August 15, 2011

While the U.S. government, in cooperation with numerous other nations, has destroyed more than 32,500 Man Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) in more than 30 countries since 2003, these highly mobile, shoulder-mounted, surface-to-air weapons remain a threat worldwide to aviation interests, according to a new report issued in July by the U.S. State Department entitled, MANPADS: Combating the Threat to Global Aviation from Man-Portable Air Defense Systems.

Since 1975, more than 40 civilian aircraft have been hit by MANPADS, causing about 28 crashes and more than 800 deaths across the globe, the State Department said. They include the shooting down, on March 23, 2007, of a Transaviaexport Ilyushin 76TD cargo plane over Mogadishu, Somalia, that killed the entire crew of 11, and a November 22, 2003 attack on a DHL Airbus A300B4-203F cargo jet transporting mail in Iraq that was able to return safely to the Baghdad airport after being hit in the left fuel tank.

Most MANPADS attacks have occurred in the world’s most troubled hot spots in Africa, the Middle East and Korea. However, there have been at least two attacks closer to the U.S. in Central America – one each in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, according to the report.

The State Department estimates that more than one million MANPADS have been made worldwide since they were introduced in 1967. While most systems either are stored in “national inventories” or have been destroyed, the State Department warns that thousands of MANPADS remain unaccounted for and may be, “outside of the control of national governments.”

The report outlines numerous steps that the U.S. and other countries are taking to collect remaining stockpiles and stop additional attacks. Among them, is the creation of a U.S. government interagency task force chaired by the State Department, which has implemented the United States International Aviation Threat Reduction Plan; part of the broader National Strategy for Aviation Security.

In addition, the U.S. this year helped to launch the MANPADS Contact Group (MCG), with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. MCG’s primary function is coordinating each country’s efforts to counter the illicit proliferation of MANPADS.

Anyone with information concerning the illegal possession of MANPADS is urged to immediately contact the appropriate law enforcement authorities in their country.

Americans living or traveling overseas who want to report the illicit possession or location of MANPADS should contact the Regional Security Officer at the nearest U.S. Embassy, or the Legal Attaché at the specific U.S. Embassies listed on the FBI web site.

In the U.S., reports concerning the possession or location of illicit MANPADS, either in the U.S. or in other countries, should call the nearest FBI field office or use the online FBI Tips and Public Leads form. Reports also may be filed with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms at 1-888-ATF-BOMB, or 1-800-283-2662.