Stinger Missles

Every now and then you hear about present enemies of the US possesing Stinger missles that were orginally supplied by the US years ago, usually the 80s… most recently by a “warlord” in Afghanistan that the CIA is trying to kill:

How long can these missles last? I was under the impression that heat-seekers needed a fair amount of maintainence to keep functional. Could these people who posses 10+ year old missles be keeping them in good enough shape to keep them in functional condition after all these years?

Maintenance schedules, and shelf life durations provided by the manufacturer are designed to provide very high levels of reliability in weapons systems. You don’t want your soldier saying woops all that often, during a combat situation.

When you hear that a system has a twenty year shelf life, that means twenty years worth of very high reliability. So, fifteen years after that, the US Army would not use it, but a guy hoping to take out an Airliner doesn’t have to worry about El Al shooting back if his rocket goes phftttt.

So, half of them fail. If they send three, that means an Eighty Seven percent chance that it will work. Nasty chance for a civilian aircraft to take, and not much of a downside for the guys who didn’t have the pleasure of making the hit.

During the bombing of the Taliban we were using Daisy Cutters. These bombs were older than most of our soldiers. The real reason they were being used was to get them out of the inventory, so we could get Congress to buy new bombs. But they worked fine, even though some were thirty five, or forty years old.

So, it isn’t impossible for a twenty five year old stinger to work just fine. We don’t want to rely on it, but we don’t dare rely on it not working, either.


Gotcha, Triskadecamus, but I thought heaters needed super-cold liquid like Liquid Nitrogen to keep the seeker cold enough. A little more finicky than a conventional bomb.

But I suppose the same logic applies.


Do you (or anyone else) know what the life expectancy of a Stinger is?

Stingers use Argon gas to cool the seeker head, but only upon firing, similar to a Sidewinder missile. The Sidewinders aren’t stored with the coolant, but before a flight, a small argon bottle is installed in the missile, or a nitrogen bottle is installed in the launcher, depending on the service and/or application. They don’t need to be cooled during storage.

I’m not sure about the shelf life of Stingers, but I know that the Redeye, which it replaced, was good for at least 20 years before the rocket motors would begin to degrade, so I think it’s reasonable to assume that Stingers are good for at least the same.

I have read that the battery pack for the Stinger is good for about five years.

I don’t know how hard it would be to aquire or improvise a battery pack, but without functional electronics, the Stinger is worthless.

There was a thread on this before, which disappeared in The Winter Of Our Lost Content.

The upshot of the thread was the Stingers have an Militarily useful shelf-life of seven years, after which they need depot-level maintenance. They may actually fire after that time, but not with any real chance of hitting an aircraft. They might still be useful in a limited way as a large and inaccurate bazooka, though… Nah.

That’s largely what the idiots in Afghanistan were reduced to. Notice not a single coalition aircraft was hit by a Stinger. And we were fired at by Stingers. The age and maintenance factor, plus the countermeasures used by our aircraft, made the Stingers useless.