The Army has intensified the training soldiers receive on the FIM-92 Stinger — a man-portable, air defense missile — after nearly 15 years of moving away from the weapon system.
The Stinger has been around since the late 1970s, according to the Army. As counterinsurgency became the Army’s primary mission focus, however, training drifted away from the shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile.
“Bringing back the Stinger addresses a self-identified gap that the Army created and has recognized,” said Lt. Col. Aaron Felter, the director of training and doctrine for the Air Defense Integrated Office. “We’re getting back to the basics and providing short-range air defense to maneuver units.”
The shift back to the Stinger is based on the Army chief of staff’s initiative to close the gap in short-range air defense capabilities the United States and its NATO allies suffer from on the European continent, according to the Army.
These SHORAD systems will be focused on defending against low-flying aircraft, such as drones and attack helicopters, which present a considerable threat to maneuvering forces, according to a memo by Brig. Gen. Randall McIntire, commandant of the U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery School.
“The continuing Russo-Ukrainian conflict has seen a transformation of the Russian military and the need for short-range air defense with our maneuver forces,” McIntire wrote. Unmanned aircraft “have become increasingly common and important to operations by both sides in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict.”
To close the gap, roughly 50 soon-to-be trainers attended their own training session on the Stinger system at the Hohenfels Training Area in Germany on Jan. 10. The area hosts a Joint Multinational Readiness Center for training NATO forces.
“The immediate focus is Europe and getting Europe ready to fight tonight and defend Europe against any adversary,” Felter said.
Instructors from the Fires Center of Excellence at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, went to Germany to offer their unique expertise with the Stinger missile.
Those being trained at the event will be evaluated on mission-specific tasks with the weapon system, to include determining air avenues of approach, defending a critical location, and de-conflicting engagements of enemy aircraft based on sectors of fire.
“In parallel efforts, the goal is to get 62 Stinger teams into the operational force as soon as possible,” Felter said. “In concert with that, additional SHORAD battalions are being stood up, which will result in aligning one SHORAD battalion with each division.”
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq. Follow on Twitter @Kyle_Rempfer