Man-Portable Air Defence Systems

International agreements and multilateral fora

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International agreements and multilateral fora

The Wassenaar Arrangement is an important international agreement for the limitation of arms brokering, which has dedicated elements for export controls of MANPADS. The Wassenaar Arrangement aims to promote transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies, and to prevent destabilising accumulations.

The United Nations General Assembly has also been involved in MANPADS non-proliferation, adopting Australian-sponsored resolutions in 2004, 2006 and 2007 to prevent the illicit transfer of, unauthorised access to and use of MANPADS. APEC agreed on MANPADS declarations at its 2003 and 2005 meetings. The G8 has an action plan for reducing the risk to civilian aviation and the Organisation of American States also has MANPADS security and control guidelines. International efforts to curb the illicit spread of MANPADS have also been taken forward through the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

Similarly, the Leaders’ Declaration at the 2003 and 2005 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings have made strong statements about the resolve of the participating states to strengthen joint efforts curb terrorist threats against mass transportation. In particular, the leaders resolved to meet the threat posed by the acquisition and use of MANPADS by terrorist groups.

Endorsing the elements identified by the United Nations, the 2003 APEC declaration included a review in 2004 of progress to date.36 At the 2004 meeting, the APEC Ministerial Meeting noted that they had agreed guidelines on the control of MANPADS. The participating states agreed to work domestically on implementing those guidelines and, as appropriate, to work with United Nations efforts.37

In 2005, the APEC Ministerial Meeting agreed that airport security, important for ensuring the continued flow of people and services for business and tourism, could be enhanced by conducting MANPADS vulnerability assessments at international airports. The Leaders endorsed the Ministerial Statement in full.38

Inventory management

In terms of inventory management and the elimination of surplus MANPADS, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe has published a Best Practice Guide for Stockpile Management and Security.

The United States and NATO have been active in the destruction of aging and obsolete MANPADS stockpiles. Australia has welcomed the United States’ international MANPADS destruction program in Cambodia, the Balkans and elsewhere. The program has seen over 17,000 surplus weapons destroyed in seventeen countries, with commitments to destroy thousands more.39 In addition, on 24 January 2008 the US administration appointed a Special Envoy on MANPADS Threat Reduction, to lead US non-proliferation efforts.40

The United Kingdom has been very active in promoting launch denial strategies at airports in Africa and the Middle East and has pledged support to encourage wider international implementation of effective controls over the manufacture, storage and transfer of MANPADS in the Asia–Pacific region. That includes building the capacity of regional states to provide appropriately rigorous export and inventory controls.41 France, Canada, Russia, Japan and other countries have also been important partners.42

Australian efforts

Australia has been active in raising its concerns through relevant UN bodies. In 2004, 2006 and 2007, as noted above, the United Nations General Assembly adopted by consensus an Australian led resolution on preventing the illicit transfer of MANPADS.

Australia supports wider adoption of the Wassenaar Arrangements’ MANPADS export control standards as the international benchmark. In 2006 Australia was Plenary Chair of the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies, and used the forum to increase awareness of the MANPADS threat and the need for more effective export controls. During Australia’s tenure as Plenary Chair, the Australian Ambassador in Vienna led successful outreach mission to several countries. Other Wassenaar Arrangement participant states were supportive of Australia’s efforts to encourage greater cooperation, including from states that produce, export or stockpile MANPADS.

In June 2006, Australia hosted an international seminar for Geneva-based UN delegations to highlight practical international action to counter the global MANPADS threat. Late in 2006, Australia and Thailand hosted an ASEAN Regional Forum workshop on small arms and light weapons, including MANPADS. Regional experts shared information on the best methods for securing stockpiles. Australia also organised a MANPADS seminar for a UN audience in New York in January 2007.


The widespread production of MANPADS, the potential for proliferation to terrorist groups and the effectiveness of MANPADS in the hands of non-state actors represent a significant risk to civil aviation. The psychological impact and estimated cost of a MANPADS attack compels us to continue to take appropriate measures to mitigate the risk of an attack. Measures include:

• limiting the transfer of MANPADS production capabilities

• implementing programs to destroy surplus weapons and tightening the physical security of government MANPADS inventories

• strengthening international controls on the transfer and export of these weapons

• strengthening security around airports to make it harder for these weapons to be used

• the application of intelligence resources to identify potential MANPADS attack risks.


Infra-red/heat seeking MANPADS characteristics

The table below shows the physical and performance data for a number of representative MANPADS types. Care should be taken in interpreting the data because there are variants of many types that differ in seeker and motor performance and software fits (and hence their ability to discriminate between aircraft and decoys or their final homing algorithms). The table contains broad capability parameters only.

Table. Some US and Russian MANPADS


FIM-92 Stinger

SA-7a Strela-2

SA-14 Strela-3

SA-18 Igla

Country of origin





First fielded





Weight (kg)





Max Range (km)





Min range (km)





Max Height (ft)





Maximum speed

Mach 2.2

Mach 1.2

Mach 1.8

Mach 2.1

Seeker type

Infrared + ultraviolet


Infrared with anti-flare filters

Infrared with anti-flare filters

Engagement aspect


From behind only

Some all-round capability



A very capable MANPADS in service with over 15 nations

The least sophisticated, but highly proliferated MANPADS

Exported to over 30 countries. More sophisticated than the SA-7

Similar in performance to the Stinger

Sources: Federation of American Scientists, Global


1 MANPADS Proliferation’, Sarah Chankin-Gould and Matt Schroeder, January 2005,

2 ‘Man Portable Missiles versus Airliners’, Dr Carlo Kopp, Australian Aviation, December 2003.

3 ‘Man-Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADS) Information Kit’, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Canberra, undated.

4 Information on the characteristics and development history of many MANPADS can be found at the following websites:

Global Security:
Federation of American Scientists:

5 ‘NONPROLIFERATION - Further Improvements Needed in U.S. Efforts to Counter Threats

from Man-Portable Air Defense Systems’, US Government Accountability Office (GAO)
report GAO-04-519, May 2004.

6 ‘Man-Portable Air Defense System (MANPADS) Proliferation’, Federation of American Scientists.

7 See for example ‘A terrifying scene, then a big crash (Blackhawk Down chapter 3)’, Philadelphia Enquirer, 18 November 1997.

8 The statements in the opening paragraphs and the data on proliferation in this chapter are drawn from the GAO report in footnote 6.

9 ‘According to the Chief of the U.S. Transportation Command, U.S. military cargo aircraft take ground fire in Afghanistan and Iraq from [MANPADS], anti-aircraft artillery and small arms on almost a daily basis’. Quoted in ‘Airlifters Routinely Take Ground Fire, General Says’, Defense Today, 29 July 2004, p.1

10 ‘Terror in Africa: Attacks in Mombasa’, New York Times, 30 November 2002.

11 ‘In whose hands? MANPADS proliferation to non-state actors and stockpile mismanagement’, a presentation to the Geneva Process on Small Arms by James Bevan, Small Arms Survey, at the Palais des Nations, 16 June 2006.

12 Small Arms Survey Yearbook 2004, Chapter 3, Big Issue, Big Problem? – MANPADS, available at:

13 ‘Joint United States-Russian Federation Statement on the U.S.-Russia MANPADS Arrangement on Cooperation in Enhancing Control of Man-Portable Air Defense Systems’, US Department of State Media Note, 21 April 2006.

14 ‘MANPADS and small arms control’, The Ploughshares Monitor, Volume 25 Number 3, Autumn 2004.

15 US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report GAO-04-519, May 2004, cited above.

16 ‘Safe Passage: A Newsletter for the Humanitarian Mine Action and Small Arms/Light Weapons Communities’, US Department of State, December 2004, available at

17 ‘MANPADS – Scale and Nature of the Threat’, Loren B. Thompson, Lexington Institute, 12 November 2003.

18 ‘Homeland Security: Protecting Airliners from Terrorist Missiles’, US Congressional Research Service report RL31741, updated 16 February 2006.

19 See for details of the Wassenaar Arrangement and Updated MANPADS document for details of the Elements for the Export Controls of MANPADS

20 ‘The Struggle for Iraq: Missing Weapons; U.S. Can’t Locate Missiles Once Held in Arsenal of Iraq’, New York Times, 8 October 2003.

21 See footnote 14.

22 ‘Final record of the one thousand and thirty-eighth plenary meeting’, UN Conference on disarmament, Geneva, 24 August 2006.$FILE/cd-pv1038.pdf

23 Much of the data in the section ‘History of attacks and attempts’ was compiled from various sources by QANTAS Group Security, provided in March 2007.

24 ‘Civilian plane hit by missile over Baghdad’, Sydney Morning Herald, 22 November 2003.

25 ‘SAMS hit aircraft in Iraq’, (US) Air Force Magazine Online, Vol 87, Number 4, February 2004.

26 See the United nations report: Letter dated 17 July 2007 from the Chairman of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia addressed to the President of the Security Council, 18 July 2007, paragraphs 39–40.

27 See, for example, ‘Flying in the face of terror’, The Australian, 23 February 2007.

28 There are a number of papers and presentations on protecting civilian aircraft from MANPADS available on the Department of Homeland Security website For example, see ‘Fact Sheet: U.S. Department of Homeland Security Programs Countering Missile Threats to Commercial Aircraft’, 25 August 2004.

29 ‘Protecting Commercial Aviation Against the Shoulder-Fired Missile Threat’, RAND Infrastructure, Safety and Environment occasional paper OP-106, 2005.

30 A Boeing 747-400ER suitable for long-range international flights is priced by Boeing at US$250 million (in 2007 dollars). An Airbus A340-600 has a list price of approximately US$230 million (2007 dollars).

31 The figure for compensation payments will vary between countries. The figure quoted here is taken from ‘The Economic Implications of terrorist Attack on Commercial Aviation in the USA’, Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events Report #05-024, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, 4 September 2005.

32 This list is not exhaustive, but reflects the most significant costs. It was compiled from the reference 2 in note 31 above, and from ‘Economic Impact of a Notional Terrorism Incident at a Major Airport in Australia’, Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics, Canberra, March 2007.

33 Data from the Visitor Bureau USA, as presented in the report in note 31.

34 See the report in note 29 above.

35 ‘Terrorism taking toll on Kenya’s tourist industry’, National Geographic News, 17 June 2003.

36 ‘Bangkok Declaration on Partnership for the Future’, 11th APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, Bangkok, Thailand, 21 October 2005.

37 Sixteenth APEC Ministerial meeting, Joint Statement, Santiago, Chile, 17–18 Nov. 2004.

38 ‘Busan declaration’, 13th APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, Busan, Korea, 18–19 November 2005.

39 The US Department of State Fact Sheet ‘The MANPADS Menace: Combating the Threat to Global Aviation from Man-Portable Air Defense Systems’ available at contains a summary of multilateral MANPADS destruction activities involving the US, NATO and other parties.

40 ‘President Accords Personal Rank of Ambassador to Lincoln P. Bloomfield Jr. as Special Envoy for MANPADS Threat Reduction and Lead for United States Efforts to Protect International Aviation from Shoulder-Fired Anti-Aircraft Missiles’, US Department of State Media Note, 24 January 2008.

41 ‘The real terrorist missile threat and what can be done about it’, Federation of American Scientists Public Interest Report, Volume 56, Number 3, Autumn 2003.

42 The Japanese Foreign Minister stated his country’s position on MANPADS at the UN in 2003: ‘Statement by H.E. Mr. Mitsuro Donowaki, Alternative Representative of Japan, at the First Committee of the 58th Session of the General Assembly, on the Report of the 2003 Group of Governmental Experts on the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms’. Joint US/Russian efforts are detailed in the report in footnote 16.

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