A Case of the Redeye

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Say you are a grunt on the 1960s battlefield and a Soviet MiG is coming to ruin your day. Well, you could either run, or give that Russki bad guy a severe case of the Redeye.

What was it?

After World War 2, when jets replaced propeller driven combat aircraft, the US Army realized that what they did for anti-aircraft artillery wasn't going to work. The odds of a good old .50-caliber M2 machinegun mounted on a jeep being able to shoot down a supersonic Soviet MiG passing at more than 600 miles per hour were pretty slim.

A Case of the Redeye - christophereger - redeye-1673.jpg

To catch up with Ivan and keep the boys safe, between 1959-68 Corvair (now General Dynamics) came up with a portable missile launcher. This launcher was clunky at 18-pounds and four-feet long, but it could be carried and used by a single foot soldier on the ground. Inside its tube was a two-stage missile that soft-launched so as to not scorch the Joe firing it as it left the tube. Once outside the launcher the missile would accelerate to Mach 1.7 and carry its 2.35-pound M222 Blast-fragmentation warhead almost three miles.




A Case of the Redeye - christophereger - fim43-redeye-3-1671.jpg
The Redeye had a 30% probability when fielded which perhaps was wishful thinking. Deployed in 2 -man teams the Redeye took to the field in a Jeep along with a dozen surface to air missiles. When needed, one soldier could drop off the primary user with the Redeye and a couple missiles then displace to a more camouflaged location to let the lone operator go mano-a-MiG.

Specifications

A Case of the Redeye - christophereger - image1301-1670.gif
  • Data for FIM-43C:Data for FIM-43C:
  • Length 1.20 m (3 ft 11.5 in); M171 launcher: 1.26 m (4 ft 1.7 in)
  • Finspan 14 cm (5.5 in)
  • Diameter 7 cm (2.75 in)
  • Weight 8.3 kg (18.3 lb); M171 launcher: 5 kg (11 lb)
  • Speed Mach 1.7
  • Ceiling 2740 m (9000 ft)
  • Range 4500 m (14800 ft)
  • Propulsion Atlantic Research M115 solid-fueled rocket motor; consisting of
  • - Booster (Ejector): 3.3 kN (750 lb) for 0.048 s
  • - Sustainer: 1.1 kN (250 lb) for 5.8 s
  • Warhead M222 1.06 kg (2.35 lb) blast-fragmentation
  • Length 1.20 m (3 ft 11.5 in); M171 launcher: 1.26 m (4 ft 1.7 in)
  • Finspan 14 cm (5.5 in)
  • Diameter 7 cm (2.75 in)
  • Weight 8.3 kg (18.3 lb); M171 launcher: 5 kg (11 lb)
  • Speed Mach 1.7
  • Ceiling 2740 m (9000 ft)
  • Range 4500 m (14800 ft)
  • Propulsion Atlantic Research M115 solid-fueled rocket motor; consisting of
  • - Booster (Ejector): 3.3 kN (750 lb) for 0.048 s
  • - Sustainer: 1.1 kN (250 lb) for 5.8 s
  • Warhead M222 1.06 kg (2.35 lb) blast-fragmentation

Use

Convair produced more than 85,000 of these missiles in 1968-69. That was enough to supply one to every infantry squad in the US Army and Marines if needed. The Pentagon hoped these missiles would sweep the sky of low-flying Soviet and Warsaw Pact aircraft over Central Europe should World War Three come about. As such, they were fielded immediately to West Germany to hold the NATO end of the Iron Curtain if the balloon went up. Soon our NATO allies acquired them as well.

A Case of the Redeye - christophereger - redeye-tube-inert-1672.jpg

When the new and improved Stinger missile came out in 1981, the Army and Marines started pulling the Redeye off the line and sending them to National Guard units. This was the first man-portable surface to air missile used by many Guard and Reserve units. Finally, by 1995, the last Redeyes in the US were dismantled and demilled. Within a decade of that, our last overseas allies pulled them from service and the Redeye was no more.

Did they work?

They never saw combat with the US military but during the Regan-era about 50 were shipped to Afghanistan by the CIA and another handful to Nicaragua using the same 'we were never there, you can't prove anything' airline. In the hands of trained Muj and Contra operators, several Soviet aircraft were splashed with these primitive weapons. Win one for the Gipper!


You can buy your own Redeye launcher (sans missile), neutered, and demilled of course for about $500. They have been the subject of outlandish newspaper articles where one was seized from a former cop and another (mis-identified as a Stinger no less!) was loudly paraded to the press at a gun buyback in Washington.

A Case of the Redeye - christophereger - 130127-missile-launcher-vertical-1669.jpg

Self-destruct

If the guided missile made it too far from the operator without hitting a target, an on-board self-destruct blew it while still in the air to prevent unexploded ordnance falling back down on our boys heads (or into a curious enemy's hand). Should a Redeye be given away, stolen, sold, or what have you, they are perishable enough to not be a concern after a short while. Lifespan of an unsupported Redeye in the wild is pretty short. Because the weapon is very sensitive to humidity, its cooling system leaks argon, and its batteries are unique, odds are they will be so much junk within a few years of 'leaving the supply chain that keeps them working. Therefore, Redeyes given away to former friends in Afghanistan (and even to our allies abroad) are probably as dead as disco.

But you have to admit, the spent tubes make a cool prop for the man cave.



(And yes, the Redeye even made an appearance in Archer, photo from IMFDB)

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1 COMMENTS
Posted: 
December 2, 2013  •  02:16 AM
We had a Stinger platoon assigned to our 8" howitzer battalion, 2nd Bn, 18th F.A. in the early 80s. Their motto? "If it flies, it dies" I got to see one in action at a capabilities exercise wherein one knocked a rocket drone out of the sky. Hoorah.
 
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