Raytheon Co., the world's largest missile maker, is boosting sales of its popular Stinger missile for AH-64 Apache attack helicopters around the world, company officials said.
The Waltham, Mass.-based company has already sold the helicopter-launched Stingers to Japan and Taiwan, recently inked a similar deal with South Korea and expects to finalize agreements in coming months with India and Qatar, according to Mark Nicol, director of Raytheon's Stinger missile program.
"It gives them that air-to-air capability," he said during an interview at the Association of the United States Army conference this week in Washington, D.C. "It can go against small aircraft, other helicopters, UASs," he said, referring to unmanned aerial systems, commonly known as drones.
The FIM-92 Stinger entered U.S. military service in the early 1980s as a shoulder-fired, heat-seeking missile for ground troops. Its use by rebels during the Soviet War in Afghanistan to destroy Soviet choppers was popularized in the 2007 movie, "Charlie Wilson's War." The missile was later configured to fire from vehicles such as Humvees and helicopters.
"It's such a capable, little missile," Nicol said.
The lightweight, short-range weapon has already been adapted to launch from American-made helicopters such as the AH-64 Apache, UH-60 Black Hawk and OH-54 Kiowa, according to Gordon Bourgeois, manager of international business development for Raytheon's Missile Systems unit.
But because the U.S. military relies on other aircraft to control the skies, it generally arms rotorcraft with heavier missiles designed to take out ground targets, such as the BGM-71 Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided, or TOW, anti-tank missile, Hellfire missile or Talon laser-guided rocket, Bourgeois said.
Foreign militaries don't usually operate with such a level of air superiority and thus have a greater interest in integrating Stingers on Apaches, Bourgeois said. Each Apache can be outfitted with one or two pair of Stingers with missile packs on either wingtip, he said.
"The lethality and effectiveness and precision of Stinger is internationally renown," he said.
Raytheon, which anticipates additional business for helicopter-launched Stingers in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, is also benefiting from marketing efforts by Boeing Co., the officials said. The Chicago-based company that manufactures the Apache has been extremely successful in selling the aircraft overseas, they said.