ABOARD USS TARAWA -- Marines from 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, who are attached to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 161 (Rein), 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) practiced the firing procedures of engaging live targets with a simulated Stinger missile system Jan. 22.
Marines tracked an AH-1W Super Cobra Helicopter from the aft end of the ship to help prepare them for a possible confrontation with enemy aircraft.
"What this drill was designed to do was to provide confidence in shooting the Stinger missile in a combat environment - if it flies, it dies," said Staff Sgt. Terry C. Waters, 37, a section leader with B Battery, 3rd LAAD Bn., who is a native of Seattle.
The Stinger is a "fire-and-forget" weapon firing an infrared seeker and proportional navigation system to destroy the target, according to Waters.
The Marine Corps' first shoulder fired surface to air missile, the Redeye, was implemented during the 1960s to combat low flying enemy aircraft.
The problem with the Redeye was that a person would have to attack the aircraft from behind to receive a good heat trace, according to Waters. With the Stinger, a person can engage the aircraft from any direction.
Since the Stinger's introduction in 1982, which replaced the Redeye used in the 1960s and 1970s, defending the threat of low flying enemy aircraft expands to today's warfare.
This training helped Marines track a moving target while getting more familiar with the firing procedures.
"The Stinger is the most advanced weaponry anywhere in the armed forces against low altitude aircraft," Waters said. "It has a kill ratio of 99.9 percent which makes it a one shot one kill weapon."
Because the weapon's superior accuracy and high costs, 3rd LAAD only fires the weapon about once a year.
The entire weapon system runs anywhere from $90,000 to $100,000 for the Stinger, according to Waters. 3rd LAAD gets to fire the Stinger once a year, and they fire a
Stinger Launcher Simulator about twice a year. The STLS is a simulated round designed to mirror the Stinger missile except the STLS travels approximately 50 yards before it harmlessly hits the ground.
Although on hands training is rare, Marines still believe in the Stinger 100 percent.
"I have only fired the weapon four times, and out of those four times I'm four for four," said Cpl. Talis A. Jordans, 23, a team leader with A Battery, 3rd LAAD Bn., who is a native of Hampstead, N.H. "I'm extremely confident that the weapon will work in combat."
Because the weapon is a light weight, man-portable shoulder-fired guided missile system, it enables Marines to "fill gaps" where low flying aircraft can slip under the radar, according to Cpl. Michael J. Nicolazzo, 19, who is an assistant gunner with A Battery, 3rd LAAD Bn.
In addition to firing the weapon from the shoulder, the Stinger missile can be attached to vehicles.
The Pedestal-Mounted Stinger Air Defense Vehicle and the Light Armored Vehicle, Air Defense Variant employed the Stinger during the 1990s to help combat enemy aircraft, according to the Military Analysis Network web page.
With the capabilities to fire the weapon from virtually anywhere, Marines from 3rd LAAD continually train to enhance their knowledge with the Stinger.
"We train all the time," Jordans said. "We're in the field more times than back in the rear at Pendleton."
Marines from 3rd LAAD can attach themselves to infantry units, air wing units, or any other unit who might require low altitude air defense.
"We are the last line of defense to protect an area from a low aerial attack," Jordans said.