US defense manufacturer Raytheon is reportedly bringing retirees back on the job to help make enough missiles to aid the war effort in Ukraine. While the Pentagon hasn't bought Stinger missiles in decades, those are precisely the weapons that Ukraine is wanting.
"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," said Wes Kremer of Raytheon at the Paris Air Show last week, according to Defense One.
"We were bringing back retired employees that are in their 70s … to teach our new employees how to actually build a Stinger," he went on to say. "We're pulling test equipment out of warehouses and blowing the spider webs off of them."
The US has already provided 2,000 heat-seeking Stinger missiles to Ukrainian forces. Those forces use them to shoot down Russian planes and aircraft. Biden wants to send even more of these to Ukraine, and recently said that he would send cluster bombs as well. Use of cluster bombs was called a "war crime" by his administration in February 2022, but Biden justified the move by saying that Ukraine is "running out of ammunition."
CEO of RTX Greg Hayes, which manages Raytheon, said that in addition to the ramp-up in production, there are changes being made to the Stingers. "We're redesigning circuit cards [and] redesigning some of the componetry," he said, noting that this "just takes a long time."
They need to build the weapons the same way they were built in their heyday or else face a new weapons certification process. This is a process that entails actually installing the nose cone of the missiles by hand. To automate the process would require a redesign and a redesign would trigger a new approvals process.
A Russian defense contractor recently switched their entire manufacturing operation to produce only tanks, offloading their other contracts for trains and civilian equipment to other companies.
The US Army placed an order for 1,700 Stinger missiles in May 2022, but the Pentagon said at the time that it would take 4 years, or about 30 months, for those weapons to be delivered. This is "largely because of the time it takes to set up the factory and train its employees," Defense One reports.
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