Lawmakers support reprogramming to fast-track Stinger replacement

By Ethan Sterenfeld / March 21, 2022 at 12:10 PM

Top lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee would support a reprogramming request to accelerate development of a Stinger missile replacement, according to a letter they sent Friday to Pentagon leaders.

“Therefore, the committee strongly urges that the [Defense Department] prioritize acceleration of a [short-range air defense] modernization or replacement that will deliver a low-cost, exportable evolution of a system, within 36 months,” the letter stated. “The committee urges focus on the most rapid possible development, testing, and fielding of a more capable SHORAD system and would favorably consider an appropriate reprogramming request to get this started.”

Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) and Ranking Member Mike Rogers (R-AL) signed the letter, which was addressed to the Pentagon’s top uniformed and civilian leaders.

The letter addressed the ability of allied countries, which have also sent munitions to Ukraine, to refill their own missile stockpiles. A Stinger replacement should be exportable, the letter said.

The U.S. military has sent more than 1,000 Stinger anti-aircraft missile systems to Ukraine in recent months. The Cold War-era missiles can be mounted on vehicles or launched from shoulder-fired systems.

Lawmakers expressed concern in 2018 about the size of the U.S. military’s Stinger stockpile and the possible deterioration of the industrial base that supports the weapon. The Army released a request for information in 2020 about options to replace the missile, which included plans to award a production contract by fiscal year 2026.

Stinger production ended more than two decades ago, and the military’s stockpile has shrunk in the intervening years. But the Army still lists the Stinger as a key enabler to its modernization effort for large-scale combat, in which air defense is one of six priorities.

The service’s new kinetic Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense systems use the Stinger alongside Hellfire missiles and an anti-aircraft cannon. A future increment of the kinetic M-SHORAD vehicle, which would utilize a Stinger replacement, is expected toward the end of this decade.