The US Army is retrofitting Raytheon-built surface-to-air Stinger missiles with proximity fuses to allow soldiers to perform counter-drone missions.
The enhancement will enable the lightweight, self-contained Stinger missiles to counter the increasing threat of enemy drones.
The air defence system will be able to destroy a wider range of battlefield threats by detonating its warhead near the target.
Raytheon Land Warfare Systems vice-president Sam Deneke said: “The Stinger enhancement gives our troops exactly what they need – an affordable and effective way to defeat the growing number of enemy UAS targets in the skies above the battlefield.
“The counter-UAS mission is so critical; several allied nations are interested in this upgraded Stinger.”
Raytheon added that the addition of the fuses will not affect the missile’s hit-to-kill capability.
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The company and the army completed qualification testing of the missile’s proximity fuse in October last year. In 2017, the Stinger intercepted two unmanned aerial systems using the new proximity fuses during a US Army test.
Soldiers are expected to receive the enhanced Stinger missile by the end of this year for improved defence against small, agile threats.
The fuses are designed to allow US Army Stinger missiles to destroy enemy drones with direct hits or by exploding near the targets.
The Stinger missile has been deployed in four major conflicts and has made more than 270 fixed- and rotary-wing intercepts.
Raytheon has so far delivered the missile to 18 countries. It is also in use with all four US military services.
The air defence system can be deployed by ground troops and on a range of military platforms.
Additionally, the weapon is used on Apache helicopters to conduct air-to-air engagements.
In August last year, the proximity fuse-equipped Stingers were tested by the army against nine free-flying unmanned aircraft systems, DefenseNews reported.