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The Stinger uses an infrared or combination infrared and ultraviolet seeker, as well as having an Identify Friend or Foe antenna on the firing unit to avoid friendly fire. The versions with combination seekers are much more resistant to countermeasures, most countermeasures working simply in the infrared range and not in UV. The warhead is intended to score a direct hit in order to critically damage the aircraft it is fired at. While it is technically a two-man weapon, it can be operated by one. There are also vehicle mounted versions, used for both surface-to-air and air-to-air engagements.

The weapon was infamously sold via the CIA and Pakistan's ISI to the Mujahideen in the 80s to take out Soviet helicopters in Afghanistan. It was brutally effective against the Mi-24 Hind and Mi-8 Hip as well as other aircraft employed by the Soviets.

The Stinger shows up occasionally in games with aircraft in modern warfare settings to provide players with a defense against them, typically in large scale vehicular combat like Battlefield 2 or Joint Operations: Typhoon Rising.

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