Why Is the FIM-92 Stinger Missile So Effective Against the Russian Air Force

Stinger missile is the most effective and easy-to-use man-portable air-defense system in use today.
Stinger Missile Exercise

Stinger missiles are the most widespread manportable air-defense system (MANPADS). This weapon can shoot down multi-million dollar helicopters, drones, and planes when it only costs around $120,000 – and it can be operated by a single soldier.

The Stinger is regularly evolving to remain efficacious in spite of new technologies and countermeasures generated by the enemy forces, and Raytheon Missiles has created approximately 70,000 Stingers.

FIM-92 Stinger

1-7 repels enemy assault at Lava Training Area
1-7 repels enemy assault at Lava Training Area by Cpl. Joseph Scanlan. Public Domain.

The FIM-92A Stinger is fabricated by Raytheon Missiles Defense. It is remarkably effective in shooting down low-flying aircraft and is very useful for ground troops.


Stinger missiles weigh 10.1 kilograms or 22 pounds, and with the whole launcher, they reach just 15.8 kilograms or 33.5 pounds. Additionally, they fly at a speed of 750 m/s or Mach  2.5, which is twice the speed of sound (more than enough to catch any helicopter, drone, or aircraft).

It’s now in the arsenal of 20 military forces around the world, especially among the members of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization).

The Stinger performance at war

Stinger Missile Live Fire at NTC
Stinger Missile Live Fire at NTC by Spc. Kyle Edwards. Public Domain.

When it was released, this missile was an absolute novelty: it wasn’t like the traditional American Bazooka unguided rocket launcher, but a third-generation fire-and-forget missile launcher that was more effective than any weapon that came before it.


During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Stinger was the weapon employed by the Afghans, and they shot down 269 aircraft.

In 2022, NATO delivered over 2000 Stinger missiles to Ukraine, with which they are shooting down Russian fighter jets and helicopters. Unofficial reports remark that Ukrainian forces have shot down at least 24 Russian aircraft in the first 12 days of the Russian invasion.


Army trains with Avenger air defense system during RIMPAC
Army trains with Avenger air defense system during RIMPAC by Rachael Jeffcoat. Public Domin.

Stinger missiles are lightweight and mobile. The missile and its launcher weigh just 33.5 pounds or 15.8 kilograms, and the launcher is reusable.


The Stinger can get targets flying as high as 11,500 feet or 3,500 meters and has an effective range of roughly 5 miles (around 8 kilometers).

  • Mass: 33.5 pounds (15.19 kilograms)
  • Length: 59.8 inches (1.52 meters)
  • Diameter: 2.76 inches (70.1 millimeters)
  • Crew: 1
  • Warhead weight: 1 kilogram (2.25 pounds) 
  • Unit cost: $119,320

How do Stinger missiles work?

2CR trains on Missile Stinger
2CR trains on Missile Stinger by Sgt. Kathleen Polanco. Public Domain.

It’s a shoulder-launched weapon, and just one soldier can shoot a Stinger missile, although a two-person team is preferred to increase its effectiveness and destructive power.

The missile is launched from a soldier’s shoulder, and it’s self-guided by an infrared tracker found in the missile’s head.


Moreover, as a fire and forget weapon, it doesn’t need any intervention by the gunner. This allows soldiers to take cover or move to another position to increase their safety.

The Stinger is the most effective MANPADS in history

The stinger has marked a before and after for MANPADS and has proven itself in many conflicts worldwide from the war in Afghanistan to the 2022 Russian invasion to Ukraine.

1024px Launched FIM 92A Stinger missile
Launched FIM-92A Stinger missile by Christopher O’Quin, U.S. Marine Corps. Public Domain.

Today, its performance is still outstanding. In the war between Russia and Ukraine, it has already shot down dozens of aircraft and it will probably keep making a difference on the battlefield.


And with the ever-evolving upgrades, the FIM-92 Stinger will remain a vital anti-aircraft defense weapon for years to come as it incorporates more technologies to avoid the most modern defense systems.

Feature image credit: Stinger Missile by Lance Cpl. Rachel Young-Porter. Public Domain.