Keeping the sting in the Stinger missile

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REDSTONE ARSENAL , Ala. -- Unmanned aircraft systems, called drones by most civilians, are getting more popular every day. They're fun to fly, and are useful as platforms for cameras and other gear.

Unfortunately, drones can also become a threat if they're flown by an enemy.

"When you have emerging threats, the thing you want to do the fastest is how can we get this into the hands of the people that need it," said Chief Warrant Officer 5, Julian Evans with the Cruise Missile Defense Systems Project Office.

He's talking about the Stinger missile,  one of the weapons systems governed by the CMDS Office. The Stinger has been in service since the early 1980's as a short-range air defense system. It's usual targets, aircraft and cruise missiles.

"It does what it's supposed to do. We've never had failures identified with the Stinger, and the Stinger is a fire and forget weapons system. Once it's fired, it's going to hit its target without a problem," said Col Charles Worshim, the Project Officer at the CMDS Project Office.

Drones have become a new target for the Stinger, but drones present a problem. They're usually small, and the heat signature of a drone is far less than the other types of targets where Stingers would be used.

To make the Stinger more usable against drones, the Army is developing a proximity fuse.  The Stinger wouldn't have to hit a small drone, but rather explode in close other words, near it.

The CMDS Project Office at Redstone Arsenal is directing the effort to service the thousands of Stinger missiles in the inventory. In addition to new components and batteries each Stinger would get the proximity fuse.

"It  definitely will save lives, you know, especially for those small threats. The Stinger proximity fuse will be able to get after those threats," said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Evans.

One more thing about servicing the Stinger, and adding the new fuse, is the difference in the upgrade as opposed to manufacturing new Stingers. It saves hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"And that's what we're supposed to do. We're supposed  to look for those opportunities to reduce cost, and extend performance in the life cycle of the weapons systems that we have," said Col. Worshim.

The project to service the Stingers and install the proximity fuses is expected to be completed by the fall of 2019.