The FIM-43 "Redeye" was a man-portable anti-aircraft missile launcher requiring only a single crewmember to operate it. Design began as early as 1959 with production handled by General Dynamics. The missile system debuted in 1968 and saw service up through 1995. It was particularly of use to guerilla Mujahedeen elements fighting off Soviet forces in Afghanistan, proving a lethal adversary to Soviet airmen flying at low altitudes in their Mi-8 "Hip" and Mi-24 "Hind" helicopters and Su-25 "Frogfoot" close-support aircraft. The Redeye was eventually superseded in every capacity by the much improved FIM-92 "Stinger" - a portable missile system filling the exact role for the United States Army.
With the advent of the jet age in the late 1940's, the United Army was hard at work to produce a capable anti-aircraft weapon surpassing the limitations of standard 12.7mm (.50 caliber) heavy machine guns in this role. The FIM-43 Redeye man-portable missile emerged in the late 1950's but was initially dogged by technological issues, delaying the arrival of the first generation missile system until the late 1960's with evaluation occurring in the latter portion of the decade. Limited production ensued while the system was being further developed, becoming the improved Redeye version as accepted into operational service in 1968 - becoming the standard American anti-aircraft man-portable missile defense system. Foreign operators eventually followed and consisted of Afghanistan, Denmark, Greece (eventually replaced by the Stinger), Pakistan and Sweden along with the United States (also later replaced by the Stinger). It is believed that at least 85,000 Redeye systems were produced.
The Redeye warhead consisted of a first stage booster ejector and a second stage sustainer. A top speed of Mach 1.7 can be achieved. Detonation occurs via an impact fuse. The warhead (M222) is of blast-fragmentation type and weighs in at 2.35lbs. The launcher was designated as the M171. Sighting is accomplished through a component affixed to the launcher itself. Tracking is at first visual to which the system takes over and eventually alerts the operator of a "lock on". Pressing of the trigger ignites the missile after which four stabilizing fins spring out once the missile has cleared the launcher. The booster motor is then replaced by the sustainer motor which propels the missile to the target should the lock on persist.
Operationally, the Redeye was a capable weapon though not without limitations. The missile itself was capable of only 3g forces to which a faster target could simply outrun the weapon. Additionally, the seeker was set to train in on the hot exhaust produced by jet engines meaning that the missile would have to be fired from behind the passing target (called tail-chasing) to which the target could simply out maneuver his aircraft away from the seeker head . The warhead was also of an impact-fuse blast fragmentation meaning that the tip of the missile would have to come in direct contact with the target to explode - as such "near misses" need not apply. As development in aircraft countermeasures improved, the Redeye missile also became less of a threat for its simple homing capabilities and inherent performance limitations. The Redeye was removed from service between 1982 and 1995 to which the FIM-92 Stinger system was brought online beginning in 1981.