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US approves sale of Stinger missiles to India: Lightweight fire-and-forget weapon system a combat-proven technology

The US state department has approved the direct sale of powerful stinger missiles to India, along with six AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and Hellfire missiles. Pentagon's defence security cooperation agency notified US Congress about the state department's decision. The sale is expected to pass through if no lawmaker opposes the notification, PTI reported on Wednesday.

However, the sale of Stinger Block I-92H missiles, if it takes place, will bolster Indian Army's short-range air defense network massively. The weapon prototype is widely popular among most US allies and NATO nations due to its compact size, mobility and multi-purpose usability as a air-to-air and surface-to-air strike weapon.

What is a Stinger missile?

Stinger missile is a Man-Portable Air-Defense System (MANPADS), a shoulder-mounted weapon that can be used to shoot down helicopters UAVs, cruise missiles, and fixed-wing aircraft, both from land and sea. Besides this, it can be easily adapted to include air-to-air strike capacity that can be integrated into most rotary and fixed-wing aircraft, a report in the Economic Times said.

What increases its popularity is its portability; the light to carry and easy to operate Stinger missiles can be shoulder-fired by a single operator. In addition to this, the missile is quite accurate as it uses an infrared seeker to detect the heat being emitted from an aircraft engine's exhaust, and can hit nearly anything flying below 11,000 feet. According to The Diplomat, one variant of the missile also features an ultraviolet seeker that can distinguish between flares and jet engines.

According to Raytheon Missile Systems Company, which is the principal manufacturer of the missiles in the US, the weapon is deployed in more than 18 nations and with all four US military services. "Stinger is an immediate-response weapon of choice against a wide range of air threats, protecting both fixed sites and manoeuvre forces,” said Jack Elliot, Raytheon's Stinger programme director.

The combination of supersonic speed, agility and a highly accurate guidance and control system gives Stinger the operational edge against cruise missiles and all classes of aircraft. It's a lightweight, self-contained air defense system that can be rapidly deployed by ground troops and on military platforms. The missile is also used on Apache helicopters for air-to-air engagements, a company press release said.

In fact, Raytheon has entered an agreement with home-grown Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL) to manufacture the missile's components in India, the Economic Times report quoted earlier said.

Stinger, a combat-proven technology ::

The Stinger missile weapon system has been used in combat in a number of major conflicts including the Afghan-Soviet War, the Angolan Civil War, the Yugoslav Wars, the Chechen War and the Falkland War, according to The Diplomat. Raytheon claims that it has shot down more than 270 fixed and rotary wing aircraft. It is also used by the US forces deployed in Afghanistan. Other nations purchasing and using the missile system include, South Korea, Taiwan, Latvia etc.

According to the US-based National Defence Magazine, the stringers had given a particularly tough time to Soviet aircraft in Afghanistan in the 1980s, where it had downed at least 250 aircraft and choppers. It is widely believed to be the major reason that forced the Soviets to withdraw its combat troops from Afghan soil in 1989. According to an article in The Diplomat, Congressman Charlie Wilson told The Washington Post in 1989, "Once the Stinger made their helicopters useless, that put the Russians on foot against the Mujahedin and there’s no one on Earth who can fight the Mujahedin on Foot." Even though, the claim could be termed debatable by several other experts, the Stringer's accuracy and speed remains widely undisputed. Because, notwithstanding the poor training of the Afghan Mujahideen fighters, most of the launches were reportedly successful. Besides this, Raytheon claims it maintains an over 90 percent success rate in reliability and training tests against advanced threat targets.

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