Man Portable Air Defense System (MANPADS)

United States
  • FIM-43 Redeye
  • FIM-92 Stinger
  • Russia
  • SA-7 GRAIL 9K32M Strela-2
  • SA-14 GREMLIN 9K34 Strela-3
  • SA-16 GIMLET 9K310 Igla-1
  • SA-18 GROUSE 9M39 Igla

  • China
  • FN-6
  • HN-5
  • HY-5
  • QW-1
  • QW-2
  • QW-4
  • QW-11
  • QW-18

  • Europe
  • Javelin
  • Mistral
  • RBS 70
  • The Man Portable Air Defense System (MANPADS) missile is a highly effective weapon proliferated worldwide. Typically containing an IR seeker, the missile offers little opportunity for a warning before impact. Impacts are often lethal. Examples of lethality include 1) the Afghan mujahedeen killing of 269 Soviet aircraft with 340 such missiles, 2) Desert Storm evidence that IR missiles produced 56% of the kills and 79% of the Allied aircraft damaged, and 3) civil aircraft experiencing a 70% probability of kill given a MANPADS hit. Such high kill ratios are unacceptable and require immediate solutions. Recent military engagements, such as Desert Fox, demonstrate curtailment of daytime operations as a result of the MANPADS threat.

    Since World War II, the US has not fought an enemy with a significant offensive air capability. However, certain lessons can be gleaned from the experience of our opponents in the Vietnam War. The most lucrative targets in the jungle are command and control nodes, logistical bases, and fire support sites. Individual units are relatively more difficult to acquire and identify than fixed sites. Air defense assets, such as missiles and guns, could be used to protect fixed sites.

    At any rate, the rugged jungle terrain makes it nearly impossible to transport missiles and guns through the jungle. MANPADS and small arms fire would be used to protect maneuver units when passive air defense measures fail. The success of the NVA and Viet Cong in bringing down US CAS aircraft and helicopters is instructive. During movement, MANPADS would be positioned where they can best cover the unit. Due to the dense jungle vegetation, that may entail moving along a ridge line on the flank of the axis of advance, travelling down a waterway, or hopping from LZ to LZ.

    The Vietnam War proved that Small Arms for Air Defense (SAFAD) work in the jungle. It also proved that passive air defense methods work as well. Reviews of historical data show that many times NVA and Viet Cong units of up to regimental size were able to maneuver freely through the jungle without being detected. Superb route selection, march discipline, and effective camouflage were the keys. Most NVA and Viet Cong units that were badly mauled by CAS were either in contact with US ground forces,were crossing a danger area, or were using a road or trail. However, they almost invariably extracted a toll of downed CAS aircraft and helicopters using a combination of passive air defense and SAFAD techniques.

    The intelligence analysis of the threat to civil aviation is the basis for determining the application of aviation security measures. This is accomplished by synthesizing intelligence and threat information into products such as security programs, security directives, information circulars, and threat assessments. These products are needed by the operations and policy and planning offices for ruling on carrier amendments to approved security programs, determinations of foreign airport security effectiveness, and support in changing regulations. Decisions to impose additional security measures result from coordinated effort among operations, policy, and intelligence specialists, US and foreign air carriers, and airport operators.

    In 1990 the President's Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism, formed in response to the bombing of Pan American Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, recommended that the FAA pursue an intensified program of research, development and deployment to counteract the terrorist threat to the civil aviation system. This mandate was embodied in the Aviation Security Improvement Act of 1990. In 1997, the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security noted that "The terrorist threat is changing and growing. Therefore, it is important to improve security not just against familiar threats, such as explosives in checked baggage, but also means of assessing and countering emerging threats."

    By the late 1990s The Federal Aviation Administration, Office of Civil Aviation Security Research and Development, Aircraft Hardening Program (AHP), in coordination with various research partners, had conducted several studies relating to the MANPADS threat to civil aviation. These tasks have ranged from identifying aircraft and airport vulnerabilities, to threat assessment and system exploitation. This technical effort was part of a plan to develop a data-base to provide recommendations for aircraft survivability methods and techniques, and further develop empirical and analytical techniques for predicting the acquisition capability and eventual end game of MANPADS. With these lessons learned, by 1999 the AHP (using FAA aircraft) was involved in a test series to determine a feasible method of reducing both aircraft susceptibility and vulnerability.

    The fourth Plenary meeting of the Wassenaar Arrangement (WA), held 2-3 December 1998, noted the concerns regarding the threat to civil aviation posed by the illicit possession of Man Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) and recognize the need for appropriate measures to prevent such possession. The Participating States agreed to continue the discussion of this issue, to consider their national practices and possibly develop guidelines, and to report the results of this work to the 1999 Plenary. The Participating States called on all the non-participating end-user States to strengthen their national controls on MANPADS in order to avoid their unauthorised possession and use. The fifth Plenary meeting of the Wassenaar Arrangement, held 1-3 December 1999, confirmed concerns regarding the threat to civil aviation, peace-keeping, crisis management, and anti-terrorist operations posed by the illicit possession of Man Portable Air-Defence Systems (MANPADS) and recognised the need for appropriate measures to prevent such possession. In this connection, Participating States agreed to continue discussion of this issue, in particular, with a view to possible development of guidelines.

    As of April 2003 it appeared doubtful that the issue of MANPADs would be referred to of TSA's Aviation Security Advisory Committee [ASAC], but other methods of obtaining stakeholder input can be used for issues that are not referred to ASAC.

    Whereas susceptibility reduction (hit avoidance) should be regarded as the primary means of aircraft defense, optimal survivability can be achieved through an integration of susceptibility and vulnerability reduction (hit survival) techniques. Vulnerability reduction techniques are particularly necessary during take-off and landing when restrictions to tactics and countermeasures are in-place. Vulnerability reduction techniques are also particularly important for commercial aircraft in that the use of flares and rapid G-maneuvers is not appropriate.

    Emphasis of the proposed program was to be on developing cost effective and low-weight vulnerability reduction techniques for transport aircraft encountering IR MANPADS threats. However, solutions may prove applicable to all aircraft and threats encountered. Low risk example solutions for military-commercial aircraft application include relocating critical components away from hot-spots, locally hardening fixed critical components, moving hot-spots to less vulnerable locations, using sacrificial structure, and improved fire suppression techniques.

    While each example was expected to enhance transport aircraft survivability, proposed vulnerability reduction techniques need prioritized based on various orders of merit (i.e., cost, weight, effectiveness, aircraft type limitations, retrofitability, implementation time, etc.). Highly ranked concepts were to be evaluated using modeling and simulation to identify probabilities of effectiveness as compared to unprotected aircraft systems. The most promising vulnerability reduction concepts were to be transitioned into an advanced development stage of the program. Modeling and ground-based vulnerability testing will be performed to determine the success of competing systems.

    Civil aircraft remain virtual "sitting ducks" to terrorists, who may have acquired Stinger missiles and quantities of Russian or Chinese-made MANPADS. Vulnerability reduction techniques are needed to insure the survivability of military and civil transport aircraft engaged by MANPADS missile threats. Delaying solutions may prove catastrophic, but nothing much has been done to remedy this vulnerability.

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