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The Army Is Learning To Love The Stinger Missile — Again
The FIM-92 Stinger missile was the man-portable air defense system of choice for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps (and a handful of action heroes during the 1980s and 90s, plus some Afghan, uh, “freedom fighters”). Since the end of the Cold War, the Department of Defense has drifted away from the infrared homing missile; the Global War on Terror’s emphasis on counterinsurgency tactics led to a decline in funding for short-range air defense systems (SHORAD). But with the Pentagon adopting an increasingly rigid posture in eastern Europe, the Army is learning to love the Stinger once again.
On Jan. 11, the service announced that, for the first time in nearly 15 years, it would add training and coaching of two-man Stinger missile-system teams into the 7th Army Training Command's Joint Multinational Readiness Center future training exercises. The previous day, 50 Observer Coach/Trainers from the Fires Center of Excellence in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, arrived at the Army Garrison Hohenfels Training Area in Germany for their own crash course on the Stinger. The goal, according to Air Defense Integrated Office training and doctrine director Lt. Col. Aaron Felter, is to rapidly incorporate 62 Stinger teams into U.S. Army Europe’s operational force.
The return of the Stinger is exciting for all kinds of missiley reasons. First adopted in 1981 as a replacement for the FIM-43 Redeye, the surface-to-air variant of the heat-seeking missile was deemed effective against helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, and fixed-wing transportation and reconnaissance aircraft — “a true ‘fire and forget’ missile [that requires] no inputs from the gunner once the weapon is fired,” per the Marine Corps manual. While just over 16,000 were produced, the man-portable launcher proved versatile enough to see action from the point air defense system of Iowa class battleships in the 1980s to the shoulders of Marines on the shooting range today. (The Russians’ 9K38 Igla Stinger variant is considered among the most powerful man-portable SAM systems in the Ministry of Defense’s arsenal.)
No wonder the Stinger was an occasional fixture of the technicolor action flicks of the 1990s; it’s the same system that helped the Afghans drive out the Russians — and it packs a wallop. "Based on the Chief of Staff of the Army's initiative, getting Europe stood up with short-range air defense (SHORAD) Stinger teams is his first priority inside the initiative of getting Stinger teams back online," Felter said in a Jan. 11 statement. "We're going to go to the National Training Center and the Joint Readiness Training Center, however, the immediate focus is Europe and getting Europe ready to fight tonight and defend Europe against any adversary."
Spc. Matthew Williams and Sgt. Dallas Gardner, both cavalry scouts assigned to 2nd Cavalry Regiment fire a Stinger missile using Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADs) during Artemis Strike, a live fire exercise at the NATO Missile Firing Installation (NAMFI) off the coast of Crete, Greece Nov. 6, 2017.U.S. Army/Sgt. 1st Class Jason Epperson
Make no mistake: “Against any adversary” is a clear euphemism for Russia, increasingly aggressive in eastern Europe since the 2014 annexation of Crimea from neighboring Ukraine, and the Stinger training comes amid a steady buildup of forces under U.S. Army Europe as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve. The deployment of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division to Germany in January 2017 for USAREUR’s largest training exercise since the Cold War marked the first prolonged rotation of an armored combat brigade in years; U.S. combat troops who spent much of the previous decade in Iraq and Afghanistan are now deploying to Europe with tactics and equipment meant for a Soviet-era land conflict.
While the Stinger proved a poor match for the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq where the U.S. has enjoyed overwhelming significant air superiority, the specter of a confrontation between Russian and NATO-aligned forces in eastern Europe is enough of an incentive for the Army to re-up its training. The 2nd Cavalry Regiment — one of the first units to deploy to European NATO allies like Germany and Poland in response to the Crimean annexation — is set to receive a batch of upgunned Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle Dragoons, 80 of them outfitted with 30mm cannons effective against drones and small aircraft. These are the SHORAD battalions that will house the Army’s new Stinger teams: The service noted that personnel from the 2nd Cavalry had already joined the 173rd Airborne for a five-week Stinger crash-course Grafenwoehr. (In the meantime, the State Department announced the sale to Poland of the Patriot Anti-Missile System on Nov. 17 and M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System on Nov. 28 to help restore NATO allies’ sense of security while defense contractors whip up their own SHORAD-enabled combat vehicles.)
"War is expensive in both treasure and lives," USAREUR operations chief Brig. Gen. Timothy Daugherty, who also deployed to Europe to face down the Soviets during the 1980s and ’90s, told Army Times in a March 2017 interview. "Preparing for war is a lot cheaper than executing one."
When these fancy anti-air toys will actually make their way downrange to antsy soldiers remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: As Russia and NATO aircraft eye the skies above Europe amid escalating tensions, those new Stinger teams can’t get here soon enough. In the meantime, here’s a handful of videos of U.S. service members training on these bad boys:
My brother earned the Medal of Honor for saving countless lives — but only after he was left for dead
"As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night."
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.
They were the brave men who comprised a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that had been called in to rescue the SEAL Team 6 team (Mako-30) with whom he had been embedded, which left him behind on Takur Ghar, a desolate mountain in Afghanistan that topped out at over 10,000 feet.
As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night. After many delays, the mission should and could have been pushed one day, but Szymanski ordered the team to proceed as planned, and Britt "Slab" Slabinski, John's team leader, fell into step after another SEAL team refused the mission.
But the "plan" went even more south when they made the rookie move to insert directly atop the mountain — right into the hands of the bad guys they knew were there.
She's photographed every major war of the last 20 years. Marine Corps boot camp was something else entirely
Conflict photographer Lynsey Addario's seen a hell of a lot of combat over the past twenty years. She patrolled Afghanistan's Helmand Province with the Marines, accompanied the Army on night raids in Baghdad, took artillery fire with rebel fighters in Libya and has taken photos in countless other wars and humanitarian disasters around the world.
Along the way, Addario captured images of plenty of women serving with pride in uniform, not only in the U.S. armed forces, but also on the battlefields of Syria, Colombia, South Sudan and Israel. Her photographs are the subject of a new article in the November 2019 special issue of National Geographic, "Women: A Century of Change," the magazine's first-ever edition written and photographed exclusively by women.
The photos showcase the wide range of goals and ideals for which these women took up arms. Addario's work includes captivating vignettes of a seasoned guerrilla fighter in the jungles of Colombia; a team of Israeli military police patrolling the streets of Jerusalem; and a unit of Kurdish women guarding ISIS refugees in Syria. Some fight to prove themselves, others seek to ignite social change in their home country, and others do it to liberate other women from the grip of ISIS.
Addario visited several active war zones for the piece, but she found herself shaken by something much closer to home: the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina.
Addario discussed her visit to boot camp and her other travels in an interview with Task & Purpose, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
An Army staff sergeant who "represents the very best of the 101st Airborne Division" has finally received a Silver Star for his heroic actions during the Battle of the Bulge after a 75-year delay.
On Sunday, Staff Sgt. Edmund "Eddie" Sternot was posthumously awarded with a Silver Star for his heroics while leading a machine gun team in the Ardennes Forest. The award, along with Sternot's Bronze Star and Purple Heart, was presented to his only living relative, Sternot's first cousin, 80-year-old Delores Sternot.
U.S. special operations forces are currently field testing a lightweight combat armor designed to cover more of an operator's body than previous protective gear, an official told Task & Purpose.
The armor, called the Lightweight Polyethylene (PE) Armor for Extremity Protection, is one of a handful of subsystems to come out of U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) effort that media outlets dubbed the "Iron Man suit," Navy Lieutenant Cmdr. Tim Hawkins, a SOCOM spokesman, told Task & Purpose on Wednesday.