View Full Version : Stinger slingers tap rare live-fire

10-13-03, 05:25 AM
Stinger slingers tap rare live-fire
Submitted by: MCB Camp Pendleton
Story Identification Number: 20031010195447
Story by Lance Cpl. S.B. Valliere

MCAGCC TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif.(September 23, 2003) -- Most Marines squeeze the trigger and fire off a round that costs just a few cents to make. Not Cpl. Will E. Stallings. Every time he squeezes the trigger on his Stinger missile, he blasts away more than $13,000.

The cost keeps Stallings off the range most of the year, so he and the rest of Camp Pendleton's 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, made the most of an annual live-fire exercise here recently.

"We have a lot of new guys who are coming straight out of school and are right off the books, so they don't really get the swing of things," Stallings said. "This will refresh their memory and actually show them how a real live-fire exercise is."

Stallings added the training wasn't just for the new Marines, though. Seasoned Marines need the trigger time too.

"They need to learn what they have to do to hit their target," he said. "It's good training for the senior Marines as well as the junior Marines."

The Stinger is a 34 1/2- pound missile fired from a shoulder-mounted man-portable system or from the Humvee-mounted Avenger. It's designed to knock out low-flying helicopters, transport planes and even unmanned aerial vehicles. It's called a "fire-and-forget weapon" because it locks onto heat signatures trailing the aircraft.

The guidance system built into the Stinger didn't make the annual shoot an easy one though. The battalion's Marines fired on 1/5-scale reproductions of the Russian-made SU-25 ground-attack fighter. The scaled-down models were flown by remote control by civilian contractors as the Marines took aim.

"The civilians launch them off and fly them around while we try to take a shot at them," said 1st Lt. Anthony S. Bradley, Battery B's executive officer. "In all honesty, hitting one of those things is very difficult because the missile itself will go off of infrared heat, and those targets don't give off a lot of heat."

The training is designed to make it more difficult for practice and easier in war.

"In reality, something that is moving is going to have a lot of heat on it," Bradley added.

The live-fire missile training marked a transition for the Marines. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, none of the deployed Stinger Marines fired any missiles. Iraqi forces simply didn't have any air power to threaten Marine forces, said Lt. Col. Bern J. Altman, 3rd LAAD's battalion commander. Instead, the Marines turned their technology to protecting convoys and security operations.

"The battalion was utilized to provide ground security and convoy security to the four Marine wing support squadrons that moved into Iraq to set up forward operating bases at forward arming and refueling points," Altman said.

During the war, LAAD gunners used the Avenger's night optics to scan for enemy infantry.

"What the Avenger does well for us, is it has night-vision optics, forward-looking infrared and a laser range finder," Bradley explained. "A lot of ground units like to use us because if our eyes aren't in the sky, we'll look onto the horizon to see what's going on. We spot targets out there and try to direct fire onto that."

Altman said the battalion is devoting more time to training in traditional infantry tactics, but the primary mission of air defense still remains the battalion's focus.

"They're all feeling salty since they were in combat and they exchanged rounds, but you still have to be proficient," Bradley said. "It's just like anything: If you don't do it, you're going to lose it."

The training was important enough for the battalion to ensure each missile fired was caught on video for a frame-by-frame replay of what was right and what was wrong. With a price tag almost as high as the missiles fly, commanders plan to use the tapes to compound the annual live-fire training.

"They're going to show what the gunner sees when he's looking down the missile," Bradley said. "Then they're going to go back and show the gunner this is where you shot and this is where you messed up."

E-mail Lance Cpl. Valliere at: ValliereSB@pendleton.usmc .mil


Third Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion fires a Stinger missile from an Avenger Weapon System at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms Sept. 23. The firing exercise was part of the battalion's annual training, where they launched 32 missiles at 1/5-scale model SU-25 ground-attack fighter planes.
Photo by: Lance Cpl. S.B.Valliere