army Recognition)
  • Raytheon (General Dynamics) FIM-92 Stinger – Designation Systems
  • Defense Update: Stinger VSHORAD Missile
  • Stinger missiles in Syrian Civil War on YouTube
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