The United States military has signed a contract for $687m worth of anti-craft Stinger missiles to replenish US stocks sent to Ukraine, sources told the Reuters news agency in an exclusive report.
The contract for a total of 1,468 Stingers was awarded on Wednesday, according to a document reviewed by the news agency. There was no timeline for completion of the work, but it was estimated delivery could take up to 30 months.
The shoulder-fired anti-aircraft Stinger missiles made by Raytheon Technologies have been in high demand in Ukraine, according to the report, where they have successfully stopped Russian assaults from the air.
The Pentagon and Raytheon did not immediately respond to requests from the Reuters news agency for comment.
US troops have limited use for the current supply of Stingers – a lightweight, self-contained weapon that can be deployed quickly to defend against helicopters, aeroplanes, drones and even cruise missiles – but the United States needs to maintain its supply on hand while it develops the next generation of a “man-portable air defence system”.
The development on Friday came as President Joe Biden’s administration and its allies have been providing Ukraine with increasingly sophisticated and diverse arms to combat Russia’s invasion forces, including longer-range weaponry, such as M777 howitzers.
The bill also authorised the Biden administration an additional $11bn to transfer weapons services from the US stockpile in response to an emergency, without having to seek congressional approval.
The Stinger production line was closed in December 2020, the Pentagon has said. In July 2021, Raytheon won a contract to manufacture more Stingers, but mainly for international governments, according to the US Army.
The challenges to replenishing US stocks have included complications related to ramping up production, reluctance by the US to redirect valuable manufacturing capacity to decades-old technology, and fears among defence companies that they would be stuck with unwanted arms when the Ukraine war winds down, according to interviews with US officials and defence firms.
On May 6 the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, Bill LaPlante, said that he had aimed to sign a contract by the end of May and that the intent is to replace the Stinger missiles sent to Ukraine one-for-one.
Raytheon Chief Executive Greg Hayes told analysts during an April 26 conference call that the Pentagon has not ordered new Stingers in 18 years, but has ordered parts or made other efforts to increase its supply.
“Some of the components are no longer commercially available, and so we’re going to have to go out and redesign some of the electronics in the missile of the seeker head,” Hayes said. “That’s going to take us a little bit of time.”
The army is also in the middle of a “service life extension plan” for some of its Stingers that were to become obsolete in 2023 and is extending what the military calls their “useful life” until 2030.
The sole Stinger facility is located in the US state of Arizona.