The four-decade-old Stinger missile has a new mission: shooting down small drones.
The U.S. Army and Raytheon modified the shoulder-fired weapon — better known for being able to shoot down aircraft and cruise missiles — as part of a Pentagon search for new ways to down that kind of small, cheap drones that Islamic State militants have been known to pack with explosives.
Raytheon swapped out the Stinger’s direct-impact warhead, which explodes upon collision with an aircraft, for a proximity fuze that detonates when it detects a nearby airborne target, Raytheon said.
“The new proximity fuze gives ground forces the ability to engage small, elusive targets using a proven, familiar system,” Kim Ernzen, vice president of Raytheon's Land Warfare Systems product line, said in a statement.
In recent years, defense firms have pitched various ways to take down small drones using electronic attack, jamming signals, or even finding a way to hack into the drone and force it to land. Early this year, it was revealed that a U.S. ally shot down a small $200 quadcopter drone with a $3 million Patriot interceptor. A modified Stinger certainly presents a cheaper alternative.
Raytheon touts the “combat proven” Stinger’s “more than 270 fixed- and rotary-wing intercepts” in four major conflicts. The missile can be fired not only from a soldier’s shoulder, but vehicles and attack aircraft. The Stinger gained notoriety for its use by the Mujahideen during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.