FIM-43 Redeye

The FIM-43 Redeye was a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile. First generation IR missiles are tail chase weapons that must pursue their targets from behind. They essentially chase the hottest item in the sky such as the thermal signature from the exhaust and hot sections of the aircraft. Because of this, they are highly susceptible to interference from background sources such as the sun, flares, and various directed energy countermeasures which will be discussed later. First generation IR MANPADS include the American Redeye, Soviet SA-7, and the Chinese HN-5. The SA-7 Strela-2 (NATO: Grail) and its variants are the most widely deployed first generation MANPADS with thousands in existence today.

REDEYE was a manportable, shoulder-fired weapon that provided combat troops with the capability of destroying low-flying aircraft. The weapon was effective at ranges and altitudes commensurate with a close-in defense against attacking aircraft. Although the missile was electronically complex, it was designed for simple, reliable operation in the field. In could be carried anywhere a soldier could take a rifle, could be made ready to fire in seconds, and required little training to use.

The REDEYE missile, ready for issue in the battle area, came encased in a fiberglass launcher equipped with a carrying strap and sight that also served as a carrying case. The supersonic missile carried an infrared sensor in its nose, which resulted in the name "REDEYE." The sensing device was used as a means of homing on the heat of an aircraft engine. REDEYE carried a conventional high explosive warhead. REDEYE was operational worldwide with the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) for more than two decades. It was replaced in both services on a one-for-one basis by the more capable STINGER missile system. REDEYE was also used by several allied nations.

The REDEYE low-altitude air defense weapon released for use by Army and Marine Corps troops in 1967 was the product of an evolutionary development effort that began after World War II. In that span of more than two decades, significant progress was made in developing highly sophisticated anti aircraft guided missiles to counter the high- and medium-altitude threat. But the development of a small, man-portable infantry weapon to protect the foot soldier against attack by low-flying, strafing planes and close-support aircraft proved to be an exceedingly difficult task. The search for such a weapon to replace the standard .50-caliber machine gun was largely influenced by the recornendations of a number of army equipment review boards and tripartite conferences on anti-aircraft equipment.

Concluding that the mission of the infantryman was the most difficult in modern war, the War Department Equipment Board, in May 1946, emphasized the importance of providing him with the very best equipment that this nation could produce. In the specific area of short-range, low-altitude anti-aircraft weapons, the board concluded that the existing .50-caliber machine gun did not have sufficient range or velocity for use against targets of the future.

Feasibility studies in 1951 resulted in work on the PORCUPINE, which was a proposed system for coping with possible attacks, after 1960, on the Continental United States by fighter-bomber planes, at altitudes of from 50 to 6,000 feet and ranges of between 3,000 and 6,000 feet. A PORCUPINE battery was to have comprised 64 launching tubes that could fire 2.75-inch rockets at the rate of 6,000 per minute. No complete PORCUPINE system was ever built. The project was terminated in February 1956, after it was decided that its continuation was no longer justified.

By the mid-1950's, anti-aircraft weapons at medium and high altitudes were becoming so effective that an increasing proportion of attack aircraft could be expected to enter the battle area at low altitudes. The ever-increasing speed and maneuverability of low-flying aircraft decreased the time of warning and effective action and increased the required effectiveness of low-altitude air defense weapons. The standard automatic weapons - the caliber .50 and 40-mm - were rapidly becoming obsolete because of their short range, low lethality, and inability to engage high-speed, low-altitude targets. The existing fire control methods were totally inadequate to meet the challenge of high angular tracking rates and the short engagement periods of high-performance aircraft.

Drawing upon its years of experience as a Navy missile development contractor, Convair, a division of General Dynamics, in 1955 began feasibility studies of a very lightweight, man-transportable, low-altitude missile system to fulfill the stated requirement for an all-arms weapon to protect combat and support troops in the battle zone. Preliminary studies indicated that judicious application of several design principles, both proven and radical, could bring this surface-to-air missile system into reality.

Designed to be carried and shoulder-launched by individual field personnel using a bazooka-type launcher, the proposed REDEYE missile compared favorably in size and weight with the 2.75-inch Folding Fin Aircraft Rocket (FFAR). It was 2.75 inches in diameter and 42.75 inches long, and had a gross weight of 14.5 pounds. The proposed REDEYE used a passive heat-homing guidance system, wherein the receiver in the missile used radiation from the target with no provision for target illumination by any outside source. A direct hit probability of 0.35 to 0.40 was predicted. The expected maximum impact range was about 2 nautical miles.

In 1957, three defense contractors submitted to Redstone Arsenal unsolicited proposals for an all-arms, man-portable weapon. Aside from Convair's REDEYE proposal, which had been presented to Army and Marine Corps representatives in November 1956, the Arsenal evaluation team considered the LANCER proposal by the Sperry Gyroscope Company and the SLAM (Shoulder-Launched Anti-aircraft Missile) proposal by North American Aviation. Sperry's LANCER missile was not shoulder-launched and was far too heavy to be carried and operated by one man. Though designed for shoulder-launching, the SLAM system was too heavy to meet the requirements of a man-portable weapon, its weight being about 50 pounds. On 14 April 58 Convair/Pomona was awarded a contract for a 1-year feasibility and demonstration of the REDEYE missile system under a program sponsored jointly by the Army and USMC.

On 21 December 60, because of technical difficulties and large increases in program costs, the Materiel Requirements Review Committee recommended that the FY 61 REDEYE procurement program be cancelled. In 1961 it became apparent from available flight test and laboratory data that the REDEYE system proposed for initial production with FY 62 funds would be unable to meet certain performance requirements. The limitations inherent in the REDEYE were the product of three basic shortcomings: it was not fast enough, it could not maneuver soon enough, and it could not discriminate well enough. Although still in development; not yet fully qualified for production; and limited in speed, maneuverability, and discrimination capability, the REDEYE was still far superior to any potentially available low-altitude air defense system. Consequently, the AOMC Commander recommended that the version of the REDEYE then under development be produced in those quantities necessary to fulfill priority user requirements.

On 1 October 1962, following a review of the REDEYE development program, the Director of the Defense R&D Ad Hoc Group on REDEYE concluded that the weapon system was technically feasible, but the magnitude of the development task had been grossly underestimated by the Army and General Dynamics. On 19 October 1962 DOD concurred with the Ad Hoc Group's assessment of the REDEYE. The system would not be approved for production release until there was a successful system demonstration, and the initial REDEYE procurement was postponed until FY 64. Because of the indicated follow-on of an improved or second generation REDEYE (REDEYE II, later known as STINGER), production build-up on the REDEYE I would be to a minimum sustaining rate of about 1,000 per month only.

Despite the small size of the REDEYE weapon and the simplicity of its operation, the development task proved to be an exceedingly difficult one. Contrary to the optimistic conclusions drawn from the feasibility study in 1958-59, the design initially proposed for the system required an application of technology which clearly pushed the state of the art. As a result of inadequate fiscal support and major technical problems which had been foreseen by the evaluation team as early as 1957, the RDTE cost more than tripled the original estimate of $23.9 million and the engineering development time increased from 30 months to nearly 7 years.

On 20 February 1967 the first REDEYE tactical missiles were released as suitable for issue to the troops. Personnel of the 101st Airborne Division, who were the first to receive gunner training and participate in live Block II firings, were deployed from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, without a full load of equipment.

The basic REDEYE was restricted by its seeker to engagements where the heat radiating metal parts of the aircraft were visible to the missile seeker, thereby limiting engagements against jet aircraft to tail chase or outgoicg trajectories. In addition, the basic REDEYE was limited, by its propulsion system, to the engagement of aircraft flying at about 400 knots, some 200 knots less than specified in the original requirements.

On 17 February 1971, during a special Manportable Air Defense System (MANPADS) in-process review held at MICOM, the REDEYE II weapon was evaluated in competition with six other weapons. The review resulted in a recommendation that development of the REDEYE II with identification friend or foe (IFF) and night vision devices begin immediately as a replacement for the basic REDEYE system. On 10 March 1972 The REDEYE II was redesignated STINGER.

In 1982 retrograde of the REDEYE missile systems from Europe commenced during the year concurrently with the phased development of the STINGER weapon system. The REDEYE systems were returned to CONUS for redistribution. By 1991, due to increasing safety problems related to the system's age, the MICOM community agreed to forward a position to higher headquarters nonconcurring in the extension of REDEYE shelf life beyond 24 years. This position resulted in the discontinuance of REDEYE training, elimination of funding to further extend REDEYE shelf life, and DA direction to withdraw REDEYE missiles upon expiration of shelf life. By 1995 all REDEYE missiles at Tooele Army Depot were in the process of being demilitarized.

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