This story first appeared in the MiG Alley Flyer on July 27, 1990. I wonder if there are still only two stinger units in the entire Air Force? How has this defense strategy evolved with technology??
Defend and protect. That’s the name of the game for the 51st Security Police Stinger section.
As one of only two stinger units in the entire Air Force – the other being at Kunsan Air Base – its mission is to help defend Osan from an air attack, according to MSgt. Elbert R. Joiner, stinger superintendent. The special duty SP’s maintain a 360-degree air-defense of the base, he said.
Defending Osan is basically a three-tier operation, Sergeant Joiner explained. It begins with a battle director who provides air war orders and weapons control status. From here, the operation depends on communications from the Radar Approach Control facility where a stinger controller observes incoming aircraft.
SSgt. Phillip Sigman and SSgt. Frank Ferguson inspect a stinger.
The last, yet most vital, link to this chain are the actual stinger operators in the field. Assigned to two-man teams positioned at various locations along the base perimeter, they are prepared to spring into action at the command controller’s notice. One team member servers as chief, and is the person who actually mans the weapon, while the other troop keeps an eye out for incoming aircraft. “Part of the training for a stinger crewman includes aircraft identification. Stinger team members are required to identify 86 types of aircraft,” the sergeant said.
Completing one of two specialty training sessions annually is mandatory training as well.
“Every six months we go to the military training simulator at Camp Stanley. It’s basically an audiovisual simulation of aircraft attacking at different speeds,” Sergeant Joiner said. “There are also sessions held throughout the year during the Cope Thunder exercises in the Philippines. Both provide practical training, and both enhance our capabilities.”
SSgt. Sigman mans the stinger missile while SSgt. Ferguson points out a simulated target.
It’s the weapon, though, which makes the gunner so effective. The long, tubular shaped stinger gun allows its operator to bring down enemy aircraft. At five feet long and 34.5 pounds, the weapon can discharge heat seeking heads capable of traveling at supersonic speeds. Moreover, the missiles use infrared tracking to home in the hottest part of the aircraft.
“It’s a very powerful gun,” Sergeant Joiner said. “It can be used for both offense and defense. One of the reasons it’s so effective is because of its many capabilities.”
Among the features cited is its detection system. By connecting the gun to a portable radar device attached to his belt, an operator has three modes available in which to detect aircraft.
“First, it checks for identification ‘mode four’ aircraft which are termed positive friends. Then it checks for ‘mode three’s’ which are possible friends,” explained Sergeant Joiner. “If the Interrogator Friend or Foe unit begins to beep, though, that’s when we may have trouble. This means the incoming aircraft is unknown and must be verified by sight.”
SSgts. Ferguson and Sigman, stinger team members, remove a stinger from its holding area.
Such a highly efficient and mobile defense system allows stinger units to effectively protect Air Force assets.
“Our people are trained to protect this base on short notice and engage hostile attacks in order to maintain base operations,” the sergeant added.
In one of the last remaining places on Earth where the communist threat remains, it’s refreshing to know that our security and readiness are in a constant state of preparedness with the latest of technologies.