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Engaging Aircraft

The speed of modern aircraft is such that the time allowed for completing an engagement becomes a real challenge to the Stinger team; it may not be more than 10 to 20 seconds. To accomplish all the tasks required for a successful engagement in this short time requires a smooth, rapid, and almost automatic response by the gunner to every engagement situation. To obtain this type of response requires a set of rules and procedures which can be learned to the point that they can be applied automatically.


Previous chapters have dealt with the subjects of detecting and identifying aircraft and how to handle and operate the Stinger weapon. This chapter outlines firing techniques necessary to engage aircraft. For the engagement to be successful, the following additional decisions must be made:

  • Aircraft direction.

  • Aircraft threat.

  • Aircraft type.

  • Aircraft range.


    Once the aircraft is detected, the weapon is sighted so that the aircraft's image is aligned within the range ring of the weapon sight. Tracking the aircraft in the proper stance will help the gunner determine whether the aircraft is on an incoming/outgoing or crossing path. The gunner assumes a proper stance by stepping directly toward the target with his left foot and leaning toward the target. In this position, if the gunner has any horizontal movement of his arms or upper body as he tracks the target, then the target should be considered crossing. If there is a lack of any substantial horizontal movement, then the target should be considered incoming/outgoing. Also indicative of an incoming/outgoing aircraft is any vertical movement of the gunner's arms or upper body. Determination of "crossover" (that is, the closest point the aircraft ever gets to the gunner) is important for application of aspect or activate decisions. Target size (getting larger/smaller) can assist the gunner in determining crossover or incoming/outgoing status.


    Techniques of Fire

    The Engagement Sequence

    Launch Rules


    Any aircraft approaching a defended area poses a threat until properly identified. Upon detection, a decision must be made immediately by the team chief as to whether or not the aircraft is a potential threat. If its direction of flight indicates that it will penetrate the defended area, the gunner issues an IFF challenge. If the aircraft fails to correctly respond to the IFF challenge, it is considered a potential threat. The gunner may activate his weapon at this point.


    For Stinger engagement purposes, aircraft have been placed in these two categories--jet and propeller driven.

    Jets includes all jet aircraft, regardless of size or mission.

    Propeller driven includes all other types of aircraft, such as propeller-driven aircraft and all helicopters.

    Determination of whether the target is a jet or propeller should be made by the team chief and should come as early in the engagement sequence as possible.


    The Stinger gunner must evaluate the target and determine if the target is within the Stinger missile's range. The type of aircraft (jet or propeller driven) and the flight path (incoming, crossing, or outgoing) will determine what rule to follow while making the launch decision. By applying the correct rule for the type and flight path of the aircraft, the Stinger gunner can be assured that he will fire within the effective range of the missile and withhold fire on targets out of his launch boundaries, thereby maximizing hits per missile fired.

    Incoming/Outgoing Jet Aircraft

    For incoming/outgoing jet aircraft, the launch and hold fire decision is based on a range ring measurement. The gunner moves the weapon so that the aircraft's image is within the range ring of the sight.

    He then evaluates the size of the aircraft image relative to the width of the range ring. For example, if the aircraft's width within the range ring is approximately one-half the size of the range ring, then the aircraft is at one-half range ring. A helpful hint in estimating aircraft size within the range ring is to place the aircraft at the inner left (or right) edge of the range ring before making a size estimate. The gap at the bottom of the range ring is also used to measure range ring size. This gap measures one-fifth the size of the range ring. When an aircraft fills this gap, it is at one-fifth range ring.

    To determine when to activate, hold fire, or launch the missile at an incoming or outgoing jet, the gunner tracks the jet and makes continuous size estimates. When the jet reaches a specified range ring size, it is considered to be within range of the missile. This is the earliest point at which the gunner may launch. He is also given a second range ring measurement to indicate when he is to hold fire, a third for resume fire, and a fourth for cease fire.

    The range ring measurements used in determining when to launch are classified and are contained in (SNF) FM 44-1A.

    Crossing Jet Aircraft.

    For crossing jets, the launch decision is based on a time count rule. Hold fire is based on a range ring measurement. The gunner positions the weapon sight slightly forward of a crossing jet image, then holds the weapon stationary. He waits until the jet's nose reaches a fixed point within the sight. When it reaches this fixed point, the gunner begins counting off in seconds, "one thousand one . . ." He watches the jet travel horizontally to another fixed point within the sight. If the jet's nose reaches the second fixed point before or at the correct time, then the jet is within the missile's range. The gunner can then either activate or launch the missile (depending on the point in the engagement). If the jet takes longer than the specified time to travel between points, it is beyond the missile's range. The gunner must not fire.

    Refer to (SNF) FM 44-1A for the actual fixed points and the number of seconds (time count rule) or size used in determining when to activate, hold fire, or launch.

    Propeller Aircraft

    For propeller aircraft (including helicopters) no time count rule or range ring measurements are used. The gunner can launch the missile as soon as the following are obtained:

  • Weapon activation.

  • Positive hostile identification.

  • IR acquisition lock-on.

    In some cases the 45-second life of the BCU may expire prior to launch. The gunner will be cued to this event by a significant noise level decrease in the acquisition tone and gyro spin will also take place as the BCU reaches its life limits. If a BCU is expended prior to launch, the gunner merely inserts a new BCU and reactivates the weapon. The removal and insertion of a BCU can be accomplished within a few seconds.


    The techniques of fire are combined with other weapon operations discussed in chapters 3 and 4 to complete the engagement sequence. The following section outlines a basic sequence of events in the order that they usually occur, but is not rigid. For example, determining aircraft type (jet or propeller driven) and identification may take place at any time prior to launch. Also, certain actions, such as tracking and determining whether the jet is incoming or crossing, are done continuously throughout the engagement sequence.


    This is done by either the team chief or the gunner. It may be prompted by an early warning received over the radio. (See appendix A for plotting of long range targets.)


    In this step, the gunner shoulders weapon, unfolds the antenna, removes his the front cover, raises the sight, and connects the IFF cable. He then moves the weapon so that the aircraft's image is placed within the range ring and begins tracking the target.


    The gunner interrogates the aircraft. The team chief will consider an "unknown" reply, along with the aircraft's direction of flight, in determining whether the aircraft poses a threat to the defended area.


    The gunner activates the weapon when the aircraft appears to be penetrating the defended area and fails to correctly respond to an IFF challenge. The gunner will not activate if he determines that he will not be able to successfully engage the target before it leaves the area.


    The responsibility for identifying an aircraft as hostile or friendly rests with the team chief (or gunner, if he is alone). He must make this decision as soon as possible within the engagement sequence, and always prior to launch. Depending upon the WCS, identification must be made visually, by applying specific hostile criteria (see chapter 4). (See appendix B for use of binoculars.)


    If the signal is strong enough for seeker lock-on, uncage the seeker. The tone should become louder and steadier. If the tone is lost, release the uncaging switch and try again. If you cannot lock on the target, try the "sweeping the target" or the "figure 8" methods (see chapter 3).

    Remember, you must have IR acquisition lock-on for all targets before you can fire at them. Be sure the acquisition tone is not from the background or another IR source.


    For Stinger engagement purposes, there are only two types of aircraft: jet and propeller. (For propeller, skip paragraphs indicated by an asterisk (*).

    *For jets, this decision will determine which launch rule is to be used. The gunner's body movement will aid him in determining whether it is on an incoming, outgoing, or crossing flight path. If there is any horizontal upper body movement, then it is crossing. The lack of any horizontal movement indicates that it is either incoming or outgoing. Any vertical movement is also indicative of an incoming/outgoing target.


    *Apply the proper launch rule for an incoming or crossing jet to determine if the jet is within the Stinger missile's range.


    Press and hold the uncage switch. The tone should become stronger. Apply superelevation and lead for all aircraft by placing the aircraft image in the proper superelevation and lead reticle.

    If the tone is lost, release the uncaging switch and try again. If you cannot lock on the target, try the "sweeping the target" or the "figure 8" method (see chapter 3). Remember, you must have IR acquisition lock-on for all targets before you can fire at them.


    Squeeze the trigger while continuing to hold the uncage switch. Remember to hold your breath for 3 seconds.


    For jet aircraft only for both incoming and outgoing, launch when the jet's image is the proper size within the range ring. The same rules apply for crossing aircraft. Launch is made if the jet meets the time count criteria. For all other aircraft (propeller), launch is made when a positive hostile identification and IR acquisition lock-on are obtained.

    Hold fire on all targets when the inner launch boundary dictates.

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