As demand explodes, Raytheon forced to rehire retired Stinger engineers

Retired Raytheon engineers are being recruited to help train existing staff to build the almost 50-year-old Stinger missile after a massive increase in demand.
Christopher McFadden
Ukrainian soldier of the 30th Mechanized Brigade Anti-Air Battalion with a FIM-92 Stinger.

Ukrainian Army/Wikimedia Commons 

As demand for Raytheon's ancient Stinger missiles explodes, the company has been forced to employ retired employees to help build them, reports Defense One. The re-hired former engineers will help train younger staff and help restart production from blueprints that are well over 40 years old. The demand for the missiles has come after large quantities of the United States stockpiles have been donated to the Ukrainian military.

In case you are unaware, the FIM-92 "Stinger" is a surface-to-air missile system originating from the United States, designed for man-portable use and functioning through infrared homing technology. It boasts versatility, being capable of being fired from various ground vehicles or helicopters as the Air-to-Air Stinger (ATAS). Since its establishment in 1981, the Stinger has been employed by the US military and 29 other countries worldwide.

Its old technology

“Stinger's been out of production for 20 years, and all of a sudden, in the first 48 hours [of the war], it's the star of the show, and everybody wants more,” Wes Kremer, the president of RTX’s Raytheon division, said during an interview last week at the Paris Air Show.

Recently, Ukraine has employed nearly 2,000 heat-seeking missiles provided by the United States to shoot down Russian aircraft successfully. These missiles were sourced from US military reserves. Additionally, the Biden administration has announced plans to send Ukraine even more Stingers in the near future.

In May 2022, the US Army ordered 1,700 Stingers, but delivery is not expected until 2026, according to the Pentagon. As stated by Kremer, the production line for Stingers will take approximately 30 months to set up and for the training of employees to be completed.

“We were bringing back retired employees that are in their 70s … to teach our new employees how actually to build a Stinger,” Kremer said. “We're pulling test equipment out of warehouses and blowing the spider webs off of them," he added.

Additionally, according to Greg Hayes, the CEO of RTX, the missile's electronics are outdated. “We're redesigning circuit cards [and] redesigning some of the componentry,” Hayes told Defense One in an interview. “That just takes a long time," he added.

Built by hand

Engineers frequently promote 3D printing and automation to accelerate manufacturing, but these methods cannot be applied to the Stinger. This is because implementing such techniques would require a complete redesign of the weapon and a lengthy certification process. “You'd have to redesign the entire seeker to automate it,” Kremer said.

This indicates that they are required to construct the weapons in the same manner as they were four decades ago, which involves manually attaching the missile's nose cone.

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