Stingers vs. Rafale F2

French military aircraft, take 2. Yesterday I noted the Super-Etendard, and this morning in Defense News (subscription only, unfortunately) I noticed this bit in an article on the French Rafale F2 fighter-bombers operating out of Tajikistan:

French pilots say they could face Stinger shoulder-launched missiles the United States supplied to mujahadin guerrillas who fought the Russian Army in the 1980s. A Stinger goes for about $100,000 in the market, a French pilot said.

–They are almost used for barter, they are so common,” a pilot said.

Murdoc’s more than a bit tired of this. Can anyone point to one single instance where any Stingers issued to mujahedeen have been used against allied/coalition aircraft? I don’t recall one. In 2005, I asked Has anyone ever been stung? No one seems to think so. Not in Iraq. Not in Afghanistan. Not anywhere as far as I know.

And it really seems to me that we’d know all about it if it happened.

I haven’t even ever heard before that the old Stingers are “common” and “almost used for barter”, either. (Is it just Murdoc, or is something that sells for $100,000 not terribly useful when bartering? “I’ll give you fourteen cows, three opium fields, my truck, my daughter, and the village down the road for that missile and a sack of potatoes“? Give me a break.)

And how do pilots flying out of Tajikistan know what’s for sale (or trade) in Afghan markets, anyway?

I think they don’t know what they’re talking about.


  1. Since the rocket propellant has supposedly long become useless in the 1980’s Stingers, maybe bartering a missle for some livestock is an equitable trade.

  2. I think Tim is on the right track. How is a sophisticated weapon like a Stinger, after a less-than-optimal storage life (to say the least!) of 20-odd years, going to do anyone any good? Unless they sneak up behind some Etendard pilots and bash them with the launchers. Could just be a case of drawing your own strength from the potency of your enemy, and forming the basis of war stories in the French equivalent of the VFW for another generation: ‘I went up against Stingers in the ‘Stan, mon frer! Effing STINGERS! You couldn’t walk across the tarmac without crunching the expelled launchers under your feet! Merde, they even traded with ’em, they were so common…I even saw a guy with my own eyes trade a Stinger for a wife and two goats. Unbelievable. You couldn’t go oup on a simple training flight without swarms of ’em, from every angle,’ etc etc

  3. Bram Those Rolands were six months-one year old. Illegal imports to Saddam from French Govt owned arms industry. Stingers from two decades ago would be likely to blow up at launch. Solid rocket fuel degragation and cracking from inproper storage over two decades is a big problem…

  4. Not to mention the custom batteries for the radar seeker have been dead longer than Vanilla Ice’s career.

  5. I agree with war stories/dame rumor as the source of the story. I could also see the locals keeping them around as a status symbol. In Afgahnistan the US military has captured pre-WWII Russian anti-tank rifles (I have a picture of my brother with one), and WWI vintage Vickers/Maxim type machine guns (again, a photo from my brother).

  6. Forgot to add – now, where are you going to get ammunition that will work with those? The old water-cooled machine guns I could see as it may be a common ammunition type that later weapons were designed to use, but a prewar anti-tank rifle? Those were phased out as useless by the mid-forties and even the Russians likely (speculation) stopped making them by 1947. They’re big and look mean. Status. ‘You call that a gun, Youssef? This is a gun!’

  7. Yeah, the Vickers (water-cooled machine guns) were used for a long time, from before WW1 I think through to at least as late as WW2. They are mostly .303 caliber, which is still common enough that you can get ammunition, although I don’t know about the belts, you might have to re-use the old links. They have a pretty good rate of sustained fire too, but are heavy.

  8. If I remember right, the Vickers generally used cloth belts, very reusable. While back saw pictures of some guys shooting a StG44 they’d found in Iraq, with a couple of cases of ammo. And others found some PPsh41(?model) Russian sub-guns and ammo. All kinds of interesting things turned up over there.

  9. Maybe the reason for bringing up the stingers is to go ahead and give an excuse for dropping white flags from the Rafale F2 insteade of live bombs. Although, it seems the Germans have more excuses that the French.

  10. I thought the French wanted to do some live air strikes in order to market their defense products?