A Blog by Jonathan Low


Jun 30, 2023

Raytheon Calls Retirees To Help Restart Stinger Production Due To Ukraine Demand

The Stinger has been hugely effective for Ukrainian forces and they want more. As do many other countries. 

But Stinger production stopped 20 years ago, before many Ukrainian soldiers using them were born, to say nothing of of Raytheon employees who built them. So the company is bringing back retirees - at presumably attractive compensation - to help restart production. JL 

\Marcus Weisgerber reports in Defense One, image Reuters:

Raytheon has called in retired engineers to teach employees how to build Stinger missiles used by Ukraine’s military using blueprints drawn during the Carter administration. “Stinger's been out of production for 20 years. All of a sudden it's a star and everybody wants more. We're bringing back retired employees in their 70s to teach new employees how to actually build a Stinger.” To speed up the manufacturing process is not possible because doing so would mean redesigning the weapon, but also undergoing lengthy recertification. “We're redesigning circuit cards [and] some components.”

Raytheon has called in retired engineers to teach its employees how to build the Stinger missiles heavily used by Ukraine’s military—using blueprints drawn up during the Carter administration.

It’s the latest example of a private company working to ramp up production of a now-in-demand weapon that the Pentagon hasn’t purchased in decades. 

“Stinger's been out of production for 20 years, and all of a sudden in the first 48 hours [of the war], it's the star of the show and everybody wants more,” Wes Kremer, the president of RTX’s Raytheon division, said during an interview last week at the Paris Air Show.

The United States has sent nearly 2,000 of the heat-seeking missiles to Ukraine, which has used them to shoot down Russian aircraft. All of those missiles have come from U.S. military stockpiles. And the Biden administration said this week it will send even more Stingers to Ukraine. 

When the U.S. Army placed an order for 1,700 Stingers in May 2022, the Pentagon said the missiles wouldn’t be delivered until 2026. Kremer said it will take about 30 months for Stingers to start rolling off of the production line largely because of the time it takes to set up the factory and train its employees.

“We were bringing back retired employees that are in their 70s … to teach our new employees how to actually build a Stinger,” Kremer said. “We're pulling test equipment out of warehouses and blowing the spider webs off of them.”

On top of that, the electronics used in the missile are obsolete, said RTX CEO Greg Hayes.

“We're redesigning circuit cards [and] redesigning some of the componentry,” Hayes told Defense One in a June 14 interview. “That just takes a long time.”

While engineers these days often tout 3D printing and automation as a way to speed up the manufacturing process, that’s not possible with the Stinger—because doing so would not only mean redesigning the weapon, but also undergoing a lengthy weapon certification process.

“You'd have to redesign the entire seeker in order to automate it,” Kremer said.

That means they must build the weapons the same way they were built four decades ago: including installing the missile’s nose cone by hand.


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