“But these ‘Mechs have targeting computers!” Cadet Sebastien griped in the solitude of his ‘Mech’s cockpit to nobody in particular. “I joined the AFFS to become a MechWarrior, not to be some glorified infantryman.”
Raising his Stinger‘s right arm, he brought the rifle-like medium laser up to its cockpit and attempted to line the iron sights up with the target 200 meters down the shooting range. He fired and noted with dismay how the green beam cut a dark scar in the sand dune roughly 10 meters from where the target stood.
“Cadet-private Sebastien!” Sergeant Zhao shouted in Sebastien’s ear through his neurohelmet’s radio. “Bring your cockpit to the laser, like where you would place the butt of a rifle. Then try again.”
Sebastien wondered how it was even remotely analogous when there was over a meter between him and the iron sights on his laser, let alone whatever refraction might be caused by several centimeters of ferroglass. Still, he did as instructed and held down the trigger just as his eyes lined up with the laser’s sights. The green beam nicked the edge of the target where it left a small orange flame.
“Congratulations, cadet,” came Zhao’s mocking tone. “You hit the target. Barely.”
Sebastien was considering a pithy retort when all hell broke loose. An explosion from behind knocked him forward and cut his Stinger’s sensors. Static told him that he’d also lost comms with the rest of his training battalion. Staggering, Sebastien looked around to see a crater in the middle of the parade grounds and trainers running for cover. In the distance, the yellow flare of a dropship bore the dao-in-fist of the Cappellan Confederation. It was a raid.
The procedure in such an event was for the cadets and trainers to get into the nearest available ‘Mech to meet the enemy head-on. Unfortunately for cadet Sebastien, without a functioning radio, he couldn’t be informed of the enemy’s location or the battalion’s rally point.
In the end, it didn’t matter. A bright green Locust bearing the Capellan crest came into view and began firing its machine guns into the battalion’s administrative building. If he didn’t engage, everyone inside would die.
Raising his right-arm medium laser to confront the marauding Locust, Sebastien made another unfortunate discovery: his heads-up display didn’t have a targeting pip. Worse, he didn’t have azimuth, range, or any indication his sensors had even picked up the 20-ton ‘Mech standing in front of him.
It was then he saw the raised indentations of the laser’s iron sights. He hunched his Stinger slightly so the cockpit lined up with the laser, then took careful aim at the Locust. He breathed, then held down the trigger.
The green beam cut through the Locust’s right leg at the knee, sending it toppling to the ground.
Sebastien raised his ‘Mech’s arms in triumph and then realized he was still in the middle of a warzone. He also realized if his targeting computer had been working the active scanners likely would have alerted the Locust to his presence and prevented him from getting the first shot.
“Maybe these low-tech exercises aren’t so bad after all,” he said to himself, before stalking off to find more Capellans to ambush.
We should have some compassion for the Stinger. As the second-ever mass-produced reconnaissance ‘Mech, and the second most numerous ‘Mech after the Wasp, ‘Mechs were simply less threatening at the time of its introduction in 2479. But between that year and the year 3025, the number of Stingers in active service dropped from 200,000 to a mere 5,000. Over 500 years of attrition would surely be murderous on most military systems, especially when those five centuries included such things as nuclear holocausts.
And yet, over 97 percent of every Stinger ever made is now so much scrap metal. The Stingers that survived were mostly used as trainers and not front-line combatants. Many ‘MechWarriors began their career in a Stinger. The smart ones moved on to a different chassis. The dumb ones are dead.
As with many iterative technical advancements, the story of the Stinger begins with a lawsuit. Earthwerks Incorporated spent 20 years fending off a lawsuit from General Mechanics--the maker of the Wasp--for copyright infringement. General Mechanics argued that the Stinger was mostly just a Wasp that had swapped its SRM-2 launcher for a pair of Machine Guns. Indeed, the two ‘Mechs shared the same mass and had a very similar outward appearance. However, neither Earthwerks nor General Mechanics wanted their full ‘Mech designs as part of the public record. This allowed Earthwerks to enact a time-honored corporate defense--delay, delay, delay. After two decades, General Mechanics finally dropped the suit, and the Stinger would go on to stand beside the Wasp as the backbone of the Inner Sphere’s reconnaissance forces.
Unfortunately for the Stinger, many battlefield commanders felt that the highly numerous ‘Mech was expendable and used it in roles it was never intended, leading to accelerated attrition. One DCMS commander, Tai-i Mercer Ravannion, developed the “charge of the horde” tactic which called for massed quantities of lighter ‘Mechs (usually Stingers and Wasps) to be sent against comparatively larger targets expecting sheer numbers to carry the battle. Tai-i Ravannion attempted this tactic on three separate occasions, and on all three attempts lost the majority of his ‘Mechs.
It wasn’t until after his death (on his third and final attempt) that his protege, a surviving Stinger pilot named Marge Sippers, evolved the tactic to include heavier and more powerful light ‘Mechs like the Jenner, proving that it was the Stinger‘s lack of firepower that prevented the strategy’s success. By 3140, the mercenary unit Ravannion’s Redemption proved that massed light ‘Mechs could be a credible threat, but the unit was comprised primarily of faster and more potent ‘Mechs than the Stinger.
Although not a credible threat to most larger ‘Mechs, the Stinger‘s popularity as a cheap recon trainer has kept it in service with almost every nation’s armed forces. Earthwerks factories on Keystone and Calloway VI continued to produce Stingers throughout the Succession Wars where the model found its way across the Inner Sphere even as far as the Periphery. Coventry Metal Works would also produce the design under license, although its focus would shift to the Commando during the Succession Wars. Other manufacturers included Bergan Industries, Vandenberg Mechanized Industries, Detroit Consolidated, and Hellespont Industrials. Variants would even be produced by the Clans, where they mostly served in an instructional capacity.
The original STG-3R, produced in 2479, came with a GM 120-rated engine, six Chilton 360 jump hets, a single Omicron 3000 Medium Laser, two LGN Lindbald Machine Guns, 10 single heat sinks, and three tons of standard armor. It became infamous for an extremely cramped cockpit where most MechWarriors required outside assistance to be removed from post-mission (and oversized MechWarriors couldn’t fit at all). The design matched the Wasp for speed at a running velocity of 91.6 kph and a maximum jumping distance of 180 meters.
One notable feature of the original design was the old-school iron sights that remained the Medium Laser. It was argued by Earthwerks that this forced trainees to develop their fine motor skills as they adjusted the ‘Mech’s posture and stance to fire without the benefit of a targeting computer. The usefulness of this feature is arguable given that it was eventually dropped on later models.
Earthwerks produced only two other variants prior to the Clan Invasion. The STG-3G replaced the machine guns and ammunition with a second Medium Laser in the left arm with everything else remaining the same. The STG-3Gb, on the other hand, was introduced for the SLDF’s Royal Divisions in 2720. This model was upgraded to a 150 XL engine (offering a top speed of roughly 111 kph), an endo steel chassis, and double heat sinks. Its armament was exchanged for three Medium Lasers and a single Small Laser, although no additional armor meant the pilot had to rely on the ‘Mech’s speed and jump jets to avoid incoming fire.
With the rediscovery of Star League technology in the Helm Memory Core, the STG-5M began production in the early 3050s. It kept the standard engine but upgraded the chassis to endo steel and added an additional half-ton of armor. It also replaced the twin machine guns with a single Flamer and an anti-missile system with a single ton of ammo. Earthwerks continued to iterate on the Stinger after the Jihad with the STG-6M, which replaced the STG-5M’s weapons with an ER Medium Laser, an ER Flamer, and a Laser AMS. The most modern variant offered by Earthwerks is the STG-6R, which features a 160 XL engine for a top speed of 120 kph and eight jump jets for a potential leap of 240 meters. Two Heavy Machine Guns and an ER Medium Laser harken back to the original Stinger model.
Although most numerous in the Free Worlds League, Earthwerks licensed the design to many other manufacturers across the Inner Sphere. The Lyran Commonwealth‘s Coventry Metalworks is perhaps the most notable, which began producing its own variants in 3067. The STG-6S uses a light fusion engine and MASC for a potential running speed of 151 kph and a jumping distance of 210 meters. Two Light Machine Guns and an ER Medium Laser provide a lighter armament than the original, and a small cockpit makes it brutally cramped even by Stinger standards. The STG-7S listened to pilot complaints and replaced the small cockpit with a Full-Head Ejection System. It also swaps the light engine for an XL, provides an endo steel chassis, and eight Improved Jump Jets allow it to jump as far as it can run. Curiously, it only possesses a single ER Medium Laser for defense, and its left leg carries slightly more armor than its right.
The Taurian Concordat is now the second-largest producer of Stingers with factories on New Vandenberg and MacLeod’s Land producing the STG-5R and 6R since 3067. The Capellan Confederation and the Magistracy of Canopus also produce Stingers on Sian and Detroit, and Bergan Industries has launched its own line of Stingers with the G-series, culminating in the STG-6G in the early 3100s.
The Clans are also Stinger producers. The Stinger C was originally produced by Clan Hell’s Horses and has since become the main trainer of Clan Wolf. An all-Clan-spec weapons loadout is complimented by an endo steel chassis and an additional Small Pulse Laser. And in 3085, the Stinger IIC became a symbol of the newly formed Raven Alliance as the nation’s primary trainer and reconnaissance unit. The Stinger IIC maintained the original standard engine, speed, and jump distance, but upgraded the chassis to endo steel and the armor to ferro-fibrous. It also featured significant firepower in two Improved Heavy Medium Lasers and a single AP Gauss Rifle.
It’s the Stinger‘s proliferation and not its capabilities that have kept it alive over the centuries. Modern incarnations have improved the design, but it’s telling that most nations have relegated the Stinger to training and garrison units. That said, the Stinger has found a niche that will likely ensure its survival for many more centuries to come.
And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.